Choosing Progress Over Perfectionism
I don't know about you guys, but it takes an active effort for me to be in community.
I can get a lot done by myself and perfectionism tries to convince me that I don't need anyone else, that I can do everything alone.
But I know the truth: I need community. We all do.
I need to hear what other people are going through, learning, thinking about, and feeling. I need to know that I'm not the only one facing the challenges in front of me. I need to be reminded that it's not weak to ask for help or to be vulnerable.
I need to regularly take off my mask of perfectionism and be real with people who care about me, whom I also care about, because I often don't even realize that I'm wearing a mask at all.
Perfectionism has been the way I've tried to provide myself with safety and security through the years:
"If no one else will be there for me, then I'll provide security for myself."
I've pursued high-performance as a coping mechanism for life's stresses because I got acknowledged and affirmed for it, and it made me feel in-control because it's something that I personally have influence over (as opposed to the out-of-control situations in life.)
It also left me feeling alone. It left me feeling ashamed and inadequate, because perfection is an impossible standard. It isolated me when I needed community most, and left me to fight many battles alone. However, I felt that I couldn't take off the mask of perfectionism because it provided me with "security"; or so I thought.
Solitude is not security. It makes you MORE vulnerable, not less.
I shrunk away from being real or transparent with people because I didn't want to get hurt; but that only left me to face my struggles alone, without help, which was even more vulnerable and painful.
Perfectionism isn't security, it's a lie.
It hinders your potential, and slows your progress. It says to avoid others because you don't want "baggage", but it places an impossibly heavy burden on your shoulders that crushes you. It says to not reveal your flaws and struggles to others because they'll judge you and hurt you, but then when you're alone it riddles you with shame and guilt because you don't measure up to it's impossible standard.
Perfectionism is not my friend, it is my enemy.
It is not a solution, it's a trap. It doesn't move me forward toward my goals, dreams, and desires, it holds me back, makes me too afraid to start, and trips me up before I reach the finish line.
I need people. I need to be real and authentic and transparent.
I need people who I can admit to that I don't have it all together. I need community who can be encouraging when I fall short or am scared. I need people to lean on who will push me forward when I don't have the strength to keep going. I need people who love me enough to accept me, imperfections and all, when I am too critical of myself.
Perfectionism is a warped mirror that shows a warped reflection of ourselves.
It highlights and zooms into our flaws and weaknesses. It scrutinizes our accomplishments and picks them apart. It minimizes our strengths and magnifies our weaknesses. And it does all of this under the guise of "trying to make us better". Perfectionism isn't trying to make you better, it's not trying to move you forward , it's trying to trap you.
Healthy community is a true mirror.
It provides outside perspective; a clear reflection that sees you without the warped glasses you view yourself with. They extend grace and love to cover over your weaknesses and flaws because they too are flawed and in need of acceptance. They celebrate your accomplishments and provide feedback for how you can continue to grow. They encourage you to use your strengths and pursue opportunities that use them to the fullest of your ability. Community truly does "make us better" by sharpening us alongside other imperfect people who love and challenge us to be our best self.
I've come to discover that perfectionism has been the biggest obstacle to my success.
I have become my own lid, that stops me from rising higher to the next level in life and business. And, as I've reflected on how to do things differently this year, I've realized that there's been some major areas of my life that have been lacking. And while I've been aware of them in the back of my mind, I've avoided them because they would require me to break my shield of perfectionism and reveal my true, imperfect self.
My areas of focus this year are areas that I've had the most difficulty with because of perfectionism. These are my words for 2018:
Community and Consistency.
I need community to counteract years of perfectionist tendencies.
I need to be able to get a clear picture of where I am and what I'm doing. I need feedback, outside input, accountability, and correction even. I need encouragement, support, people to run with, and folks who I can practice and learn alongside who don't magnify my mistakes but rather the progress I make in pursuit of new solutions.
I need to consistently connect with others to remind myself that they too are imperfect, which tears down the perfection filter I view others through. Community defeats comparison by reminding us that we are all on a journey.
I need community because it provides something that perfectionism can't: opportunities.
Community overlaps my journey with others, providing me with the chance to do new things, learn new things, and expand beyond what's familiar and comfortable.
Perfectionism can't provide opportunity because it keeps me buried in a hole. It imprisons me with the lie, "If you're perfect enough, then people will come to you. If you have to go to others for opportunities, it means you're not good enough."
Perfectionism hates community because community exposes the lies that perfectionism relies on. Perfectionism has painted a false picture of community for me over the years:
Inauthentic, cheesy, for those who can't make it on their own, superficial, strangers attending events they don't want to be at talking to people they don't want to know drinking punch and eating cheap sandwiches wearing badly-fitted dress clothes looking like what you'd see if you searched for a "networking" stock photo.
