Updated: Sep 13, 2022
I've been a professional designer for over 12 years now and there are days where this Dream Killer still gets the best of me. What's worse is how often I see it kill the dreams of my clients because they can't seem to get over it and favour progress over perfection to truly help us realize their dreams together.
This is the story of how PERFECTIONISM crept into my life and stalled my dreams for years, because I didn't know how to "get over it..."
What started as a hobby in high school turned into a career of "making things look beautiful and communicate well". Back then I knew that it was all about "does it work?" –does what I'm making convey the message enough that people want to take action on it, understand it or are at least compelled to ask questions about it? If I had done that, I had done my job well.
It was about PURPOSE + PROGRESS.
I just happened to enjoy what I was doing too.
Then, after four years of University where I earned my Bachelor of Design in a highly competitive program the creeping feeling of Perfectionism began to show up everywhere: in my work, in my life and in my head.
Suddenly I was just *so aware* of how much better everything could be.
Nothing was good enough.
It could always be better.
So I stopped sharing things.
I spent longer making things.
And I began to fear asking for others opinions...
Because there was always something that could be fixed or made better in their eyes. It was exhausting. In hindsight I realize that I was actually a very fast creator, and that my first iteration was usually one of the best. Then I would spend hours re-doing it, doing it differently, doing it the same way other people were doing it, un-doing it and then finally, after hours (or days) of going in circles, changing the slightest of things until the original design was nowhere near recognizable... I would either give up, or start again.
My saving grace was when the deadlines finally came around.
In those sweet last few hours my brain would suddenly develop clarity again (I would pull my metaphorical head out of my metaphorical nether-regions) and realize that "oh yeah, I was just supposed to be making this thing to serve the purpose of doing something (such as communicating, sharing, announcing, explaining, persuading, etc.).
It didn't matter how perfect the math or the proportions were. It didn't matter how 'perfect' the images or all the little nuances I'd created within them were. It didn't matter how perfect the typography was – or how many fonts, colour combinations and iterations I had played around with before getting to that point.
Perfect didn't matter.
Because what was perfect in my exhausted "design-trained eyes" was subjective in someone else's. It didn't matter to hundreds or thousands of other people how many fonts I could have selected and didn't. It didn't matter how close the graphics were to the edge to 'create a sense of tension' ( I mean, it has an effect on a subconscious level, that's the nature of design/psychological principals) –but the reality was most people would take *one look* at this and make their decision to either like it or not like it, understand it or not understand it... invest in it or not.
PERFECTIONISM bled into other areas of my life in the years that followed and it prevented me from making progress *so many times*. It kept me from launching early forms of my business and other ventures sooner (or at all). It kept me from sharing my work for nearly 10 years online. It kept me from even trying sometimes because I felt like "there's no way I'll ever be good enough"
That is such a TRAP.
The truth is... "sucking is the first step at getting good at something".
BIGGEST LESSONS & TAKEAWAYS
What helped the most in overcoming the need to be perfect was learning to see rejection and criticism as (at times, painfully) disguised tools for growth. When I was able to see the input I received as STEPPING STONES TO PROGRESS instead of barriers I was able to put down a lot of the emotional baggage I'd accrued over the years that confusingly told me "when something I make isn't good enough it means I am not good enough".
When something I make isn't good enough (if it receives input/criticism that 'it could be better') –that's literally what it means. It means the thing I've made can simply be improved. It doesn't mean I'm crap, or that I'm crap for making it. It just means that as far as my tools/abilities/efforts have been able to translate my desire to make it *outstanding* this is as far as I've been able to get so far... and there is still further to go.
Don't let that journey towards GREAT & AMAZING exhaust you.
Let perfectionism know that you see it, you appreciate it and in all the healthiest (time friendly ways) you are going to exercise your pursuit of it. But no longer will you let it whisper demeaning stories about you not being good enough for not having reached it yet.
You will, from now on, always favour it's friend:
PROGRESS over PERFECTION
because it's progress that truly leads us to perfection,
not the other way around 💕
If you're currently struggling with perfection on any of your business or mission-related projects reach out to me and book a Clarity & Inspiration Call so we can get you unstuck and back to living out your wildest dreams...