Why Perfectionism Could Be Stifling You

Do you consider yourself a perfectionist?  Do you constantly strive to do better, be better? 

Perfection is as elusive as quicksilver.  It is the unicorn people desperately search for, claiming to see glimpses of it.  Just need that little more time, more patience and finally, we’ll see it, we’ll reach it. 

As enticing as perfectionism can seem, it’s actually a negative thing and can do more harm than good if you strive towards it obsessively.

Banner - Why Perfectionism could be stifling you. Image from DepositPhotos



One of my worst habits (and believe me, there are many), is how I can get obsessed with perfectionism.  Not in everything mind you.  But in some things, I chase it and it truly becomes like trying to catch a glimpse of that unicorn.

Perfectionism can be so stifling.  It can actually hold us back rather than help us reach our best.

One of the areas I can sometimes obsess over, in regards to perfectionism, is in starting something new.

In the past and even in the present, I have put off doing things, put off STARTING things entirely because of perfectionism.

Instead, I need to get everything and I mean EVERYTHING set up ready.  It all has to be PERFECT before I can even begin.

Now we already struggle at times to complete things or start things – maybe it’s due to time commitments, or lack of energy or issues with our health.  Maybe just simply not knowing where to start.

But sometimes, it’s the stifle of perfectionism.  Of not wanting to take that first step until every single duck is in a row

Meme of a little duckling waddling off and the words "Every time I think I have all my ducks in a row one of the little fluff-bums waddles off!"

a universal truth


Be prepared, not OVER prepared

There is nothing wrong with trying to be prepared.  It’s always a good idea to do some planning, organising, researching for whatever it is you are wanting to start.

Whether it’s writing a novel, starting a business, making a financial decision etc.

But the problem comes where we get caught in the loop of trying to catch EVERY issue, have EVERY idea solidified.

Let me flip the script and give you an example of when I didn’t over-prepare.

Starting a Business

I’d wanted to run my own business for years but everything from turbulent home life to financial issues to not being sure what I wanted to do stop me.  So I kinda gave up on it for several years and didn’t give it any more thought.

Then one day while bored, I started making jewellery.  I don’t even WEAR jewellery often but I just wanted to do something.

I happened to mention that I had been making jewellery over the weekend when I was back at work and someone mentioned “Etsy” and had I considered selling my stuff?.

I signed up and created a shop the next day.

Vector image of a woman with her arms up and an open sign beside her.  Image from Pixabay

It’s been 8 years and my shop has developed and seen a growing profit for the last 6 years.  Not bad to say I was constantly told that “jewellery is a saturated market and it’s hard to sell it”.

The first two years don’t really count.  After all, those were my “learning” years.

Now I could have held off, spent months even years reading everything about business and Etsy and marketing.  I could have saved up slowly and built up my inventory before starting.

But I didn’t.  I started small, but I started!  I learnt any mistakes on the job.  I researched, on the job.  I made changes and tested the results ON THE JOB.

I know if I had waited and held off on starting, perfectionism would have grabbed me and I’d never have set up my shop.  Instead, I’d have researched myself to death.

So I took a risk and started my business with very little knowledge.  Don’t get me wrong I dived into learning all I could, listening to my customers, checking out my competition, but by having my shop open and active I was able to make changes in real-time.

Like so many things, business platforms can change.  We see differences in search algorithms and SEO features.  Things that worked one year can be changed and fail the next.

This is also why waiting can be detrimental.  You could spend months researching how to start a blog!  By the time you actually start, some of your data might be out of date.

Maybe you read that long 4000 word posts were best, but now it’s shorter 1000 word posts that are preferred.

Learning while doing is the best way, in many cases.



Mess up, learn, do better

Now, I did mention above that SOME planning and organising and researching is necessary, just not to the point where you are trying to perfect everything.

Writers especially can get caught in the loop of self-editing their work over and over ad-nauseam.  Yes, you should edit and yes it should be several times.  But there has to be a stopping point.  A point where you hand it over to another pair of eyes.

But if you aren’t even starting the book because your outline just isn’t perfect or your characters aren’t perfect, then you have a problem.

Fear is a big factor in perfectionism.  Maybe you fear people won’t read your blog posts or buy your book or watch your video channel.

So you hold off on creating a blog, publishing your book or starting a Youtube channel.  You convince yourself you’re “working on it” with the endless note-taking and research on the “best ways to do x” or the “most important time to launch y” and that goal you have just creeps further away.

Sometimes you have to just DO IT!

Yes, people might not visit your blog or buy your book or watch your videos.  That is totally a possibility.  Failure is a possibility  So?  Do it anyway!

Use the planning you have done (remember, some planning is necessary) but learn in the field.  Create that YouTube channel and if no one watches, start looking into how to improve it.

You will already have some content to work with and as you make changes maybe to your titles or tags or video style, for example, you’ll be able to track how these changes are affecting people visiting your channel.

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" Wayne Gretzky


It’s not wasted time

Sometimes people hold back for fear of wasting time.  What if you create that blog, spend months producing posts and no one views them.  What a waste!  Right?


It’s true, you could spend hours creating posts or videos or short stories or products and no-one views them, buys them, watches them.

It’s not a waste.  As mentioned above, it’s content that can be worked with, but even if you eventually scrap it you were building your skills and your confidence.

When I started blogging, I’m surprised anyone found me.  I was inconsistent, hadn’t found my style or blogging voice and didn’t know enough about SEO and marketing.

But those early years weren’t a waste.  I used them to learn about SEO and creating graphics, about interaction and marketing with social media.

Just taking the step to create a blog and putting my work out there, was a big step for me.  I never consider it wasted even if I hadn’t made an impact in those first few years.  Yes, YEARS!

Remember, you can’t get found if you’re not actually OUT THERE.


Not slipshod

This is not me proclaiming we should all be slipshod in what we do. Please don’t take that manuscript you’ve barely edited and throw it into the published world.

No, that’s NOT it, but we can get caught in the loop of trying to make things perfect before we even start.  Those of us who suffer from perfectionism feel the unquenching urge to learn EVERYTHING before we even dip our toe in.

Newsflash, we learn best from doing!  Not everything, mind you, solo parachute jumping for example, definitely needs some advice and training rather than just pulling on a chute, screaming “I got this!” and out you go.

Photo of an serviceman jumping out of a plane in a skydive. Image from Pixabay by Skeeze

this is not a good place for “trial and error”

But we need to give ourselves permission to TRY, to fail, make mistakes and learn.

This blog, like my business, was a trial and error job.  I had to watch myself fail and then start looking at why.  As I learnt something new, I implemented it, immediately.

When the experts said “be consistent” I became consistent in my posting schedule.  When they said, make your titles stronger, I did that with the help of a Headline Analyzer.

As I got better and more knowledgeable, I started to pass that knowledge on through my blog via my Blogger Series.


It’s not quicker

We often think that if we get it PERFECT right out of the gate, then we will get faster results.  Maybe in some rare cases, that’s true, but certainly not always.

Take blogging, you could make the best damn blog posts right away… but Google takes 3-4 months before it crawls your website.  So it may still take time to get found.

I’ve seen so many people give up on things because the results didn’t pay off instantly.  Seriously, we’re not 5 years old, learn to have some damn patience!

I want it now meme - crying man. Image by MemeGenerator.net

So instead, start, try, learn, adapt, grow.  Perfection not required.

Want more, check out this article over on Medium written by my friend and fellow author Rachel Poli called Just Do It.

Are you a perfectionist?

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Happy writing

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28 thoughts on “Why Perfectionism Could Be Stifling You

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  5. I’m like you; a complete perfectionist. Even to the point of turning down opportunities to pitch my work to publishers because they weren’t part of my perfect vision. I’m not sure what I was thinking either! I tend to hold back, until I think I’m 100% ready, or informed, but that just puts me on hold – full stop.
    It’s time I started jumping in and embracing the changes.
    Great post!!

    1. lol I think we need to start our own group – “The Perfectionists” where we encourage each other to let go of the death-grip we have on perfectionism.

      I completely understand, I do the same – everything has to be perfect and yet it just puts us back and we struggle to move forward.

      I think it’s a hard push to get through those habits but we can do it!

      Speaking of which, I going to do a push on my partner to complete his edits of Dark Hart (the urban fantasy one)…so that manuscript might be available for beta reading in a month, if you’re still interested?

      1. Okay, I just finished sorting April’s goals and it is to get the alpha reader to finish his part… I think I’ll hide the biscuits until he does it and while he’s finishing, I’ll do a quick recheck then contact you regarding sending it over. OMG it will be my first read beta read

  6. Such a detailed and on-point post.
    The “wasted time” grinds my gears quite a bit. I think that things, even when failed, can teach us stuff and lay a good foundation for other things, which are sometimes seemingly unrelated. Not many people tend to think similarly.

    1. Thanks Sam 🙂 Yes, you are totally right, mistakes, failures and errors all teach us something and we need to see them as useful opportunities not “failures”.

  7. I think you really hit the nail on the head. Part of striving for perfection is expecting that perfect also means instant. As though putting something “perfect” out into the world means it’ll immediate success. That thought kept me from publishing for quite a while. I’m glad I pushed through it (I won’t say cured it because I still have pep talks with myself reminding myself no book is perfect).

    1. Yes! That is it! People think they have to get it all absolutely perfect and boom, excellent results and when it doesn’t happen they get really disappointed and then feel like they didn’t make it “perfect” enough. Lol I do the same, keep giving myself a pep talk in order to move things forward! lol

  8. I’m probably not a perfectionist in the typical sense but, when it comes to my writing, I often get into the ‘I could do better, dammit’ mindset. I think it’s the unending desire to improve and learn rather than perfectionsim what has me in beta stage for over a year already…
    But maybe it’s no different.

    1. I think especially with creative works, it is really hard to let go and move to the next step because as you say, it’s easy to get into the “could be better”. There’s definitely nothing wrong with the desire to learn and improve, but only if it moves you forward.

      Maybe give yourself a deadline for when your beta stage has to end… no matter what. 🙂

  9. Perfectionism stops me from querying or submitting to short story compilations. It also makes it hard for me to make blog pists with “writing advice,” since I never feel like I am qualified to make the post.

    1. I understand that feeling. I spent a long time refusing to share my work or join collaborations with my work because I was like “nope, it’s not good enough.” It takes a lot of courage to take the next step and you’ll do it. Do everything you can, make it polished, go through betas, and then even if you just send ONE query… they might accept you and even if they reject, they might give you a reason and you can make that next step.

      And you should DEFINITELY share any writing advice, none of us is qualified lol. I remember I was adding small tutorials on deviantart and got people asking for me. Which is why I started this blog and then I got authors who had PUBLISHED telling me my advice was good and asking for specific tutorials and I was like “WTF? I’m not even published!”

      In the end, you’ve been through things, you’ve learnt things and you have something to say.

  10. Excellent post Ari! I’m definitely a perfectionist – have been since I was small. Fortunately I had some help from my high school counsellor to identify when I’m obsessing over things and letting the idea of perfection stand in my way. It’s still an everyday battle, but I’ve found that interacting with the online writing community has done me a world of good for just letting the small things go!

    1. Glad to hear you had someone to talk you through and help you see how you can get caught up with perfectionism. My partner did that for me. And OMG you are so right it IS an everyday battle and I’m so pleased that you are pushing through.

      I am still making those little steps and if I find myself obsessing I just have to stop and make a decision that moves me forward, no matter what.

      1. I think so. At times I feel that I should stop, but I also tell myself if I can fix it, I should, and that its best to be patient and just gradually fix mistakes as they come.

      2. I understand, there is a fine line between fixing something and over-fixing. I do think it’s better to do things slowly and carefully and do more than is necessary than less. 🙂

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