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  • Writer's picturePV

Let's not let the Perfect be the enemy of the Good!


Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good- words to live by.

It's not a coincidence that this is my first entry here.

Is this space ready for what I'd imagined it to be? No. But there is no time like the present and it would be foolish of me to postpone launching it any longer simply because I haven't gotten around to creating this or that additional feature or content yet. I can improve it along the way and in the meantime I can use it to share with you things I've been so eager to start sharing.


Think about it. Do you believe in perfection? And even if you don't, do you ever find that it has so much power over you that it can completely exhaust you? Does it ever stop you from moving forward? If so, do yourself a favor and remember this motto and next time you feel pressured by the perfectionist in you (or in someone else) ask yourself whether it 's serving you at that moment. Is it motivating or is it depleting? Is it preventing you from doing something good for yourself or for others, just because it's not exactly prefect?

If so, welcome to the club. Let's leave it together!


Just being aware of this is key, so no worries if you don't have time to read on. I'm happy you're read up until this point. I hope shining a light on this topic will benefit you in some way:)



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You're welcome to read on, of course, this bit is a little more personal I guess.


If you know me a little bit or if you've read the "About" section you know that I am a recovering perfectionist (among other things). I've been a perfectionist ever since I can remember and for many, many years of my life, even though it's been a pain living with it I was reluctant to see it as any kind of disadvantage. Especially since it seemed to me like it has always been highly praised. Plus, I've always had an insanely big imagination (often too big for my own good) so it's always been hard for me not to see room for potential improvement.


At one point, I think some time in high school, I realized that it costed me A LOT to be like that, but since it brought in good results I thought it was a small price to pay... With time, however, I began realizing that it actually costed me a lot more than I thought and that "small price to pay" wasn't actually that small. I started seeing it a bit differently.

In job interviews I remember I'd list it as both my strong and weak point. Because, yes it made me do some impeccable work, but it also meant that I could never really be done with anything, because there was always something that could be improved. I could never be satisfied and I literally lost sleep over it. I would push myself past my limits to do more, to do better, to make it perfect before I pronounce it "done" or share it with the world/clients. And when it came to work I didn't even mind it so much, but then I realized how incredibly limiting, constraining, and- to be honest with you- really sick it was in all the other areas of my life- especially when it came to me as an artist/creator and my social life.


The topics of the detrimental effects of perfectionism on our social life as well as on our creativity both deserve a whole separate post each, but here is just a brief example of how it impacted me as an artist. Being a perfectionist creator, I now realize, is a total oxymoron. As an artist I could never really get anything truly done, because none of my projects could ever get done. I could never experience the feeling of putting a final cherry on top and calling something "finished". I always kept things open just in case I needed to add something, change something. That resulted in my having a million ongoing projects with no prospect of ever finishing them. I knew no closure was really unhealthy for our psychological well-bing, but I thought: eh, I could manage. Not finishing was also stopping me from improving and growing as an artist. There was no real way for me to track any kind of overall progress in whatever artistic discipline. It weighed really heavy on me but I told myself that that's okay because at least that gives me the option to get back to anything I'd like to improve. Oh boy... I don't know if I could have been more wrong... And I didn't even consider how much, on top of everything else, it impaired my creativity.


It's important to note here that there is a difference between perfectionism and healthy striving for improvement. The latter one is a generally considered a positive thing as it is rooted in our internal desire to be/do better, for the sake of simply being better. This is a very helpful motivator that I have been fortunate enough to have programmed in me since I can remember. What's unhealthy is when this desire results from fear. That is perfectionism. It took me a while to realize that distinction. It explains why I could never really be fully against perfectionism. I am now, but that's because I realized it's definition and nature. (I'm all for healthy striving, though).

I realize now that in many areas of my life the striving I'd been experiencing was largely rooted in fear. Fear of regretting things, fear of not being good enough, of not performing well enough, fear of external judgement, of my own internal critic, and so many other things.

Perfectionism is basically a defense mechanism that seemingly protects us by protecting our ego while it actually prevents us from being our highest selves and living happy, truly happy, lives. It's the compulsive desire to do better, to make something better than actually possible, to achieve the unattainable, because deep down, even if we're not fully aware of it, we are simply afraid. A lot of that has to do with the fear that doing/being any less than perfect will in some ways expose us for not being good enough (it links to the problem of impostor syndrome that too many of us struggle with- I'll probably write more about at some point).

