Are you a perfectionist? Do you tweak things relentlessly, never feeling satisfied, taking ages to get the simplest thing done because it’s got to be exactly right, and it makes you anxious if it’s not? Because you’re scared of getting it wrong? Of exhibiting any form of flaw? Of truly showing yourself at your most chaotic and rambly and unformulated?
I am a perfectionist and it has done me no favours whatsoever. All the perfectionist force within me has done has held me back from life. Because I’ve wanted to automatically be good at something, I haven’t endured the vulnerability and pain of being bad. Because I’ve wanted everyone to like me, I haven’t shown who I truly am. It’s stopped me from trying new things, of saying how I really feel, of truly connecting, of getting on with work, of embarking on new creative projects, of doing what I’d really love to do if I wasn’t afraid of exhibiting my true self in all its ‘wrongness’.
Perfectionism is such a heightened need to be proper and to do things properly that you will never match up to your expectations. You will waste away the person that you are because you are always seeking some phantom ideal. And the reason behind all that? You’re scared to be yourself. You’re scared to get it wrong. The emotion is just fear, plain and simple. That’s it. You can think up as many layered fancy thoughts as you like but beneath it all is jittery, primal, rabbit-in-the-headlights fear. And that’s the force that you’re letting dictate your life?
No human has the answers. Every human has flaws. Every human has complex emotions and peaks and troughs in their faculties. You are not a robot and you are not going to be functioning exceptionally all the time. You can only do your best in a given moment, and striving after perfectionism is going to demotivate you because it’s impossible; it’s a brutal self-hating fiction. Agonising over how you present yourself and how you interact with the world is going to make you unhappy, because it’s making you into something that’s subhuman and putting a massive weight on yourself. You’re not honouring your soul when you’re a perfectionist; you’re thinking ‘I can’t say that – what will this person think?’, ‘I can’t write that – it sounds wrong?’. It’s messing with the person you’re meant to be through an endless torrent of criticism and judgment. That’s bad. Who wants that in their head? It stops you from doing anything worthwhile.
You’ve just got to get out there and start dancing messily, flamboyantly, throwing yourself around and perhaps unintentionally offending some people in the process and definitely getting it wrong, and being vulnerable and ridiculous and surprising yourself. Because you can’t live in a shell. You can’t keep your lips sealed forever. You’ve got to start existing. And existing isn’t the same thing as perfectionism. Perfectionism is putting off existence because it’s too messy, and you can’t bear to make a mistake, and expose your vulnerability. But by doing that, you’re putting off life… Because life is full of mistakes! I mean, think of all the random chaos in nature that has settled into beautiful patterns… and I think breakfast cereal was originally a mistake too, and we all know how great that is, right?
Right now, I didn’t edit this. And that’s a big thing for me because I always edit and feel that I can’t express myself properly until I edit. So this is rawness, this is anti-perfectionism. Where there is no perfectionism, there is true freedom, true unashamed ability to create from yourself and your unique power, becuse you’re not scrutinising so painfully about getting it right.
So yes, I call all of you to do what you love and not care so much. Just do it! And embrace the messiness, because that is the only way to truly grow. Take this analogy: if you’re growing a plant, you’re not constantly going to be cutting it every time it sprouts something new, because that new thing might be the vital, beautiful thing that’s going to turn into a fruit or a flower. So let yourself bloom, and get rid of the set model you have of what blooming should look like – because who knows, really. It’s up to you to find out 🙂