Overcoming Perfection Paralysis

Overcoming Perfection Paralysis

Is anything ever “perfect”?  Consider some of the greatest artists of all time: painters, sculptors, authors, musicians… how many of them, do you think, felt they could have continued working on their masterpiece? One more brush stroke or chisel strike… one more chapter or a different choice of synonym… one more harmony or verse? “Perfection” is a trap that keeps many of us from expressing ourselves for fear of criticisms of our imperfections. At least, that’s been my experience.  But even if we could achieve actual perfection (and I’m not really convinced we can) there will always be critics, perhaps saying the work is “too perfect!”

One of my favorite quotes, which my husband is good about reminding me of, is “What other people think of you is none of your business.”  How true that is!  We can’t control other people’s thoughts, (even if you want to argue that the media, politicians and religious figures do, it’s still up to the individual to process the rhetoric.)  And would you really want to?  Independent thought is what makes us individuals and gives us each a unique perspective on life.  Everyone reacts to things in their own way, based on their personal life experience.  And that’s wonderful! It definitely makes life interesting.

"It doesn't have to be perfect, it does have to be done."  - Denise Linn (image credit: Denise Linn)
“It doesn’t have to be perfect, it does have to be done.”
– Denise Linn
(image credit: Denise Linn)

One of my favorite authors and teachers, Denise Linn, recently posted a meme on her Facebook page as a reminder to herself and her fans: “It doesn’t have to be perfect, it does have to be done.” Admitting that she also deals with fears of imperfection when writing her books. This was an eye-opener for me: successful people deal with those fears, too?!  They do, they’ve just learned to quiet the negative mental chatter and move on. I’ve definitely caught myself leaving projects unfinished for fear of not finished them perfectly.  In my twisted logic, if it’s not finished it can’t yet be considered imperfect, just unfinished, with the expectation that I will finish when I’ve figured out the best (aka “most perfect”) way to do so… and so it never gets done. Denise’s reminder really hit home. Besides, imperfections aren’t necessarily bad, right? They add character!

So, as part of my process for getting over my Perfection Paralysis, I’m finally finishing my fingerless knit gloves that I nearly finished months ago.  I’ve been reluctant to trim the long tails of yarn because I wasn’t sure if I’d made the thumb holes exactly the same size on each glove or if I was off by one stitch.  (I know, silly, right?)  I’ve even worn them a few times with the long tails tucked inside! (And received compliments on them!)  They look just fine, and the size of the thumb holes relative to each other doesn’t bother me while I’m wearing them, so I just need to get over it, trim the tails, and move on.  I know this is a baby step, but it’s a step nonetheless.

Trimmed the tails and tucked them in... finally finished!
Trimmed the tails and tucked them in… finally finished!

As a slightly larger step, I’ve also decided to post a video of me singing at an open mic night a couple years ago.  I love to sing, but fear of not being 100% perfect keeps me from putting myself out there. (I completely admire Janis Joplin’s fearless style; she wasn’t perfect, but man was she amazing!)  So what if I’m not perfect, right? I love singing and always get warm-fuzzy feedback that lets me know the audience has enjoyed my performance as well.  There are a few parts of this video that make me cringe but overall I’m happy with it and it was a wonderful experience!

Live Cover of The Beatles A Day in the Life
Here’s a still from the night the video was recorded, I’m singing “A Day in the Life” by the Beatles, with my husband on guitar.

Here’s the video:

Here’s to overcoming fears of imperfection!


Jilienne Rose

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