“It’s got to be perfect” the old song goes. And many of us, when we’re doing any kind of work, can easily begin to think it has to be.
After all, we live in a world where value comes from what you produce, what you earn, your position, and, at times, your relationship status. That’s one of the main reasons we buy into perfectionism so easily. The pursuit of perfection is ingrained in our culture.
But perfectionism can kill our joy, it can ultimately bring us down, and make us feel worthless. And as indeed research has shown it to have a negative impact on our physical and mental health, and decrease our chances of success.
And in art, it can prevent us from ever sharing our work, and freeze our creativity.
I used to be a perfectionist in writing. I used to go back and change pieces I’d written all the time. And this went beyond simple editing, which is a very important aspect of writing.
But over time and through endless editing of blog posts, I began to realise that no piece of writing is ever finished. And there comes a point when you need to let your work go, and surrender it to the world.
In writing – and this applies to any kind of artistic endeavour – you get to a point where you’ve done rewrites and edits, you’ve improved the piece, and it’s good quality, and ready to ship. And the easy thing to do is to keep making changes, keep holding it back, in fear it won’t be good enough. Or you can buy into the idea that if you could just change one more sentence or paragraph, then your piece would be perfect.
But it won’t. No piece of writing is perfect. Indeed, no piece of art – including our lives – is ever truly finished. But there comes a point you need to release it to the world.
Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.”
― Brené Brown
I’ve seen this in action recently with my first print book, which is releasing soon. Since we finalised the draft which will go to the printer, I’ve had ideas, thoughts, experiences I’d love to put into the book. Ideas which may even improve it. Paragraphs, stories, perspectives, ideas, little changes.
But my editor, rightly, has said that it’s done. We don’t have time to make any more changes that significant, because if we keep on doing that, the book will never be published. It’s time to surrender the work, let it go, and release it to the world.
And that’s a scary thing. It’s an act of vulnerability. But it’s what we ultimately need to do with our creative work. Release it. Share it with the world.
The boldest act of any artist is having the courage to share your work with the world. (you can tweet that).
To share your work is an act of courage, surrender, and the final act of the creative process. And doing that makes us more courageous. It gives us confidence. It makes us stronger.
Imperfection & Identity
This brings us back to the concept of identity. Because if our identity is in our work, our success, or others opinion, then it will prevent us sharing our work with the world, and we’ll be destroyed if no one reads it, or when we receive any negative feedback.
But if our security is the fundamental truth that we are enough, we belong, we are loveable, and we have infinite value & worth simply because we are breathing, because we are alive, this frees us from perfectionism and fear.
You see, you and your work matter, have value, because they exist.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make your work the best it can be. Getting your work to the best standard it can be is important. But that stage can’t go on forever.
The secret is to learn to know when that stage is done, when release it to the world, and then have the courage to do so. Choose to surrender your work, and let it free into the world, with no fear of the response.
And ultimately, if you do that, you’re a success whatever the response to your work – and you’ll be free. Free from perfectionism and fear, and free to create the work you were made for.
You’ll find yourself more courageous, less afraid, and more alive than ever.
Are you with me?
Question For Reflection
Have you been a perfectionist – and what can you do today to overcome it?
Let me know in the comments below!
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