Yes, that's the negative picture that perfectionism crafted for me in order to keep me isolated from the rich, vibrant, sincere, passionate community of creatives and entrepreneurs that I've kept just outside my grasp for so long. And I didn't even fully realize that I had this delusion until last week, as I finished the book Finish by Jon Acuff. No wonder I haven't been in community! I've been believing the lie and drinking perfectionism's Kool Aid!
I'm committed to finding, initiating, and having relationships with the community of creative entrepreneurs who I've so desperately needed for too long. And I know that this is going to have an immeasurable impact on my business and my creative passions.
I need consistency to keep me from withdrawing into a cave of perfectionism.
I need to practice my craft in public, making mistakes and creating roughly in front of others so that I can get feedback and make adjustments on things that I might miss by myself. Perfectionism tells me that I work best alone, but experience tells me that I work best when I'm surrounded by a community of other creative entrepreneurs who are also in their own journey of pursuing their passions.
Consistency gives me a regular touch point to make adjustments and to recalibrate myself with a healthy and realistic perspective.
Consistency reminds me that the shot I'm taking, while important, is not my only shot. It counteracts perfectionism by telling me, "Go ahead! Try it. Who cares if you mess up because you can always take another shot!" I learn something new every time I try. Consistency gives me the experience needed to make adjustments; experience I wouldn't have had if I'd never tried and failed.
Consistency defeats perfectionism because it defeats the fear of failure.
When I'm committed to consistency, I'm committed to the big picture more than I am to the details. It doesn't matter if what I create today sucks because it's more important that I practice and gain experience than it is to make every attempt flawless (an impossible task).
Consistently creating redirects my desire to be excellent by redefining what success means:
Success isn't perfectionism, success is progress.
And since perfectionism keeps me from making progress, it is an enemy of success.
Consistency teaches me that showing up is more important than showing off.
What's more impressive than putting out an image of perfection is letting other people see my PROCESS; when they see my battles, roadblocks, and challenges, and they see me persevere, learn, mess-up, and fight for progress. Then my victories are so much more valuable, because others can see that they don't come naturally. Why else do you think that the high-performing people we respect most are those who not only achieve great things, but also the ones who share their imperfections, fears, flaws, and failures?
Consistency = Progress Over Perfectionism.
If I'm being honest, the idea of being part of a creative community of entrepreneurs and creating consistently scares the crap out of me.
It will require me to step out of my cave of perfectionism, where I've practiced for so long, and start practicing in public. It will require me to share my journey with other people, who I've been afraid might reject me if they saw that I was imperfect.
I've stayed away from the very community of people who would help me grow and succeed because I've been afraid that I'd be excluded and told that I "don't have what it takes".
Perfectionism will do anything to keep you from the very thing you need to succeed.
I've developed and refined every other facet of my creative career, except the social one. And I've avoided that area because I've been hurt badly by people/situations in the mainstream creative community in the past.
My solution to avoid pain again was, "Fine. I don't need to be part of the scene. I can make it on my own, outside of the system!"
I withdrew out of pain and pride. (Have any of you done the same?)
I took the, "You can't fail if you don't try." and "You can't be rejected if you don't put yourself out there." approach to my career; not across the board, but specifically in relation to the design community.
Ironically, when I look back at my journey, I can see that I've NEVER been alone. All of my opportunities have come THROUGH relationships.
I may have tried to escape from community, but thankfully community found me.
I've gone far too long without community and consistency as a creative entrepreneur, and I'm ready to start.
I'm doing something different so I can accomplish something greater than I've ever done. I'm getting perfectionism out of my way so I can become my true self, my best self.
I'm not sure how much of my journey you can relate to, but if you're anything like me and have hid behind the mask of perfectionism for much of your life, I'm sure it's struck a chord.
Do yourself a favor:
Identify the areas of your life and career that have been most lacking, then evaluate how you may have sabotaged yourself as a result of perfectionism.
Then, begin to identify tiny steps you can take to rebuild and renew those facets of your life.
Chances are that it will require you to face some of your deepest buried fears, but will result in you feeling more fulfilled and happy, and will present you with opportunities you will have never had if you'd stayed in your cave of perfectionism.
I'm just now starting this new chapter, and I'm hopeful and excited to go further than I've ever gone before. I also want to invite you to do the same.
Two books I'd highly recommend for you in this journey:
This book tears down the "Starving Artist" myth by contrasting Starving Artists with Thriving Artists. It has been huge for me to identify which parts of my business and creativity haven't been lining up with what it means to thrive as an artist.
This book takes a sniper rifle to perfectionism and blasts right through it in a way that is so simple, so real, and so transparent. It reads quick, is easy to digest, and Jon Acuff is really funny too and super good at calling out perfectionism on its crap. I needed this book so badly, it's filled with underlines and notes in the margins because it speaks so clearly to the battle of trying to be perfect that I've fought for so long.
Here's to a new year!
Stoked to run with you.