by Zachary Totah
Everything has to be right. Better yet, perfect.
Or else panic, chaos, the end of the world.
Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration (emphasis on “slight”), but so much of the time it seems all too true.
Welcome to the life of a perfectionist.
Did you know Perfectionism is one of the leading diseases afflicting otherwise healthy humans? It afflicts young and old, male and female.
I fell prey to perfectionism at a young age. Through my formative years and now into young adulthood, I’ve become a master at demanding nothing less than the absolute best. Which leads me to today’s confession.
Pains of Perfectionism
Usually when somebody says they’ve mastered a skill, we consider that a good thing. After all, deep down I think we’re all jealous of the “masters” (Paula Deen, Gandalf, Yoda). However, when I say I’m a Master Perfectionist, it’s not really a badge of honor.
Let’s face it. Perfectionism is a bane on productivity, happiness, and most other useful things in life.
Sure, aspects of it can be helpful. For example, my perfectionism means I have a high attention to detail and am inclined to focus on quality. If you’re a fellow perfectionist, try nurturing those habits without letting the Big Bad Beast gain the upper hand. We know it’s there, lurking, eager to undermine our goals.
I’ve struggled with this in many areas. As a writer, I’m always comparing myself to other (and, without fail, more successful) writers, thinking I’ll never live up to the required standards, viewing my work through a lens tainted by the persistent demands of perfectionism.
It’ll never be good enough. Why would anyone want to read my work?
So the thought process goes.
Another huge problem with letting our perfectionism rule our lives is that it erodes our willingness to take risks, try new things, and get outside our comfort zones.
I present to you Exhibit A: my blog.
As a writer, I knew I wanted to start a blog to build an audience (because of course I needed a way to become a wildly successful author *cough* idealist *cough*). I’m going to be frank. I waited WAY too long to start that puppy. I researched, read other blogs, scoured the internet for options and choices.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
It took me two years to start. Even though when I finally began I felt more equipped to launch into the blogging world, that was two years I could have spent actually writing, learning, improving, building my audience.
If you find yourself nodding and thinking, “That sounds like me!” here’s some chocolate.
In all seriousness, I get it. I’ve been down the path more times than I care to remember. And the thing is, when you let perfectionism run wild, what happens to the opportunities that come your way, the hopes you have, the dreams you want to chase?
Chance after chance passes by because it’s not the perfect fit.
Hopes become jaded because your expectations are set too high.
And the dreams—they slowly die. Because with perfectionism whispering in your ear, telling you it’s never good enough, you never start chasing those dreams.
It’s all too impossible and big and scary. What if you fail?
Should We Fear Failure?
So many times, I’ve let that fear be the driving factor behind decisions I make. Fear of failure and perfectionism go hand-in-hand. We don’t want to fail, so we try to be perfect. At the end of the day, such thinking doesn’t get us anywhere. It’s like planning the perfect vacation (touring Europe, anyone?) and then never leaving because what if things go wrong?
That’s my default mindset, and it’s crippling.
I love how Seth Godin puts it:
If failure isn’t an option, then neither is success.
Think about that. You can’t succeed unless you’re willing to accept failure at some level. Which means we need to face this beast called perfectionism.
All too often, conquering it seems like an impossible mountain to scale. Mount Doom perched atop Mount Everest…on the moon. As I said, I’ve found perfectionism crippling. I don’t take risks, pursue potential opportunities, or follow my dreams as well as I could.
Let’s flip the situation around. Instead of considering the problems, focus on the possibilities. What would happen if you pushed aside your perfectionist tendencies and went for it, whatever “it” is for you?
Would you trip up? Yep.
Would everything go according to plan? Nope.
Would you learn and grow and do things instead of living in a try-to-be-perfect but boring bubble? You can count on it.
To all my fellow perfectionists out there…
Try new things.
Learn from your mistakes.
And most importantly, don’t let perfectionism keep you from following dreams.
I wear many creative hats, one of which is to write speculative fiction stories. This allows me to roam through my imagination, where I have illegal amounts of fun creating worlds and characters to populate them. When I’m not busy with a thousand and one responsibilities, I enjoy spending time with family and friends, digging into a good book, and watching movies.
I live in Colorado and don’t drink coffee. The two aren’t related.
I love connecting with other readers and writers, so don’t be shy. I keep my superpowers in check. Promise.