French author Saint-Exupery likely said it best: “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” An interesting way of reminding us that our journey to perfection is ongoing. But is the quest to achieve perfection healthy? Although its pursuit may prompt us to start moving towards our goals (a good thing!), in excess it can also paralyze us. So, is it time we stop trying to achieve perfect and focus on looking ahead instead?
The first step is understanding what we're dealing with. A few signs of perfectionist behaviour: the belief that perfect is (perfectly) achievable; extremely high, sometimes unattainable expectations for ourselves and sometimes others as well. And for those on the more intense end of the spectrum, an all-or-nothing mindset. Almost perfect just won't do. If you're being moved by fears, instead of goals, it might be time to rethink whether this is helping you.
In addition to sounding painfully demanding, this mood-killing cocktail often sets us up for failure. If we're fixated on unrealistic goals and expectations, how can we possibly be happy with the results? Which begs the question, is there such a thing as a healthy dose of perfectionism?
Perfectionism in high extremes can make you develop tunnel vision that forbids you to see any other outcome than the one you envisioned, stunting growth, alternative solutions, or even feedback. However, in small healthy doses, it will feed into your will to see the good part of whatever enterprise you undertake, and the best of what you know you can do. The trick is to know how to maintain a healthy balance. - Filipe Texugo T. (Senior 2D Graphic Artist, Baba Entertainment)
How can we overcome perfectionism, this nagging inclination that feeds on our fear of failure, relentless self-judgement and anxiety? Here are a few pointers that might help:
- Don’t overestimate, set realistic goals.
- Skip the “should haves”; believe your good judgement.
- It's important to keep to your deadlines. There will always be CBBs (could-be-betters).
- Take a step back. Don’t agonize over small details.
- This is a BIG one: allow yourself to make mistakes.
- Celebrate the wins, big and small. They add up!
According to Senior Technical Designer at Magnopus, Sally Slade, a good mantra here is “done is better than perfect, that's always my advice to artists, entrepreneurs, and myself! Perfectionism is not your friend: you'll never reach “perfect'', and even if you did, would your entire audience agree? Would future you agree? Do not be afraid to take bold and messy action! A story of growth is relatable, and everyone loves an underdog! We all start somewhere, may as well start at the beginning”.
Did anything here strike a chord? Do you recognize some of the perfectionist traits in yourself? The likelihood is yes, but even if that is the case, don't despair...it's the same for most of us. What's important is to keep moving forward, one step at a time. Let perfectionism into your life as long as it helps you. But if it starts hurting your progress, it's time to loosen its hold.
So go ahead, embrace imperfection! Who knows what incredible magic can result from that freedom. And once we remove "perfect" from the pedestal, we can finally start to appreciate it's impressive cousin: a job well done and complete. There's a lot to be said about the merits of that underdog.