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5 Dangers of Perfectionism

I’m an imperfect person, writing to an audience of imperfect people. No one’s even close- we all have flaws and idiosyncrasies and make mistakes every day (sorry). The good thing is, that’s okay… the bad thing is that we don’t think it is.
 
So, what do we do? We perfectionists slave over tedious work, spending hours and hours perfectly crafting and formulating each sentence, or b-roll, or whatever your creative tool- we lose our minds over every last crevice of our work- it must be 100% perfect!
 
When, in reality, no one cares! Well, let’s back up. It’s not that no one cares, it’s just that no one cares THAT much- other than you. It is extremely easy for us to get caught up in the details of our work when really most of our “audience” doesn’t know the difference between our 95% and 100%. Have you ever had a project that you kept changing and editing over and over again? Just guessing, then second-guessing, then editing your guesses.
 
It is a beautiful thing to be able to take pride in your work, but trying to make everything perfect may actually do just the opposite. Here are just 5 dangers of perfectionism:
 

  • You’re chasing an illusion

What’s the first danger of perfectionism, you ask? Perfection doesn’t actually exist! In fact, not only do many of us think “perfection” is attainable, but we even tell ourselves that it’s the only way.

Charly Haverstat, a recovering perfectionist, performed a Ted Talk in 2016 discussing this very topic, explaining how perfectionism is a target which we will never hit and even one for which we shouldn’t be aiming.

  • Perfectionism keeps you from “starting”

Do you have a dream of starting a side business, volunteering with a non-profit, making a YouTube channel, getting back into the dating world, etc.? Whatever your dream is, we talk a lot in the blog and podcast about making it happen for yourself. In order to do so, you have to START.

Start somewhere- anywhere! Perfectionism completely kills that message, because you cannot start in a “perfect” place. Almost nothing is ever perfect, much less at the very beginning when you’re just starting out. Opportunities often present themselves to you disguised by hard work, commitment, and uncertainty. If you ever want to break out of your shell and start something for yourself, you’re going to have to cope with the fact that things will not be perfect at the start, and perhaps never will be. And that’s okay!

  • Perfectionism drains creativity

If you’re a creator (everyone is a creator whether they know it or not- you create environments, emotions, and feelings all day long), then you have probably gone through some type of creative process which helps you ‘get the ball rolling.’ During this process, it is absolutely paramount that you focus less on the final “product” and more on getting ideas down. Otherwise known as “brainstorming”, the art of getting ideas down on paper is crucial to the creation process.

The easiest way to kill creativity is to run every idea you have through a perfectionist model, aka filing through every little possible thing that is wrong with your idea, strategy, or whatever it is you’re working on. When you want to be creative, the goal is to think and write- not critique! Researching and finalizing your thoughts happens at the very end, not at the beginning. Doing this at the beginning will stunt your creativity, and may actually cause you to never start.

  • Perfectionism kills productivity

If every piece of content we put out or task we complete has to be perfect, our productivity and speed drastically decrease. In 2019, quality is still important, but speed and quantity are becoming increasingly vital to our success. Speed and perfectionism cannot coexist.

If you want to maximize your productiveness, you need to be okay with putting out “A” work, not “A+” work. Don’t be deceived- you need to do good work, whether that’s at the office, at home, or in your personal life. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be fully dedicated to doing your best. However, I am insinuating that perhaps you should redefine what “best” actually means.

Is it better to put out consistent work while staying physically and mentally healthy, or to make every single thing you do 100% perfect before moving on? There are some arguments we’re willing to accept here, but USUALLY, the 1st scenario will be optimal for most people.

  • In many cases, it’s unhealthy

 
Perfectionism can be an unhealthy trait for people of all ages. Amanda Ruggeri recently wrote about some of The Dangerous Downsides of Perfectionism, which includes a meta-analysis of perfectionism rates from 1989 – 2016. 
 
The findings of this study showed that not only is perfectionism on the rise, but related mental/physical health concerns are also rising. We highly recommend that you check out Amanda’s article.
 
If we wish to grow and meet our full potential, we must get used to not trying to perfect every single thing we touch. We must realize that ambition and perfectionism are two very different things- one drives you to be great, the other drives you insane. Understand the difference, and you will find more enjoyment and fulfillment in your work.