One of the great illusions about perfectionism is that it is the pursuit of excellence.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Excellence is stymied and smothered by perfectionism. As artist and writer Julia Cameron has written:
“Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough – that we should try again.”
Can’t you just see how your creativity wilts under the constant and withering gaze of “not good enough”? Or maybe you’re more familiar with the seemingly more supportive and encouraging voice of perfectionism that, while acknowledging your effort says something along the lines of, “You can do better.”
Whatever the tone of voice, however, as author Annie Lamott has said: “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.”
Our time, our energy, our self-esteem … these are much too precious to waste on perfectionism. How often have you experienced the frustration of trying to get something ‘just right’, only to feel discouragement grow … as your day slips away and you continue to tweak, re-tweak and not finish?
Do you really want to be constantly telling yourself that what you do is not good enough?
Well, the good news is that this is something that you can absolutely step in and stop. Instead of letting perfectionism hold you hostage you can learn to use these 3 powerful retorts to the debilitating, perfectionistic messages that you currently give yourself.
And even better, as you get more adept at countering these messages, they lose their power. Eventually you will hear them less and less from yourself.
Imagine the energy and creativity that you will be able to access!
So here are those 3 debilitating messages … and the 3 powerful retorts that will help you break free!
Perfectionist Message #1: ‘I need to wait for just the right time to get started.’ This will trip you up right from the get go. And isn’t it interesting to consider … What exactly is the ‘right time’? Brainstorm the possibilities. Maybe you believe the right time will be when:
• You feel inspired.
• You have more free time.
• There are no distractions.
In all of these examples, you are giving yourself the message that something additional is needed before you can begin. This makes what you do dependent on something you have no control over … AND it makes you feel a lot less powerful.
Powerful Retort: ‘The right time is right now.’ ‘Now’ is what you have to work with. Schedule the time on your calendar or to-do list and start in. Like jumping into in a cool lake, once you take that plunge, you can enjoy the swim. (And, conversely, until you take the plunge, you can’t!)
Perfectionist Message #2: ‘It is not perfect yet.’
If this is something you often say, ask yourself these questions:
• What do you consider perfect?
• Is it really attainable?
• Whose eyes are you seeing your project (and yourself) through?
Powerful Retort: ‘Done is better than perfect’ or ‘It is good enough.’ Letting go is often a challenge, but remember that with many things, there is a process involved. The journey has many steps … and the pleasure of accomplishment increases your self-confidence and satisfaction in your work!
Perfectionist Message #3: ‘I know I can make it better.’ Maybe this is true, and you are aware that you may have certain weak areas. This is a place where endless time can be wasted tweaking something.
Powerful Retort: ‘I will ask for feedback.’ This is empowering and powerful in 3 important ways:
1. Others bring fresh eyes, so they can quickly see mistakes or oversights.
2. Delegating this will free up your time so you can move on to your next task.
3. You are embracing others’ viewpoints rather than trying to avoid this by creating something ‘perfect.’ The more you welcome input, the less you fear others’ responses. This is far and away one of the most powerful ways to fight perfectionism.
So, the nagging, controlling voice that is perfectionism isn’t about excellence. It is a way that each of us bullies ourselves into frozen, fear-filled paralysis.
You don’t have to subject yourself to that … ever again. Instead, counter those doubts and debilitating messages, celebrate your power to be productive, and enjoy your new success at finding time!