Letting Go of Perfectionism:
3 Ways to Practice Being Gloriously Imperfect

Has your perfectionism been holding you back from finishing – or even starting – that project you are so excited about? Do you have a hard time accepting something as "good enough"? This post is for you. Let's work on letting go of perfectionism together.

Has your perfectionism been holding you back from finishing – or even starting – that project you are so excited about? Do you have a hard time accepting something as “good enough”? This post is for you. Let’s work on letting go of perfectionism together.

You know how, when asked for your weaknesses in a job interview, you aren’t supposed to say “perfectionism” because it’s a cop-out? People tend to assume you are disguising a strength – high quality work – as a weakness. What this argument misses is how much perfectionism can negatively impact our lives. If you strive for the very best, you may never get started out of fear of falling short of your own expectations. Your project might remain a dream forever. Or maybe you get started, but get lost in details and never finish. Even if you get it done, it will likely have taken you a very long time, and caused a lot of stress.

If you’re anything like me, your perfectionism has been a source of anxiety and stress at least as much as it has helped you produce high-quality work. Likely, it’s caused more of the former than the latter. But how do you shake the need for everything to be top-notch? Surely, you can’t just start delivering subpar work and not even care?

Letting go of perfectionism is not easy. I struggle with it every day. But if I hadn’t managed to overcome my need to be perfect at least some of the time, you would not be reading these lines. In all the months that I have been blogging, I have never written a post I considered perfect. Every time I have to coax myself into hitting “Publish”. Somehow, I’ve managed to do this often enough to get a few articles onto the blog! Here are some ideas on dealing with nagging perfectionism:

Done is Better Than Perfect

No, you don’t have to suddenly stop caring about the quality of your work. Chances are, the last four or five revisions did not add much to that blog post you wrote but still haven’t published. It’s also likely that nobody but you will notice that one weird mistake you made on your big abstract canvas painting. The same goes for perfectionism as it applies to yourself. Nobody but you will notice if your hair is having a less-than-perfect day – and even if they did, does it really matter enough to spend an extra 30 minutes in the bathroom?

Done is better than perfect. So hit publish. Hang the canvas. Send the draft to your publisher. Whatever it is you have been putting off because it’s not perfect – get. it. done. If you need the occasional reminder, make yourself a simple post-it with this reminder and put it where you can see it while you work. Every time you hit a bump in the road, let the post-it remind you that you are letting go of perfectionism.

Create Accountability

If you realize letting go of perfectionism is not something you can do on your own, a good idea is to create accountability. Break your project down into manageable steps and set deadlines for yourself. Find an accountability partner or a mastermind group. Let them know what you need to deliver by the given deadlines. Chances are that you will hate missing a deadline even more than submitting potentially slightly imperfect work. As an added bonus, you can get feedback on your work right away. Most of the time, the fears your perfectionism has instilled in you about how it’s “not done” and “not right yet” turn out to be unfounded.

And last, but certainly not least…

Get Inspired By The Japanese

The ancient philosophy of wabi sabi prizes the beauty of what’s natural – and therefore inherently flawed and imperfect. Think about this for a moment: Nothing natural is ever perfect. So often, it’s the small flaws that make something interesting – whether we’re talking about human faces, handmade pottery or old buildings. Wabi sabi is more than just the grudging acceptance that something’s not perfect. It is the appreciation of incompleteness, imperfection and uniqueness. The next time you find a flaw in your painting or on your body, take a deep breath. Think about it – can you find some beauty in your own imperfection? How would acceptance feel, as opposed to the relentless pursuit of self-improvement and perfection?

If you’re interested in reading more about wabi sabi, I found this article on Whole Living very interesting! There are also lots of books on the subject – and, for that matter, on letting go of perfectionism. Get reading! But remember: Putting what you learn into practice is the most important part. Don’t get lost in research. And of course, let me know about your struggles and aha-moments in the comments!

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4 Comments

  1. ahhhhh, I need to take your advice. I think I honestly must. As a new blogger, I am just having the hardest time with no deadlines and myself as an editor. Get it done to the best of your ability and move on. I believe this is going to be my new motto, Thank you. I honestly really needed this today!

    • I’m glad I could help! You’ll find that it’s really a bit like exercising a muscle… the more often you manage to get something done and move on, the easier it gets 🙂

  2. To be honest i think your article is brilliant. Seriously refreshing, honest and interesting – also like the way you share about personal experience it helps us perfectionists to let our guards down and relate. Keep going, you make a difference in someones life. Sometimes i think ” why does it even matter if i write or not, but then it seems to matter for the once who reads it ” You have a gift of writing. Use it to share with others ..

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