I remember, clearly, the first time someone called me a perfectionist. I was 18 years old and was being trained in my first post-high school job as a barista. The comment caused me to pause and think about the meaning of the word and how it applied to me. As it swirled in my brain, I felt satisfaction and decided that I am a perfectionist – the word fit me well and, in fact, it felt like a big compliment. “How could it be bad to do things perfectly?”, I thought smugly.
More than 20 years later, I am realizing that being a perfectionist isn’t quite all I thought it was. As it turns out, putting pressure on oneself to do things with perfection can really hold a girl back. Now in my forties, I am trying to let go of my perfectionism.
To be a perfectionist is to be a people pleaser, and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that you can’t please everyone. What I’ve learned is that perfectionism is the road block between the life I am currently living and the life I dream of. To be a perfectionist means to fear failure and, therefore, to not take risks and stick with what I know will bring success. And that’s, boring.
I first realized that my perfectionism is a roadblock just a few years ago when I started a new job that gave me complete creative freedom to create wellness programming and communications. As I designed these programs and the marketing campaigns to go with them, I realized that I would actually have to put these programs out to my audience, which meant putting myself, my ideas and my creativity out to thousands of people. People I work with, none the less. What if they thought my programs were lame, stupid or not helpful? What if my marketing collateral had a (gasp) typo?! What if the programs didn’t make the impact I so desperately wanted them to make in people’s lives?
As I stalled in launching my programs, I saw what I was doing and the “compliment” of being a perfectionist came back to me. I made the decision to start from where I was and learn from whatever mistakes I might make, what might flop, what might now work. With butterflies in my stomach, I launched my programs — and I didn’t stop launching for several years. Some of my programs were successful, others were very impactful, and some quietly fizzled. Letting go of my perfectionism was liberating and, in turn, I made the impact I wanted to. I got to see the difference I was making.
That was more than five years ago and now I have launched my creative-side business, HolderIndustries. Even though everyone else in my immediate family is a talented musician, artist, and/or maker, I never saw myself as a creative person. I think that’s because it’s hard to be a creative and a perfectionist at the same time, if you want to actually put your creativity out for public consumption. I’ve learned, even more now, how perfectionism has held me back from getting to know and explore myself as a creative person, my gifts and ultimately what I am passionate about.
So here I am at 42 years old, letting go of perfectionism and just going with it. Trying to put myself out there, despite the butterflies and the fear.
How is perfectionism holding you back? Or how have you let it go? Or, have you never felt the pressure to be perfect? Below are some videos and articles that may resonate with you.