3 ways to move past perfectionism - and create
In this post: why you want to learn how to move past perfectionism if you have dreams of doing creative work.
Oh, perfectionism. I have become quite fond of this fear of mine. It has kind of become this annoying little sister or brother, that I still love. But I don’t let it win any creative fights.
It wasn't until I trained as a Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach that I even realized what perfectionism is and that, actually, I'm a raging perfectionist, now a recovering perfectionist. I thought it had something to do with having a perfect home and being groomed. You know, always having perfect nails and make up on and always ironing your clothes. None of which I do. Turns out, those thing are external and they don’t cover what being a perfectionist means.
What is perfectionism?
Perfectionism, in its essence, is your fear about what other people think of you.
It's the fear of never being enough.
It’s the illusion that if you make everything perfect so no one can put a finger on anything, then no one will see your shortcomings, your fear, and that you really don't know what the heck you're doing.
So you work harder, you stay longer, you criticize your own work (and often other people's), you keep changing and tweaking. And no matter how hard you work, and how many compliments you get, you don't believe you’re good because you know deep down, that it's not perfect. It could be better.
So many things fell into place for me once I could see myself in the patterns of a perfectionists behavior.
How perfectionism affects you creative work
You never finishing the creative work you started.
Not beginning in the first place.
Comparing your journey to other’s and expecting to be as far ahead as they are
Misery during the process if you do charge through and persevere
Liz Gilberts says:
3 steps to move past perfectionism
I’ll give you 3 steps to move past perfectionism that I use. They work so well for me that I am now a “recovering perfectionist.” This means I create every day, I have created an online course, I interview creatives about their creating processes and I even do video. Something I never would have done before. Are you crazy? What would people think? My videos and blog posts are far from perfect and screw perfect anyway! I love writing and I’m surprisingly enjoying doing the videos too. Some crazy illusion of perfect is not going to stop me doing what I love.
Ready to move past your perfectionism? Let’s go…
Step one: awareness.
What first has to happen for you to be able to move past perfectionisn and any other fear, is recognizing what’s happening. Pay attention to what is stopping you from doing the creative work you dream of.
When you find yourself re-doing something you’re working on for the 10th time, stop a minute and check with yourself why you’re doing it.
If you’re resisting taking on a new project, big or small, ask yourself why that is? What are your expectations? What is holding you back?
Step 2: lower your expectations
Then for me, the best strategy is to lower my expectations and go for "good enough". I literally say the words out loud "it's not perfect, but it's good enough" and then press publish!
Perfect ain't never going to happen, there is no such thing. Just do good enough. I promise you, it'll be enough. Most perfectionists aim for 150% so if you stop at “this is good enough”, I bet you’re still on a 100% to what other people achive.
“Just” doing work that is good enough can be nearly anxiety inducing for some of us. But one of the dangers with perfectionism is this “all or nothing” thinking. Either you won’t do it or it has to be the best. Because what happens is you go for “nothing”. And that’s a shame. Going for your work being good enough puts you in that huge grey area where we all are. It puts you in the game.
Step 3: do it for fun
My favorite mind trick and the one that works best for me is taking on the attitude of just making for fun. I give myself permission to play and experiment. I don’t have to do great work because I’m only doing it for fun. And this removes all pressure.
I wouldn't have picked up a paintbrush if I hadn’t had the attitude of painting for fun. I'm not meant to be good at painting. I paint just for me. Because I enjoy the process of painting. Because I love colors.
I don't want to learn "how to paint". I just want to play. Sometimes I photograph my paintings and use them for blog graphics. Most of the time I don’t. It doesn’t matter. I just enjoy painting.
Do something for fun! Lighten up. It's just a bit of creative work and it's not the end of the world. It's ok to have fun while you create something. And it's ok to play small and silly. It's ok that what we make doesn't revolutionize the world. We must create anyway
This, my friend, is what creative living is. It qualifies. I'd even say it's the essence of living creatively. Because it's light and run on curiosity and joy.
You can totally do this too in your life. Perfectionism and joy don’t go together. You have to pick one. There is so much silly, bad, wonderful, creative and interesting work out there. You might as well add to it.