Considering this week’s theme has been all about creativity, I thought I’d briefly stick my toe into the waters of perfectionism.
Perfectionism. An experience most creatives are intimately familiar with. I know I certainly am. If I don’t carefully watch where I’m going, I can easily step into a perfectionistic mud hole.
The big problem with perfectionism is that it’s such a tough mystery to solve. Objectively we know there’s no such thing as perfection. But emotionally – whew! We’re gripped by this inner drama critic who just won’t leave the theatre and call it a night. He insists on giving us notes about our performance, but we never get any work done.
Over the years I have learned some lessons and gained a few insights about it, though. One of the best came from Jonathan Young, my favorite storyteller/mythologist/psychologist. During his workshop on the psychology of creativity, he proposed that lurking beneath our perfectionistic tendencies are outsized egos.
In other words, we’re so full of ourselves that we insist we are capable of perfection. Anything less would be an insult to our humongous talents.
Okay, I know – OUCH! – that hurts a bit, doesn’t it? Such words are kind of tough to hear. In fact, Jonathan mentioned that those of us in the helping biz might want to wait before we share this possibility with new clients. But all of us here are strong enough to take it, right?
When I first heard about the ego/perfection link, it took me awhile to fully grasp it. But I’ve realized it does make some sense, and it helps me to be more present to what’s actually going on during one of my perfectionistic episodes.
And if it sparks an “ah ha” for you, take heart in knowing that you probably don’t go around constantly thinking of yourself as a superior being, but rather have some shadowy puffed up character just beneath the surface pulling the strings and running the perfectionistic show.
So next time s/he shows up, step back and say to yourself: “I’m just an ordinary human being doing the best I can. I’m going to enjoy this and have fun with it, and it doesn’t matter if I mess it up.”
Or words to that effect.
My personal best strategy for tricking perfectionism is to give myself permission to suck, to be really bad at something. It’s wonderfully freeing. And you know what, when all is said and done, the outcome rarely sucks.
So why now start now?