“Now is the operative word. Everything you put in your way is just a method of putting off the hour when you could actually be doing your dream. You don’t need endless time and perfect conditions. Do it now. Do it today. Do it for twenty minutes and watch your heart start beating.”
(Barbara Sher, I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was)
Are you a recovering perfectionist?
That is how Sarah R. Bagley describes herself on her blog and podcast about overcoming perfectionism. Each week she interviews guests about getting over perfectionism, being good enough, and how to lead a “B+” life.
Her perspective is very inline with our mission at Happy Living, so I was thrilled when she invited me to be a guest on her show. Click to listen to my episode – if you like what you hear, subscribe to the podcast.
I prepared for our call with a few pages of handwritten notes, but put them away for the actual conversation. I shut out distractions and took a few deep breaths. I was nervous at first, but eventually settled down and began to feel like I was having a meaningful chat with an old friend.
It wasn’t until we hung up that I started to feel super uncomfortable. Did I talk too fast or share too much? Did I offer anything of value? Was I a complete disaster?!
Perfectionism: a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable1
Perfection: the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects2
That’s how my perfectionism shows up. It sneaks up and takes the wheel. Perfection blinds me to the here and now. Instead, I am over there, worrying about the past. I am out that way, considering all possible outcomes for the future.
The opposite of perfection
Perfectionism is busy and frantic. It is being everything for everyone. It is freaking out about not being good enough. It is comparing your beginning and someone else’s middle. Really, it is every type of comparison. It is trying instead of doing, and efforting instead of working.3
There are two videos that have helped me understand this definition of perfection and put it into words. If you have a few spare minutes, they are worth watching:
- David Shiyang Liu’s animation of Ira Glass on Storytelling
- Meditation expert Emily Fletcher on Are You Addicted to Trying?
And if you are interested in learning how to overcome obstacles like perfectionism and creative resistance, read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It’s a Happy Living favorite!
The opposite of perfection is being in the moment. It is what some people refer to as flow. Flow is when complete focus and ease take over, and time, ego, and concern cease to exist. (Check out this helpful overview on the Psychology of Flow.)
Refinement, technique, and mastery are much more worthy causes than perfectionism. They evoke meaning, purpose, and significance. When someone is dedicated to a goal, they have a better chance of falling into a flow state, which is (ironically) closer to perfect than perfectionism could ever be.
Drop your expectations and go
Voltaire is attributed to saying, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Try something – try anything – to move through your perfectionism. Know that it can be a cycle that ebbs and flows, from start to finish and back to start again. If you are a recovering perfectionist, you might be on this train forever… that is ok. Drop your expectations and go.
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