The days that I let my perfectionism get the better of me are the bad days. The days where I am beating myself up for the things I wanted to accomplish and didn’t. When I criticize other people in my life because they have fallen short of my expectations. When I stay frozen in fear because doing nothing is better than doing the wrong thing.
When I embrace the imperfect, I surprisingly get more done. I am able to relax through the strokes of a colored pencil on a page when I am not worried about coloring outside the lines. I can laugh when dinner doesn’t turn out the way it was supposed to instead of having a meltdown. I can rejoice in the fact that the kitchen got cleaned even though the bathroom is still on the list.
Perfectionism can stifle creativity. If I am focused on perfection I can’t enjoy the process. And I certainly am never going to be satisfied with the result.
Creativity is an outlet for me. I have dabbled in pottery, jewelry making, drawing, and creative writing of all forms over the years. The one thing that I loved about working with kids in the past is how naturally creative, inquisitive, and imaginative they can be if you foster and encourage it. Working with children taught me to be more flexible and to, well, embrace the suck, the messy.
Because it shouldn’t matter if the craft project doesn’t look like the example or half of what was in the mixing bowl is all over the table. Did you have fun? Well, then it worked out the way it was supposed to.
If something wasn’t working, then it became okay to laugh and try something else. I once had a second grader who was a perfectionist in training. While all of the other kids were content to put their spin on things and make something that was their own, he wanted everything to be perfect or look exactly like the example that was provided.
When something wasn’t going his way, everyone in the room knew it (in fact, several times I’m sure the entire building did). He would have epic meltdowns of the shouting variety when something was not working the way that he envisioned it. Sometimes I think that the perfectionist in me has those meltdowns as well, although they are mostly internal rather then external.
I don’t want to be like that seven year-old who couldn’t handle something not turning out the way he wanted it to. Sometimes it is okay to get messy, for the glue not to stick, to scrap an idea, and then actually come up with something better then what you started with.
Darn You, Procrastination
Being a slave to perfectionism doesn’t work for me. Why? Because when it is my constant companion I don’t get anything done. Or it just takes me a whole lot longer to do something then it should. Procrastination can be a big problem for perfectionists, because some of us are focused on having things just right before we even get started. And then I can also feel bad about myself because I’m procrastinating. Sometimes done really is better then perfect.
If we do get something done and it happens to crash and burn, we are back to square one. We think, if making a mistake feels this bad and is this embarrassing, well then surely I shouldn’t try that particular thing again. Ahhhh, perfectionism can be so frustrating and paralyzing at times.
How many ideas have I had that have never seen anything other then the inside of my brain because they weren’t quite right or “not good enough”? Because I was afraid that someone would think that they were stupid or they wouldn’t work. Well, they didn’t work because I never tried them. When I step out of that place of fear things start to happen. Even if I do make mistakes. Even if the results aren’t exactly what I was looking for yet. But an imperfect something is better then a perfect nothing, right?
Hello, Self Love
Imperfection gives me the freedom to screw up and love myself anyways. And give other people a break, for heaven sakes. Sometimes it can be exhausting to set up such high standards for yourself all the time. Because, although it’s great to want to be excellent, perfectionism really is shooting too high. You are always going to be unhappy with the results.
It starts the cycle of failing and beating yourself up, and failing even worse and then beating yourself up again. I want to be able to embrace myself, all my mistakes, all of my flaws, and my quirks. Perfectionism doesn’t allow me to do that. Loving yourself and beating yourself up regularly with a two by four are kind of exclusionary.