“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.” Margaret Atwood brilliantly captures the liabilities of perfectionism in 11 words. I certainly don’t think this lesson only applies to writers. If we waited for perfection, we would never do many things.
We would never cook dinner for our loved ones, because the flavors were slightly off-balance or the meat was a little dry. We would stay in a “secure” salaried position until we reached retirement, because the passion business venture we want to launch is uncertain and risky—and probably, a stupid idea.
If we waited for perfection, we would second-guess our ability to say the right words when someone close to us was having a hard time—because who are we to understand whatever it is that person is going through? We would never make love, tell stories, or see the world.
During the pursuit of perfection, we sabotage our own potential and the impact we have on those around us. Perfectionism is really just fear in disguise. And, the fear of “what might happen” paralyzes us.
I often go back to Atwood’s quote when I feel paralyzed by perfectionism. It happens a lot.
I have been releasing my words into the wild since 2012, back when I started this blog and published my first two novels. The past five years I’ve been a content marketer and now a consultant. I’ve produced thousands of pieces of content—from blogs to ebooks, from social media posts to videos.
Nothing was ever perfect…it was good. By “good,” I don’t mean “good enough.”
I mean that I worked hard to formulate thoughts and complexities into words. But, I also stopped over-thinking what might happen after I published something. Would someone love it? Hate it? Embrace it? Reject it? Get it? Not get it?
These past few months I’ve been quietly working on a new business that relates to two of my greatest passions, travel and wellness. As part of this business venture, I challenged myself to host a podcast, a medium that completely takes me out of my introverted writer comfort zone.
I was thrown back into my old cycle of perfectionism while editing the first podcast recently. As I marked up the podcast transcription for edits, I attempted the impossible. Perfectionism.
I marked all of the uh’s, um’s, and you know’s. This took an hour and it was a waste of time. Between two people, there can easily be a hundred filler words in a one-hour conversation. But, this is how real people converse.
We use filler words when we are trying to convey our thoughts. By editing out filler words and stutters too much, you sacrifice authenticity, the raw moments that happen when humans talk to each other.
Hosting a podcast is an ideal anti-perfectionism exercise for me. It’s so different than writing, because there is no cheating or polishing during the editing phase. You can edit some audio, but not too much—or people will sound like robots. The podcast needs to be good, not perfect.
If perfectionism is fear in disguise, then we have to learn to let go. We have to make ourselves uncomfortable by challenging ourselves. Then we have to say, to hell with it. People may not pay any attention or roll their eyes if they do pay attention, but who cares?
We must let go of perfection and be excited about what might happen—good or bad. Otherwise, we won’t progress as artists, as entrepreneurs, as partners, as parents, as students, as teachers…as human beings.