“Perfectionist” is a mask that I have worn for far too long. A mask that I’ve worn to cover up a deep seated fear that I would never be good enough. A mask that, to this day, I often have a hard time taking off. I am a recovering perfectionist. Case in point: I just spent half an hour tweaking the size and color levels of the artwork at the top of the page
Truth be told, perfectionism has gotten me very far in life. In school I was always at the top of my class (and by top I mean the very top), and I’ve excelled in my career. In the past I wore the title of perfectionist proudly. Now I realize that what I once considered a a badge of honor has actually held me back in life.
Below are some confessions of a perfectionist:
Perfectionism is the fuel in my self-degradation fire. Perfection is a completely abstract, un-quantifiable, and entirely subjective concept. When I shoot for perfection I am grasping for air. I am setting myself up for failure. Whenever people give me complements my first reaction is to point out something wrong, or less than perfect, about whatever they are complementing. I justify this self-degradation by staying, “I’m a perfectionist,” with a shrug and a smile.
Perfectionism stops me from starting. Whenever I have an inspired, creative idea I instantly start to overthink it. I feel like I can’t start something until I have the end game all figured out. However, the truth is I can never fully control anything in this life. No amount of worry or over-analyzing can change that.
Perfectionism gives me an excuse to procrastinate. When working on a new project, whether it be designing a building, starting this blog, or starting a new piece of art, I use to research, research, research. Then tweak, tweak, tweak. Then perfect, perfect, perfect. Then decide the whole thing was shit, throw it out, and start over. I was so overwhelmed with a desire to make something “the best” that I would rarely ever make anything at all.
Perfectionism stunts my growth. Because I’ve been so scared to make a mistake, look stupid, or fail at things I rarely step out of my comfort zone when it comes to my career. Yes, I have been “successful” in my life according to social standards, but that desire to appear perfect has led to me excel in a career that I don’t actually like. And has made shifting my career towards something more meaningful and fulfilling difficult for me.
Perfectionism has led me to disregard my health. I have never shied away from hard work, and by hard work I mean not sleeping for a week in order do my absolute best on a project. I probably average four hours of sleep a night for five year of my life in college and graduate school. I wanted to be the best. I wanted to create the best work. Nothing else mattered. And health-wise I have been paying for it. Even after four years of prioritizing my health I still experience chronic headaches, debilitating migraines, adrenal fatigue, and other health issues that developed as a result of my perfectionist ways.
Perfectionism makes it difficult to let go. There are projects and people in my life that I have taken far too long to “quit.” I get stuck in the mindset of, ” I should be able to make this work.” And for the longest time I saw letting go as a sign of failure. I now know that letting go is not giving up. I wrote a whole blog post about it here.
I have been working to let go of my perfectionist tenancies for a couple years now. The more inner work I do the more ingrained I realize this characteristic is. It’s been tough, but completely worth it. This blog would not exist if I hadn’t made a decision to let go of perfectionism and start before I’m ready.
Perfectionism is just fear in a pretty, socially acceptable mask. Lets not let fear dictate our lives.
Let it go. Start before you’re ready. Make a move. It feels amazing.