Perfectionism: The Death of Creativity

Perfectionism. It’s an ugly word, so we do our best not to attach ourselves to it. Not only can you lose yourself in the perfectionism mindset, but you can lose just about everyone else in the process. Perfectionism is not a delusion. It’s a shame spiral. And it will destroy you, if you let it.

If you’re a perfectionist, you probably just asked yourself if you’re a perfectionist. And now you’re worried that you’re a perfectionist, because being a perfectionist is, in itself, imperfect. Let us help you figure out whether or not this post matters to you or someone you love:

Do you feel ashamed when you don’t get things right? Or afraid to get it wrong?
Do others tell you that you are often imposing, or have unrealistic expectations?
Do you find that you don’t trust yourself? Do you often feel afraid, have low self-worth, or reject excitement when you do a good job, and not a great job?
Do you often find yourself holding back on things because you’re afraid you might miss the mark?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you need to keep reading because you, my friend, are a perfectionist.

I know.

You really don’t like that idea. But you need to start thinking this way because perfectionism is the death of creativity and creativity means life without fear of being wrong.

Most people fall into the category of a neurotic perfectionist. This person needs approval. This can be self-approval or the approval of others. The problem is, they believe that approval comes with perfection. And as they know but fail to accept, perfection isn’t possible. If you fall into this category, you are probably very forgiving of others when they mess us but when you do…look out…because you feel that you don’t deserve the same grace as everybody else. You’re probably a rule follower (others may find this annoying or rigid) and more than anything you probably fear failure because you are afraid that it will lead to abandonment or judgement from others.

If you’re the next kind of perfectionist, you probably didn’t care that you’re a perfectionist: narcissistic perfectionists thrive on social feedback. You’re probably eager to demonstrate your knowledge. Their distaste for imperfection doesn’t come from the imperfection, but the reflection that that imperfection has on them. The warm and fuzzy feeling that follows is short-lived and they often find themselves confused as to why the warm and fuzzy was so brief, finding themselves in an endless search for a position of expertise so that they can once again, no matter how brief, feel a sense of approval.

Other kinds of perfectionism are principled perfectionism and hyper-attentive perfectionism. To learn more about these types of perfectionism click here. Perfectionism can evoke some very distressing psychological responses including depression, fear, anxiety, stress and anger.

Perfectionism is not a worthy goal. When perfectionism is driving, shame is riding shotgun and creativity is silenced. If you found out today that you are a perfectionist, check out I Thought It Was Just Me or The Gift of Imperfection by Brené Brown.

The good news is: now you know. Now you can do something about it. Here’s a few starters for you to try as you let go of that perfectionist mindset and embrace creativity for a life that’s worth living.

Instead of saying, “I’m not good at this,” ask, “What am I missing?”

Instead of saying, “I can’t do (math)”, tell yourself, “I will train my brain in math.”

Instead of saying, “I give up!” say, “I need a new strategy.”

Perfectionism is a slow death; it will kill your skill, your spark, your art and eventually, your soul. Ideals are a guide. Let your heart do the rest.