We’ve all heard the adage, “There’s no such thing as perfect.” But do we really believe it? How many times have we scrapped a project at its inception because it wasn’t right? Even now, I struggle to begin this blog post, because every critical voice inside me is screaming that my word choices are wrong, my grammar is subpar, and this will be the worst thing I’ve ever written.
When I’m drawing a picture, with only a preliminary sketch on the page, my critical brain immediately tells me to rip it out and throw it in the trash. This is how the concept of “perfect” stifles and smothers artistry. Whether you’re a writer, painter, or a marketer, the idea of perfect is one of the largest obstacles you, as a creative, will ever face.
Where does perfectionism come from? Contrary to most people’s understanding, perfectionism is less about how hard you work and more about how you feel about yourself. We know we can’t be perfect, as perfection is impossible. But somehow, the striving for perfection is how we believe we prove our worth. If I at least try to be perfect, that makes me worthy. It’s the striving for worthiness that makes us miserable when we refuse to see that we were born worthy and that our accomplishments don’t define us.
If the pursuit of perfection doesn’t define us, what does? The fact that we are inherently creative beings is a gift in and of itself. I believe that if we try focusing on gratitude for the talents we were blessed to cultivate, rather than what we feel we lack, it would make all the difference. For example, instead of ripping my sketch to pieces because it didn’t come out a fully rendered drawing, I can dive into my knowledge of techniques and continue working with the project. I can stay with it, patiently and compassionately, and trust the process. I set my expectations and criticisms to the side and allow myself to be with the work.
Of course, this is much easier said than done. It seems simple, but those critical voices put up a tremendous fight to be heard. However, the only way to fight them is to accept them. Yes, what I’m writing is probably riddled with errors and the syntax is rudimentary. Yes, the proportions in my drawing are off, and I misinterpreted other parts of the reference image. Yes, I’m frustrated. Yes, I want to give up. But it doesn’t mean I should or that I will.
While I’ll never be perfect, it doesn’t prevent me from producing high-quality work. I know that if I go back over this rough draft, I will find the necessary edits and make them. And whatever I don’t find, the next person to proofread this will. That’s another aspect of perfectionism; the perfectionist pressures him or herself to do everything on their own, even though it’s unnecessary (and as impossible as perfection itself).
Loosen your grip on the idea of perfection and replace it with trust. Trust in your capabilities. Trust in those around you to support you where you inevitably need it. It may not be right the first time (or the first 20 times), but you’ve come this far, haven’t you? You came this far because you were willing to learn, make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, and then do it all over again. You came this far because you trusted those who offered support or guidance, so continue reaching out to those helpful resources.
In any creative field, and life in general, fulfillment usually manifests from the journey rather than the outcome. Instead of striving for instant perfection, find the childlike curiosity in what could be if you move forward and keep your mind open.