This week I’m rerunning my series on perfectionism, which struck quite a chord with readers last year. Here’s the second installment:
My name is Sandy, and I am a recovering perfectionist.
I’ve been having a hard time finishing a blog post about perfectionism, and my husband has teased that it’s because what I’ve written isn’t perfect. But there may be more than a little truth in his joke. Because one of the negative effects of perfectionism is procrastination.
Perfection doesn’t exist. And if imperfection isn’t okay, what’s a perfectionist to do? Well, nothing, obviously. Or flounder around and never finish the imperfect thing.
I don’t have difficulty discussing many of my personal creativity-hampering issues on this blog, so why the problem now? I’m guessing it’s because a while back, I mentioned to a regular reader that I was planning on writing a post about perfectionism. She told me she was looking forward to hearing what I have to say, because it’s an issue she struggles with.
A reasonable reaction on my part would be to feel flattered she believes my thoughts on the subject could help her. Instead, my inner Perfectionist sprang into action, prompted by that innocent comment. She emerged from her dark cave, scorching me with her fiery breath and clawing at my Muse as she presented her list of demands:
- I must write the most inspiring words ever written about the debilitating effects of perfectionism on creativity.
- My post must be beautiful and meaningful and important.
- It must be good enough to enable anyone who reads it to eradicate their perfectionist tendencies forever and go on to lengthy, fertile creative lives with no negative blocks whatsoever.
- It must be PERFECT.
Is it any wonder I kept putting off writing a blog post about perfectionism, discovering other topics that suddenly seemed more interesting? And that when I finally did start writing it, I found myself continually distracted and/or writing around the subject?
To make matters worse, my Perfectionist is sneaky. I didn’t consciously realize she was doing all this. Yes, I remember momentarily thinking “oh, I better write something really good, then” after the aforementioned comment by my blog reader friend. But I quickly forgot about it. Meanwhile, my Perfectionist was poking her head out of her lair, exhaling her unhealthy, fiery breath all over me while I went about my life, unaware of her damaging presence.
But I gradually began to notice her. My evasive maneuvers to avoid writing the post became clear to me. And, once I forced myself to start writing, my uncharacteristic inability to complete my thoughts brought the invisible Perfectionist into full view.
It’s been quite a battle wrestling that ferocious dragon back into her cave. How did I do it? By writing what you’ve just read. By confessing I’m not perfect—to you and to myself. By being willing to accept the run-on sentences and typos and imprefect grammar and less-than-profound thoughts that appear in my writing.
I do have more to say about perfectionism in general, and I’ll try to write something coherent about it soon. But I felt it might be helpful to share my personal struggle here first.
And thank you to that unnamed regular reader and friend who told me you were looking forward to my perfectionism post. Because the situation forced me to have an open battle with my lifelong nemesis, the Perfectionist Dragon, thereby weakening her just a little bit more. And, while I haven’t been able to write some magical perfect post that will eradicate your perfectionism, maybe you’ll feel a little better knowing my dragon’s just as big as yours.
Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com