On Being a Perfectionist

Yarn Scraps Heart

Hi world, my name is Kristina and I am a creative perfectionist.

This is an unlucky combination of traits.

My creative side wants to experiment. Get messy. Try new things. Do whatever.

My perfectionist side says NO NO NO. That’s wrong, that’s terrible, and you’ve made a mess

You know that interview question, “What is your worst trait?” And people say “I’m a perfectionist” because they think it’s actually a positive trait? Like, “Oh, I am just too perfect, I am so highly detailed and everything I deliver is the absolute best!” What they are really saying is, “It will take me twice as long to do something because I am constantly checking and re-checking my work, worrying that I’ve missed an integral piece that will absolutely sabotage everything I’ve done because nothing I do is good enough.” It definitely IS NOT a positive.

Perfection isn’t a real thing. So perfectionists are constantly trying to reach something that isn’t reachable. Or, worse yet, they don’t even attempt something because logically they know they’ll never reach perfection, so why bother?

Being a perfectionist is specifically dangerous when mixed with creativity. Creativity and perfection are at total odds with each other. Creativity requires that you take chances and risks. To be creative is to not know what the outcome will be. To test and try new paths that may ultimately lead to a beautiful end. Perfectionism does not like unknowns. It doesn’t want to try new paths, because new definitely couldn’t be “right.”

Perfectionism is fear. It’s fear that you’ll fail. That you won’t live up to this impossible standard you’ve set for yourself (and you have certainly set it for yourself because no one cares what you do).

When necessary, I sit my perfectionism down and say, “Carl…” (I call it Carl, so it knows I mean business). I say, “Carl, listen… What we are trying to do here is different. It’s weird. It’s not ‘right,’ because there is no right, remember how we talked about that? Well, we are going to do something that’s just fun. And we’ll see where it goes. If it goes nowhere, that’s fine. If it is awesome, that’s fine, too. It’s going to be okay, because everything is always okay. Are we cool? Cool.”

If that doesn’t work, I try to remind myself that:

  1. No one knows what they’re doing, even the people that REALLY look like they know what they’re doing.
  2. There is no right way to live your life/run your business/make your art/etc (don’t break any laws though!)
  3. It’s okay for things to be just okay. The world won’t end.

And if those don’t work either, talk it out with a friend. If you want to talk about the horrible perfectionism demon or anything else, reach out to me! I’d love to chat about our “Carls”.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *