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.
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
↑ 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.
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.
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.
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.
↑ 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!
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?