As a society, we tend to praise working hard, working a lot, and most of all – we praise success. We romanticize winning to the point that we mostly binge movies made about people who ”made it” after years of work. Furthermore, perfectionism is becoming a desirable quality as the main adjective to describe the new generation is ”ambitious”. This results in the rise of the hustle culture, where when asked ”How are you?” the first thing that we say is ”busy”.
And that answer is not because we want to emphasize that we don’t have time to talk now, but it is caused by the desire to be seen as ”busy”. The state of not-being-busy is becoming something to be ashamed of to the point, where we are capable of lying just to be seen as spending more time on our career, than on our well being.
As you probably noticed, against the common viewpoint, I see perfectionism as one of the worst qualities a person – and definitely a creator – can have.
And before you start to write your comment to disagree, first let’s take a look at the definition of perfectionism.
Perfectionism /pəˈfɛkʃ(ə)nɪz(ə)m/ – The refusal to accept any standard short of perfection.
I’m not saying that being a hard-worker is a bad quality. I’m also not saying that wanting your work to be great is a bad quality. And I am definitely not saying that wanting to be successful is a bad quality. What I am saying is that the refusal to accept any standard short of perfection is a bad quality. And you can trust me that I know what I’m talking about because, unfortunately, I am a perfectionist.
As one of the members of the not-so-secret club, I can tell you all about why it sucks to be a member and why it is so crucial to develop a healthy work-life balance. Here are all the reasons why you don’t want to be a perfectionist.
Everything takes so much time
One of the biggest disadvantages of perfectionism that people seem not to realize is that wanting your work to be amazing makes it take so much of your time. You never feel like the work is done because there is always something that could be just a little bit better. The work is never-ending even if you don’t want to spend a lot of time on it, as you cannot turn the perfectionism off. Perfectionists are scared of someone asking to do something for them because we know that we are incapable of doing it half baked and we will spend hours on something that is not important nor valuable to us.
It makes you fall out of love with your craft
It all starts with the lack of urge to create. As you’re tired from the hours of hard work, the sheer thought of going through it once again gives you a headache. You start to build resentment towards your craft and put off doing the work. You can find yourself thinking “I’m going to do it tomorrow” or “I have other things to do now”. That’s also the reason why often people who procrastinate are just perfectionists who are exhausted by their workflow.
But it can get so much worse than just procrastination. A lot of artists, creators, or even athletes, fall out of love with their craft because striving to meet their own expectations makes them exhausted and they cannot keep it up any longer. The need for their work to be perfect, actually made them fail at it all together. How sadly ironic that is.
It makes you insecure
Even if you don’t exhaust yourself with your work, perfectionism will always make you feel like you’re not enough. Perfectionists constantly compare their work or themselves to people who are better than they are in some way. But no matter how good you get, you’ll always find someone who is better at a given skill than you are – and a perfectionist cannot rest until there is someone better than them in their field.
This results in a huge amount of people being constantly insecure about themselves and their work which is never good enough for them. They don’t even try to start a business, sell their work or take part in a competition, because “what’s the point if there are so many people better than me?”. Perfectionism becomes a reason not to peruse their dreams and passions, and it will make them feel even worse about themselves – they will forever feel like failures.
It can become an excuse
As I’ve written above, perfectionism can be a reason why a lot of people choose not to fulfill their dreams. But it can also become an excuse not to do the inconvenient work. For example, let’s say you want to start a yogurt company. Instead of taking action, you focus on making the perfect logo, having a proper office, and reading a pile of business books. You tell yourself that you’re working on starting your company, when in reality you’re obsessing about every little detail, so you don’t have to actually make a decision or take a risk. Perfectionism becomes an excuse for you not to do something scary or overwhelming. And I know what I’m talking about because it took me a year to start this blog, and I spent 2 weeks deciding on a logo.
Perfectionism can be a very helpful quality if it is held under control. If you can keep a balance, feel free to obsess about your work not being perfect, but I cannot work like that. I struggle in my fight with perfectionism daily, but I can see that I made big progress with the number of expectations I put on myself. To all fellow perfectionists out there – know that you’re enough and you can use this quality to your advantage. To learn more about how to deal with perfectionism listen to an episode of the Being Better podcast about it here.