A few weeks ago someone asked me what my thoughts were on perfectionism. I’ve been thinking about this since. More so, I’ve been thinking about whether I would call myself a perfectionist or not. Interestingly, despite my perfect handwriting, tidy house and Type-A personality, I wouldn’t say I am. The reason for this is that I have always believed that 'done is better than perfect’. This belief has been my saving grace, in that it has stopped my perfectionist tendencies from taking over and allowed me to do things I otherwise would have never done.
At it’s worst perfectionism leads to issues such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders. But on a more subtle level I believe perfectionism stops us becoming the person we know we are capable of being. This is because perfectionism is a byproduct of comparison, and it is also a form of procrastination.
Perfectionism is an innate trait. It is also influenced by what we learn, or rather perceive, from others growing up. It starts with wanting to emulate the cool girl at school, and escalates in adulthood as we strive to replicate what we see in magazines and on social media. We live in a society where we are constantly bombarded by images of other people’s lives, and I don’t believe any of us are immune to the comparison that comes with that. It’s hard not to be.
I believe social media plays a big part in driving our perfectionist tendencies. Lets think about Instagram for a minute. It’s a visual platform where our following (whether we like it or not) is based on beautiful images and engaging captions. It doesn’t matter who you follow. There is always someone growing a bigger zucchini, reading more books or climbing a higher mountain. And as much as we know these little squares are simply someone’s highlight reels, it is easy to fall into the trap of comparing the squares of their life to ours. In response many of us strive to live Instagram- and Pinterest-worthy lives, even when we aren’t online.
Comparison leads to perfectionism when we find ourselves always wanting to do more, have more and be more. You might not identify this as a perfectionist tendency, but I believe it is. One of the definitions of perfection is ‘the action of improving something until it is faultless’. This problem is heightened because we also living in a society where we are constantly bombarded with people telling us we need to consume more in order to be enough, live our best life and create the business of our dreams.
Comparison also stops us from getting outside our comfort zone because we believe perfectionism needs to come first. We vow we will sign up for that yoga retreat when we have worked out enough we look like a Lorna Jane model. We promise ourselves we will write that book proposal once the draft is as good as Eat Pray Love. And we put our hands on our heart and state we will definitely release that eCourse once our social media following is as big as Sara Taskers.
I hate to break it to you but none of those things are ever going to happen. Which is why done is better than perfect.
Perfectionism is also a form of procrastination. It is an excuse for us to not do those things we know will move us towards the life we are capable of living. I believe this is different to the life we would love to live. The life we are capable of living is the one we are putting off because we are procrastinating over doing something, and blaming perfectionism as the reason.
It’s the blog post that never gets published. It’s the homemade jam you never sell at the local market. It’s the Etsy shop that never gets set up. It’s the course you never signed up to. And it’s the job you never went for.
Perfectionism isn’t the problem here. Fear of failure is. So really, perfectionism is also a form of self-sabotage.
Again I hate to break it to you but none of those things will happen unless you make a conscious decision to get outside of your comfort zone and show up for yourself. Once again done is better than perfect.
In all honesty I understand how perfectionism holds us back and why it does. Perfectionism is something that I have had to consciously choose not to entertain in my life. I know if I let it these blog posts would never get written. I would never have applied to be the Stories Editor for Creative Countryside. And I would never submit a guest article to another website.
The only thing that allows me to keep showing up for myself is that I keep repeating to myself … done is better than perfect.