Perfectionism is a big waste of time and energy

I am purposely writing this post with a foggy brain brought on by a bout of sleep deprivation. It won’t be my best piece of writing. There will probably be typos, and who knows, it may not even be that coherent. But you know what, it doesn’t matter, because that’s the point of this piece; being concerned with being word perfect certainly wouldn’t serve this topic well, and you know what, being pre-occupied with perfectionism serves no one any good.

This is something that we all know, deep down, I’m sure of it. Perhaps we knowingly use our tendencies for perfectionism to procrastinate — I know I’ve done this in the past — “oh if I record that track this week it won’t be any good because my vocals are a bit off.” Or “I won’t go on that date because my life isn’t exactly where I want it to be… so maybe another time in the future.”

Perfectionism as a creator

I’m a fan of constructive criticism. I enjoy it a lot and value good advice. However, the criticism we often give ourselves as artists, is the very opposite of constructive.

I want to use the build of this website as an example. I spent way too much time sweating the small stuff. The design. The graphics, the padding, the margins, the colour scheme etc. It became a frustrating experience for me because I couldn’t get past the fact that, to me, the design wasn’t, and still isn’t, perfect. It will never be perfect! Thankfully I’ve realised that so I can get back to creating content. There are fonts that are wrong, colours that our out, and unfinished pages I don’t like. So what? So what.

Imagine you’re now a brilliant painter. Perhaps you are! Now think back to your first piece of work. Imagine you had thrown it away, and felt badly of yourself, because you were incapable of producing the kind of work that you are creating today. Maybe you did, and it’s a hurdle, as creators, as artists, we all must come to terms with.

It’s ok to suck at things we are good at

I regularly have days where my vocals just aren’t doing it for me. It doesn’t feel good, as someone who has been a soul singer for my entire life (by soul singer, I mean it’s my soul urge.) I think to myself “oh no, I’m flat today” and the more I analyse the imperfections, the worse they become. But then, I remind myself, that it’s OK to suck sometimes! Make light of the situation.

One trick I use to overcome writer’s block in relation to making music is to intentionally write a very bad song. About nonsense. I’ll pick bad synths, corny over the top lyrics, sample some Spice Girls perhaps (not yet but maybe that’s not a bad idea!) and just have fun. Of course, what happens? I’m creating something. I’m not burdening my joy with an unreal expectation. It’s in those moments, of course, not always, but it has been in those moments I’ve accidentally stumbled upon some of the best lyrics or melodies I’ve ever put together. If I hadn’t have been brave enough to suck, then I’d have nothing. A perfect 0.

Forgiveness and acceptance

When we realise that nobody is perfect, and we all have our faults, as long as we have redeeming qualities (which most of us do), we need to give ourselves and each other a break. Look at social media. “Oh, so your views don’t perfectly align with mine, well you’re a libtard …” and “Oh, your argument is far from perfect, you’re clearly an ignorant redneck Trump voter.” Look, I’ve had my dalliances on Twitter plenty of times, sometimes I’ve been right, sometimes I’ve been wrong. The big lesson, in my opinion, to take away from the last six years of shared society, is that we need to be more tolerant of each other, and realise that literally nobody is perfect.

When we do this in life, we treat others better, and we treat ourselves a whole lot better. Forgive yourself for snapping at your Mum that time. Forgive your girlfriend for being in a foul mood on your last birthday.

High expectations

If we lower our expectations of ourselves, and not in a defeated, diminished way … but in a realistic, constructive way, we will find we surprise ourselves by going above and beyond. And do this for those in your life too. Not in a cynical way, but maybe we should remind ourselves that we’re here on this planet in these human bodies, and we have emotions, hormones, society, stress, and we can’t possibly be the ideal human we want to be 100% of the time. If you put that expectation on yourself, on top of everything else we’re collectively going through, you’ll begin to paint yourself as the perpetrator; the loser, the failure. “If only I could this… If I only I did that …” Forget it. Do the best you can and be proud of yourself for that. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it. You really do. No matter what.

Now, I didn’t mean this piece to turn into an advice column, I’m not a psychologist at all, so I hope I haven’t come off as preachy and a know it all. Perhaps I have. Oh well, we’ll see. If so, I’ll be a better writer tomorrow.

The best part is, I’m not even going to proof-read this piece. For it was never about writing a stellar, world changing string of paragraphs. This is a reinforcement for me too. I hope you got something out of reading this; I really do — I know I have, because I’m about to hit publish.

See you next time, and remember, be kind to yourself.


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