To experience true creativity is to be lost in a flow state. It can feel as if a stream of ideas and messages moves through us – we just have to get out of the way and allow this magical process to happen.
Creativity by nature has a very fluid structure, which is why perfectionism can be the ultimate killer of creativity. Perfectionism is focused only on the end game. It has a strict idea of what we plan to create and it doesn’t allow space for something unique and surprising to emerge.
If the thing you create is not exact, if it goes outside the lines, then you deny it. Inherent in the word perfectionism is a denial of the perfection of everything as it is. It denies the opportunity for something to create its own form.
If you’re starting to explore how to overcome perfectionism, you have to start by getting to the root. What’s causing this tendency and desire in the first place?
Typically, perfectionism is rooted in our strident need for certainty. In the desired end result of approval. Often, this desire for approval from others comes from a deep wound.
If this pressure to be approved of by another person is deeply ingrained in us, it can start to feel as though we personally will not be whole if we don’t get the approval from someone outside of ourselves. So, we learn to deny approval from ourselves to ourselves unless we reach some perfection that seems to be always out of reach.
For many of us, this begins in our childhoods with our parents. Personally, I remember the heavy pressure to get straight A’s and the way my father would be very angry and disappointed in me if I came home with a B. Have you ever experienced this kind of pressure for someone’s approval? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
When we experience this, we’re left with this core feeling that deep down, we are flawed. That without the external validation of making something perfect and getting the approval we’ve been conditioned to seek, we are not whole.
So ultimately, if you’re curious about overcoming perfectionism, you have to be willing to go within and look at the wound that has made you feel this way.
If perfectionist tendencies are wrapped up in a tightly held desire for a specific outcome, you can almost guarantee that the root of this is your wounding. This is the kind of perfectionism that can take a toll on your mental health.
If you feel this tendency coming up around a project or creation, it might be a good time for a healthy dose of “done is better than perfect” mentality.
But there is an upside to perfectionism when it comes in the form of a desire to create something beautiful or impactful. Something that feels perfect to you.
When it comes to your creative process, “good enough” usually doesn’t feel very good. That drive to always make something better because you feel proud and excited about what you’re creating is the healthy side of perfectionism. At this point though, it’s perfectionism without the “ism.” It’s not a compulsive need for approval, it’s a deep desire to create something you feel proud of.
You may eventually reach a point where you realize perfectionism is taking a toll on your life and holding you back from your personal growth.
For me, this point came when I was just miserable and I knew I couldn’t live that way anymore. I finally stopped at some point and thought, “Why am I always trying to make everything perfect?”
I realized that I would be so much more fulfilled when I came to a place where I was more interested in the curiosity and the exploration of what could present itself than trying to reach a specific end result.
For a lot of people, perfectionism and anxiety are closely linked. So when you finally get free of this thought that you need to make things perfect, you actually get free of your anxiety too.
The way you start to experience this freedom is by surrendering to the fact that nothing is perfect, and everything is perfect in its imperfection. That there is beauty in imperfection.
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