“Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.”
~ Harriet Braiker
It could be a joke that I’m writing this post. After all, I’ve been known to discard drawings and crumple up grade school art projects because it wasn’t good enough.
But I also may be one of the best people to talk about it because I continually grapple with perfectionism and have found ways to release its hold on my life.
It’s easy to get stuck on a broken record of perfectionism. Because it’s an impossible endeavor, it can lead to eventual burnout and depression.
How do we get ourselves off of this insidious path?
Walk right into your fear. You say you’re afraid of making a mistake, screwing up, letting people find out how flawed you really are? I dare you to do something that will force you to face that fear. Infamous The Artist’s Way author Julia Cameron says:
“Sometimes I will write badly, draw badly, paint badly, perform badly. I have a right to do that to get to the other side. Creativity is its own reward.”
Isn’t that quote so freeing?
It allows you the permission to be bad, to unleash your rebellious side, to quell the inner micro-manager that says everything must be perfect in order for you to create it. Not only that, but as Cameron says, it’s your right to do so. There is nothing shameful about being imperfect. There is nothing wrong about being flawed.
Here’s a secret: we’re all born that way. Why not embrace it?
A few times a month I release my inner bad boy and create just for the sake of it. Sometimes what comes out is beautiful, other times I need to try again. But exercising my imperfection muscle is always worth it. It reminds me not to take myself so seriously. And to remember that feeling scared, uncertain and being a beginner are the keys to self-growth and to being human.
If you have been feeling bored, discouraged or depressed lately, check in with yourself. Are you on a hamster wheel of perfectionism? Have you allowed yourself the time and space for error? When was the last time you tried something new or did something without adding a disclaimer such as, “I’m really not good at this,” or “I can’t do it?”
If you want to free yourself from perfectionism, you need to do the work to get there. It will take practice. It will taking mustering the courage to love yourself regardless of how flawed you feel. But how wonderful it is to be without the constraints and rigid limitations put upon us by perfection.
Want to feel okay with being imperfect? Try this:
Every time you do something that feels uncomfortably imperfect, tell yourself this:
“I love you anyway. I love you for your courage to pick up that paintbrush. I love you for being good at not being good at everything. I love you for trying something that you think you will fail. I love your perfectly imperfectly flaws. I don’t just love you in spite of it. I love you because of it.”