Perfection Paralysis

Day 221 Week 32 Q3 Thursday, August 10, 2023

Have you ever been afraid to try something because it might not work? Most of us have been paralyzed by perfectionism at one time or another. We may claim that we don’t want to complete something because it’s not right, but in reality, things are hardly as good as they could be.  It is a common excuse to hide behind because there are elements of truth in it. We know that we can improve almost anything we do if we do it for longer.  We also know that we made commitments to deliver things, and customers would like to receive what was promised. This is why salespeople frequently take projects away from engineers and tech companies. And editors take things away from writers. And why agents representing talent suggested situations.

The bottom line is you won’t ever get paid if you don’t deliver the goods. And even if the goods are not as perfect as you can imagine them being, which is pretty much always the case, you still have to deliver the goods if you want to eat.  Sometimes we compartmentalize by reserving perfectionism for only private particular domains. In other publicly shared domains, we may be more willing to compromise. I myself did this for years. I became an electrical engineer instead of a musician professionally, telling myself if I designed a circuit and people didn’t like it, it wouldn’t bother me nearly as much as if I wrote a piece of music and people didn’t like it. And certainly, writing a computer program felt far safer than singing in public which is incredibly exposing of one’s soul, far more so than creating and performing instrumental music.  

There may well come a time when you are unwilling to hide behind perfectionism because of how absurd it is, turning out to be. After all, others may be earning a living, professionally delivering a less perfect product than you consider acceptable. When these people tell you that you are certainly more than good enough, it starts to become ludicrous to be paralyzed by perfectionism. And this can be a terrific way to permit you to break through your paralysis.

Ultimately, you do need to get to the point where it is not what other people tell you that determines whether you’re good enough. You have to come to the conclusion yourself. External input is helpful but not necessarily the final word. You eventually need other stakeholders to value your input in order for you to be compensated and receive positive recognition. What if you never get what you’re doing out in front of anyone else to avoid the possibility of rejection? Then you are safe, but you are also stuck.

Before you can get into a feedback loop with an external reality, you must get into a productive feedback loop with yourself instead of punishing yourself.  At some point in time, your success has to be about your personal relationship with the universe internally. You can end your paralysis, but you have to want to!