How to Trick a Perfectionist

Posted on Dec 28, 2011

Some people call themselves a Perfectionist like it’s a good thing. They lament this ‘horrible’ fact, but I think secretly they’re proud. I, however, have learned that it fully sucks.

It seems the road to recovery from Perfectionism is a daily trek. Along the way I’ve learned that I have a razor sharp fine-tuned penchant for aesthetics and beauty. So razor-sharp, in fact, that I would often shred things even before they could make it out into the world, because to me they were never good enough. (This happened, quite literally with sheets of writing being torn to bits, or an idea being dismissed before it even had a chance to crystallize.)

Those close to me noticed this screwy behavior and called me out on it (thank you, you bunch of jerks!). I was told (repeatedly) that ‘it’s good enough, already!’ to which I responded with a scowl and whole-hearted disagreement. It can always be better.

So how was I ever going to get anything done? How was I ever going to be happy with anything I created? The answer was easy: I didn’t get shit-all done and I was perpetually disappointed – seeing the thousand ways it could be improved upon. Remarkably lame, I know. But such was life.

These people who claimed to love me and have my best interests at heart tried to reason with me, “Hol, it’s good enough. It’s great. Really, get on with it. You’re stalling. Let it go.”

I could not and I would not let it go. Nope. Never. I writhed and squirmed at the thought of something being just ‘good enough’ – it practically sent me into cardiac arrest for God’s sake! So, no, I would not be one to let something go out there that’s ‘good enough’.

I’d heard countless experts say that when something reaches 80% of what you think it ought to be, then it’s about done. That extra 20% that you nearly kill yourself over isn’t going to make or break the thing. Still, I could not, I would not participate in this un-100%-ness, this ‘good enough-ness’ crap.

Enter sneaky trick No. 1 for Perfectionists:

Considering that the phrase ‘good enough’ sends me to the brink, but knowing that I do in fact need to get shit done and that really, my things are indeed sufficiently good, I realized that I needed some new language in my conversations with Self. Since ‘good enough’ is a poisonous phrase for me, I needed some new words. Ah ha! Smart, right?

To all the paralyzed perfectionists out there, consider how it feels for someone to size up your work and then look at you, shrug, and say,

“Yah, it’s good enough. You’re done.”

If you’re anything like me your nostrils will be flaring and your brow furrowing….You’re deeply disgusted.

Now think of how different it would feel if they said,

“Oh, yes, it’s quite good. You’re done.”

Oh? Quite good? Hmmm, that’s perhaps acceptable. Nostrils remain at a stable size and you cock your head to the side, take another look at said work and consider that it may indeed be okay to release the thing to the world in its current state.

Really, they’re saying the same thing: good (but don’t tell that to the ol’ ego).

And such is my new trick. When I can look at something and give a yes answer to the question, ‘Is it quite good?’ then it’s ready. I release it. And if, once it’s released, I am compelled to come back and do that extra 20%, so be it. I will.

But I will never do something that’s just ‘good enough.’

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1 Comment

  1. Maxine
    December 29, 2011

    Excellent post. Really, it’s quite good!