Monday, March 10, 2014

Why Perfectionism Gets in the Way of Actual Achievement

So, I'll admit it. I am a recovering perfectionist. I blogged about it here, after a 12-hour editing bender left me begging for ways to improve my writing process.

Many of us want to strive toward great heights, write the best books we can, because we want to be successful in this business. But doing so also makes us vulnerable, and when that happens, perfectionism sometimes gets in the way.

Brené Brown explains this further:

So perfectionism, if left unchecked, is not only a shield that protects, but also one that blocks.

This past week I had the fortune of meeting author T.C. Boyle when my creative writing class sat with him and asked him questions. Mine was, "What is the biggest mistake writers can make?" And yes, if you're keeping track, that question is riddled with perfectionistic tendencies.

But his answer surprised me: "There are no mistakes."

There are no mistakes. It took a minute for this to sink in.

Perfectionism waves a finger and says mistakes aren't okay. Mistakes will make you ache. Make you sad. Make you face what you can't fix.

But they aren't mistakes. Not really. They're a necessary part of the journey, one I shouldn't shy away from. Even when I think I'm bungling, it leads me further along the path. Gets me closer to my goals.

And there's no growth without it. If we face our struggles head on, on our own, without letting the judgment of others get in our way (Amazon book reviewers, I'm looking at you), there's no limit to what we can do.

So with that in mind, I leave you with the following quote:

“Start shaping your own day. Start walking your own walk. This journey is yours, take charge of it. Stop giving other people your power to shape your life.” - Steve Maraboli

Question to all: Do you consider yourself a perfectionist? If so, how has it hindered you, and what strides have you taken to overcome it?


  1. Oh, I SO needed this!! I do often let others influence my decisions and I need to bear the weight on my own shoulders and strive ahead.

  2. Great post! If a mistake helps us learn something, then it really *isn't* a mistake! I used to be a perfectionist. It made me rather unhappy. Not only was I always picking myself apart, but others as well, because, well... it's just a slippery slope, always comparing people. I was so concerned about if my stuff was "good enough" that I could never STOP editing and move on. (You can only pick a draft apart for so long... after a while it is futile.) Now that I've let go of that, I enjoy the entire writing process a lot more, and don't immediately feel frustrated when I see something not "perfect" in my work (or one else's). I make more mistakes, sure, but I also get more done. Which, ultimately, teaches me a whole lot more, too. And not having that horrible perfectionist mentality takes away the comparing and allows me to see my own work in a different way. I learn, instead of critique constantly, and with a smile on my face, to boot. (Most of the time, anyway.) And I call that a WIN. :)

  3. I'm definitely a reformed perfectionist! Especially as a young woman, it was related to looks: had to be perfectly accessorized and groomed before I went out the door. But one day I had to run to the store to grab a recipe ingredient while dressed in my sweats (gasp!). And lo and behold, no one pointed, no one laughed, I didn't get kicked out of the store.

    It was kind of freeing to realize people don't pay as much attention to others as we fear they do. Sure, there are still gossips and people who feel the need to comment, but at this point in my life I tend to take that as an expression of their own issues rather than mine, lol

  4. Though I am far from a perfectionist, I know my inner editor definitely held me back for a while. Learning to shut that down was liberating, and one of the most important things I could do.

  5. I absolutely consider myself a perfectionist in certain areas. A mistake in those areas drives me crazy for far longer than would be acceptable. I "cry over the spilled milk." But I try to take a step back when I feel myself over perfecting, and instead ask someone else to weigh in. This generally helps.

  6. I'm a major perfectionist. I edit as I write (should stop that) and sometimes get in the mindset that if I can't do it right the first time, I shouldn't do it at all. I need to let myself make mistakes. You're right: that's how we grow.

  7. Needed this post. My perfectionism stops me oft times before I even begin.

  8. Thanks, all, for your comments! I'm glad to know I'm not alone in this. We can help each other curse those inner editors.


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