A few weeks ago, I was having lunch with a woman who was considering launching a blog of her own, but something was holding her back from doing it.
Here’s what she said:
“There no way that I can put out something that’s less than excellent. I demand excellence in everything that I do. I’m a perfectionist.”
Yep, that was her reason for not launching her own blog, and she said those words as if being a perfectionist was something to be proud of.
Perfectionism is a silent killer of dreams, and if we care about achieving anything meaningful in our lives before we die, we must kick this silly habit to the curb with the quickness.
The Truth About Perfectionism
The proud perfectionists of the world may disagree with what I’m about to say, but being a perfectionist has very little to do with “demanding excellence.”
It has everything to do with fear.
Fear of being judged by others. Fear of showing the world anything less than the best. Fear of failure.
Fear is a sneaky snake and it will find clever ways to keep us stuck, if we’re not on high-alert. Hiding behind a shield of perfectionism is a convenient excuse to stop you from taking action, but here’s the unavoidable truth:
You’re really just scared of not being good enough.
I get it, because I used to be there myself.
As I mentioned last week, it took me three long years to publish my first blog post here because I wanted to “make sure that it was perfect” (translated: I was terrified that it wouldn’t be good enough.)
And guess what? It wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough.
Many times we use perfectionism as an excuse to stop us from trying things that will allow us to grow. It could be simple things like grabbing the microphone at the karaoke bar or giving a presentation at work. It could also be bigger things like starting a business or starting a family. Here’s another unavoidable truth:
If waited until we were ready before we tried something, we would never do anything.
I didn’t feel ready to accept a leadership position at my job, I didn’t feel ready to have kids, and I definitely didn’t feel ready to launch this blog in 2013.
All three of those things have brought me more joy than anything in my life, to date. What if I waited until I was ready to do those things, or worse, what if I waited until I could do them perfectly before I started?
I think of that often, and it still scares the hell out of me.
But just in case there are any people out there who still think that there’s some merit to this perfectionism stuff, read on.
Nothing is Perfect on the First Try
Do you remember what it was like to learn how to ride a bike for the first time?
I know that I didn’t hop on my bike as a 5-year old and start rocking the pedals like a Tour de France champion. If your first time was anything like my first few times, it was full of falls, bruises and scraped knees. It’s a miracle that kids stick with the learning process because riding a bike can be pretty painful before the skill is perfected.
But isn’t that the way it is with anything worthwhile?
No one is perfect in the beginning of anything. It doesn’t matter if it’s riding a bike, public speaking, having sex (well, it’s true), learning how to cook, starting a blog or running a business. The only way to get better is to jump in, try it and make adjustments along the way. Let me prove it.
The logo on the right was the concept that I was ready to use as the logo for The Positivity Solution (yes, seriously!) Obviously, this logo was far from perfect. But once I made the decision that I was finally to going to launch this blog no matter what, I wasn’t going to let a less-than-perfect logo stop me.
The only reason why you haven’t seen this logo before now is that a month before The Positivity Solution’s launch, I showed this logo to a few trusted friends who firmly (and unanimously) told me to scrap it and start over. This logo is just one of my countless mistakes that I made in the early days of The Positivity Solution.
Far worse in my opinion, I used to write blog posts in an attempt to stand out by being the “edgy positivity guy” (whatever the hell that meant in my mind), and predictably those blog posts were cringe-worthy. I still shudder thinking of them today (thank you, “Edit” function on WordPress.)
But you know what? I learned from it, and today I’m writing blog posts that are 100% authentically me.
If you have the guts to try something new, you will (not “may,” you will) screw up, and that’s okay. Just remember this truth:
Once your fear of looking “less-than-perfect” is eclipsed by your fear of what your life will become by not trying, your life will change forever.
The Price of Perfectionism
Do you know the most ironic thing about being a perfectionist?
All that perfectionism will do for you is keep you broke, miserable, unfulfilled and as far away from “perfect” as you could ever imagine.
Your dreams don’t need your perfection, they need your action.
There’s a reason why cowards and courageous people experience the world differently–it’s because they think differently.
Cowards focus on making it perfect now and getting it done later, whereas courageous people focus on getting it done now and perfecting it later. Perfect is the archenemy of progress, and the truly courageous people of the world know this.
In order for your dreams to become real in your life, you will need courage to overcome the inevitable judgment from others and the temporary failure that is waiting for all of us when we try something new.
On the other hand, choosing perfectionism means having your dreams continue to sit on the shelf for precious weeks, months and years in pursuit of a goal (aka, perfection) that no one is capable of achieving.
That’s why there is a steep price for perfectionism. Your happiness, your dreams and your life are the fee.
I have good news, though.
The world doesn’t require your perfection, it never did. It needs your willingness to take action, it needs your courage, and most of all, it needs your authenticity.
Imperfections and all.
Do you suffer from perfectionism? Have you ever used perfectionism as an excuse to do what’s necessary? If so, jump into the comment section below and make your voice heard!