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Why Perfectionism Kills Your Creativity

I have a confession. I struggle with perfectionism. And by perfectionism, I mean I’m overly concerned with what other people will think of me so I try to make sure anything I do is presentable enough for the judgmental public.

“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: “If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”

-Brene Brown-

Even writing this post is such a struggle because I’m distracted with thoughts of you judging me as you read, but I’m going to share what I’ve been learning anyway.

Perfectionism Kills Your Creativity by Shaming You For Making Mistakes

Perfectionism is a contagious disease that spreads and we can catch it if were not careful. I’ve lost count of times I’ve let other people’s perfectionism bleed into my life. I’ve had very unpleasant experiences where others shamed me for making mistakes, which led me to believe my faults meant something was horribly wrong with me. I still cringe when thinking back on moments I got labeled by peers and friends for an error I made. The embarrassment alone convinced me I should never make mistakes again and I ended up setting the unobtainable standard of perfection for myself.

Perfectionism resulted in a self-placed toxic environment which made it impossible for my creativity to grow. I was essentially ashamed of who I was. Each day I was telling myself “Who you are right now is not enough for other people”. I thought less of myself and relied on other people’s acknowledgements to determine my self-worth. I let other people’s opinions be the motivating factor for what life I decide to create for myself.

Perfectionism Kills Your Creativity by Using Your Fear to Motivate You Rather Than Your Passion

Sometimes I’m so paralyzed by the pressure to perform at a certain level I get so self-conscious and end up screwing up anyway. Then I get really hard on myself and put myself down letting it chip away my value as a person. This ended up with me becoming a person who’s easily discouraged and never wanting to try again. I lost courage and started drowning myself in the “what-ifs”.

“What if what I make is not good enough?”

“What if I get laughed at, embarrassed or rejected?”

“What if I fail?”

This often prevented me from the most important step in creating something, which is simply to get started. I didn’t want to try something unless I had some guarantee it would come out perfect on the first try. I let my fear of failure and disapproval motivate me to procrastinate rather than letting my desires and passions push my limits and face the challenges as they come along. Moreover, when I stayed stagnant because of my fears, it killed my chances of ever growing as a creative.

Perfectionism Kill Your Creativity and Never Gives You an Opportunity to Grow

The most important lesson I’ve learned in getting over my perfectionism is to first be ok with making mistakes and then paying close enough attention to the mistakes so I can discover the important lessons lying within them.

I love how children start off having no shame. They have the audacity to bring you a drawing even though it’s horrendously colored because they had so much fun creating it. This helped me learn I was long overdue to create for myself the same kind of environment where I am free to create what I want and not be paralyzed by the thought of what people will think of it. Children make mistakes all the time, and what ruins them is when we shame them in order to manipulate them to change into the way we want them to.

Perfectionism bound me in a prison of an impossible standard, but creativity freed me to express my truest self. As I began to accept and respect myself more, I experienced my creativity bouncing back to life. It may be embarrassing to create something imperfect when you’re an adult, but I learned it is a process, not a one time thing. All the wonderful creations in this world became beautiful through redemption from our mistakes. The world’s greatest inventions have so many failed attempts behind them and the most loving relationships are created through many moments of expressing “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you”.

If you are a perfectionist, I hope you learn as I have we desperately needs each other to keep our creativity alive. So let’s make sure to get our hands dirty, color outside the lines, and discover what great things we can create.

 

Eugene Choi

Eugene is a writer, filmmaker and a pharmacist, but is a change-maker at heart. He's realized the deep underlying reason for any of the world's problems come from a lack of human connectedness. He is committed to empowering individuals by unleashing their talent and cultivating healing to demolish the internal walls which keep us from building genuine loving relationships .

One Comment

  • Robert on Feb 07, 2016 Reply

    Eugene, I can identify with what you wrote so well. I struggle to get things perfect, to such a degree, they are seldom perfect. I want everything to be right, not for others, but for my own satisfaction and conscience. Of course, I want others to see that my work, be it writing or something physical is of good quality. The way I see it, reputation, integrity and credibility comes from striving to do one’s best. And the learning bit as you rightly infer, is how we must all learn from the mistakes and bad decisions we make. I can’t imagine what you have to feel guilty about. Stay focused.

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