If you tend to get pulled down the perfectionist rabbit hole once in a while you, depending on your level of awareness and willingness to accept it and do some work about it, you might not even realize what a huge stumbling block it is in many areas of your life.


If you aren't among the very fortunate ones who either were born with, raised with or have already developed a good sense of "good enough" in your life- how do you learn to cultivate it in yourself? How do we get rid of the fear behind those perfectionist ways?


In my opinion a lot of it lies in trust. Because even if you decide, like I had a very long time ago, that you agree that perfection doesn't exist, you will still find yourself striving for it because your motivation (fear) has not been resolved. I've found that most of my fears were ultimately based on the lack of trust I had. Particularly the lack of trust in myself and the universe. By universe here I mean the general order of the world, some of you may call it God, some will see it as energy, others as science and others simply as the way things are. If you can't trust that things are the way they are and that that's alright then it's hard to "settle" for the good enough. Because doing it will always seem like "settling".


When you develop this trust, however, it will empower you and help you trust yourself. Trust that you do your best at a given moment and that that is okay and it is enough. Because you are enough. And if it seems like you could have done better but didn't- it's alright too, there is probably a lesson there that you can learn from.


If that doesn't resonate with you, but deep down inside you know perfection doesn't exist, yet it still has power over you, try this, (before I developed my trust this is how I went about it).


I'd ask myself if I would rather (pointlessly) strive for an unattainable goal in hope that somehow, miraculously I might ever, despite all the odds, get there (and by the way, no matter how noble that goal was- how narcissistic of me was it to think that, really...!) and in the meantime exhausting myself to the limits, and not actually get anything done..? Or would I rather experience how amazing it feels to be satisfied with myself, with the way I am, the way I feel, look, perform... with what I produce (whether it's art, a work project or an e-mail to a friend), how it feels when you do something good well enough to have a positive impact on you and those around you? I realized I wanted the latter, because life is too short to deprive myself of those feelings.


Changing my ways was only up to me and I already had all the power I needed to do so. I just had to put it in practice. Realizing it's all really in my head, I first accepted it and worked on not feeling bad about it- I was kind to myself and decided to treat myself as if I were someone else - back then this was way easier for me than to simply love myself just because. If I'd been someone else I would have forgiven myself, because I would have known I hadn't been able to do things differently before, I hadn't known better.

I've also worked on developing faith and overcoming my trust issues. It's taken me a considerable amount of work to develop trust in myself, as well as in the universe, and cultivate acceptance and faith. Faith that I'm doing the best I can at a given moment and that if I'm ever dissatisfied with my actions I can learn from them and do better next time, because there would actually be a next time because I would have actually done something, moved on, taken a step forward.


So am I "cured" now? Do my perfectionist ways still creep in once in a while?

More than I care to admit, but I'm now able to notice them in time to stop myself from falling in their trap. When I feel my healthy striving becomes unhealthy I check in with myself and ask myself what it is that I fear. The answer is not always straightforward, but getting to the bottom of it, as uncomfortable as it can be, is worth it. And then I ask myself this: Is this fear something I can afford in my life? Is it really important in the grand scheme of things? And is it more important the the possible positive effects of the action it's preventing me from?

Perfectionism is a bit like an addiction, you don't really get "cured" but you learn to manage it and with time hopefully that management gets easier. However, it is hard at first and then you also have to be careful because relapsing is easy. It's easy because it tempts our ego with a nice and comfy place to chill, but we need to remember that by protecting our ego it's limiting us and inhibiting our growth as human beings.


Again, I don't believe there is any harm in being driven and wanting to improve and get better, but perfectionism (usually an obsessive compulsion ultimately coming from fear) is not what should drive us. It might seem like it could bring in nice results but the danger we'll exhaust ourselves in the process is tremendous and completely not worth it. For life is short and would you rather spend it trying to do everything perfect and never actually finishing anything or would you rather do things and enjoy the feeling of fulfillment and satisfaction as often as possible? That isn't to say lower your standards to zero. No, but try to see it objectively- find the healthy level of "good enough" that you yourself can be comfortable with, even if at first it feels way out of your ego's comfort zone. Think about the bigger picture, the good your actions could do both for yourself as well as the people and the world around you.

Do yourself and all of us a favor and don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good you can be and do in the world.


Thank you for your time!

PV


If you're interested, check out the "About" section to find out what I'd like HiG to be all about.



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