Is Your Perfectionism Holding You Back?

September 26, 2020

Is Your Perfectionism Holding You Back?

September 26, 2020

5 min read

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What I talk about

As a creative person, I find myself struggling with making sure everything is “Perfect”. It’s one of my best qualities, but also kind of my worst.

Perfectionism has always been a part of my life. So much so, that people who are close to me literally call me “Perfectionist” at every opportunity they get. I can’t blame them, really; I need the font size to be exactly right and the location of every element has to be pixel perfect. But it doesn’t stop there. Calculating something with Excel or Google sheets, that would have taken me just two minutes to do, often takes me a lot longer just because I’m playing with table colors and making sure my graphs look extra pretty.

It’s one of my best qualities, but also kind of my worst because it can cause some delay when trying new things. When I shot the video about this topic, I actually fought the feeling that that video is a piece of crap just because I didn’t have the perfect audio or the fact that my camera was actually my phone. But in the end, I was happy I was doing it.

I have a tendency to procrastinate. And I know that a big part of it is due to the fact that my first try won’t be as I imagine it; ie – perfect. So I try to learn as much as I can before I actually take a chance. Crazy, I know. I’ve missed many opportunities to create something I care about just because I was scared it wouldn’t be perfect, So I’ve decided to confront this fear head-on.

The goal of this article:

  1. Finally, shoot, edit & publish my first video.
  2. Help people like me get started on that project they wanted to work on for a while.

To get started right, we need to… 

Tip #1: (Accept the fact) It’s going to suck

Nobody likes the feeling of failure, and some of us try to avoid this feeling at all costs. I know I do. But failure is part of success, not the opposite of it. Before I can start working on something new, I need to be aware of the fact that nothing is perfect the first time around, and that even a partial “failure” can count as a win. And at this point, you’re probably thinking, like me, It’s easier said than done.

Even though I’ve been in front of a camera hundreds of times, whether it’s been commercials, tv shows, my digital course, or YouTube videos, making that video still made me kind of nervous because It was actually the first time I was doing something like this – Something personal & so public. Doing something that for the first time is not going to be perfect, and I needed to understand it and accept it.

Working on the video showed me just how much time and energy I was wasting just to make sure my first video on my channel was perfect. But just like riding a bike, it’s ok to fall the first time you try it. You get back on the bike and try again. It might be uncomfortable at first, but you’ll get better with time.

Tip #2: Understand your motivations

Understanding why we care so much about making things perfect can help us deal with the anxiety of doing something faulty or otherwise “sub-standard”. In other words, knowing you have a problem is the first step in finding a solution. It’s easier to win a battle when you know who your enemy is. But I’m just a guy on the internet, I’m not a professional. So I wanted to know what is the experts’ position regarding perfectionism.

Experts say many perfectionistic tendencies are rooted in fear and insecurity. I didn’t want people to think I’m unprofessional by making a video that looks bad, but understanding where that fear wass coming from and what my goal was, actually helped me want to do something about it.

Tip #3: Adjust your standards

Before I started to shoot the video, I’ve made countless rewrites to the script and even walked in the sun to a park nearby to find the perfect spot to shoot. That was only the start. I was pretty nervous because I couldn’t find the perfect spot to shoot the video; I needed the perfect amount of shade, the perfect amount of sun – I need the perfect shot.

To make sure I got it right the first time, I brought everything I needed. The script, a tripod, and a mic for my phone. But just as I was adjusting my camera, ie – my phone, I realized I forgot to bring a USB-C adapter for my microphone. I could have just started filming then and there, but I wanted the audio to be amazing or, at least, not crappy. That meant walking all the way back home, getting that damn adapter, and walking all the way back to the park just to shoot the perfect shot with the perfect audio, which was never going to happen anyway.

At that point, I was already tired, but I wasn’t going to give up yet.  Eventually, I found the imperfect place, where I could finally shoot my video. Got everything just right to start shooting (again), and after an hour of just walking around, I started filming.

But, as you already know, I’m a perfectionist.

As soon as I started filming, my inner perfectionist kicked in. I did countless takes just to get that one perfect shot. Seriously, I’ve done way too many. Truth is, I need to understand that some things that I care about, most people don’t even care about. The things that I was trying to make in that video, most people won’t even notice.

Most of the people who are going to watch the video, don’t really care if I have a light background or a dark one. People don’t really care about how the content is delivered, they really care about the content itself. I need to understand that my standards are not as important to the audience as they are to me and that maybe, just maybe – I might be pushing myself too hard.

Tip #4: Make a Checklist & Prioritize

Having a checklist is very important, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. You need to prioritize its items effectively. Let’s take the making-of that video, for example. Shooting that video was part of my checklist, but before I started using the camera, I needed to write what I’m going to talk about. Otherwise, I would just ramble about random things that have nothing to do with the point I was trying to make.  

Which brings me to my next point:

Tip #5: Taking action is more important than planning (Sometimes)

American Statesman Dwight Eisenhower once said,

Plans are nothing, but planning is everything

Dwight Eisenhower

-And he makes a pretty good point. But… planning is also nothing if you don’t take any action. That is why tip #5 is the most important one: Take Action. I’ve spent the days before the shooting procrastinating intensively, with the excuse of “I’m working on it”.

Watching that tutorial, reading that article, and sometimes just not getting out of bed. Everything to keep me from trying something new that would never be exactly the way I want it. Eventually, I realized that if I’m not going to do anything soon, I might not do anything at all. Thankfully I had a good friend and accountability buddy to push me forward when I didn’t feel like taking action. So, Rami,  if you’re reading this, thanks, man!

Final Thoughts

We can never be perfect. We’re not machines, and even machines tend to break every now and then, needing to be fixed by imperfect people. That being said, I believe we shouldn’t be afraid of – or refrain from – perfectionism completely. 

When under control, perfectionism can be a great asset, even becoming the driving force to better ourselves. We just need to be careful, not to let that drive turn into a burden. Plus, Now that I’ve finally created something, I know exactly what my strengths are and what I need to improve. 

And that makes the entire process a lot more interesting.

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