As a recovering perfectionist, I know all too well the toxic weight of perfection and the things it robs us of. I have plenty of my own personal experiences, but let me share a story that paints the picture and a time when I was able to be on the outside looking in.
I was in the thick of my former life as a brand strategist and web designer. My schedule was packed, my waiting list was full, and my business was doing well. However, I had one client that had become a major struggle. For the sake of privacy and my PTSD, we will call her “Martha”. Martha was a bad client. Marth was so much of a struggle in fact that she had already been in my project management for two years previous. For two years I had been trying to get to a point where what I sent her was getting signed off on. But nothing made Martha happy.
Do you want to know something though? It had nothing to do with me. It wasn’t my work. I started to notice a pattern. Throughout the two years working together, she would change her mind on the structure of her website, she would add or take away things, she would schedule calls to discuss her logo that had already previously been created by her past designer, and she would find every reason why something didn’t work. Every reason why she couldn’t move forward. She was getting in her own way. And I was allowing her own personal struggle to paint a distorted picture – that I was a bad designer.
After struggling for too long with her project and feeling the desperate need to save myself, I cut Martha loose. I refunded her an agreed-upon amount (because hey – a lot of work went into that two years!) and I was honest with her that I obviously wasn’t the designer for her. I told her that she needed to find someone else to work with. Martha had broken me – ha!
I was cleaning out old files within my database and I came across her project. It got me thinking if she ever found someone new to work with and launched her website. I opened up my web browser and typed her URL in. And you want to know what I saw? “OUR NEW WEBSITE IS COMING SOON”. After six years, Martha still doesn’t have a functioning website. *Gasp! Because of perfection, because of the need to have it all “right” Martha still does not have a proper home base for her business and a place online to serve her clients.
How often are we letting perfectionism paralyze us and keep us from doing things? And this isn’t just for those running a business or dreaming of starting one. Perfection creeps into every aspect of our life like a disease if we let it. Is your house not good enough, big enough, or “designed” enough to have friends over for a night of conversation and food? Are you turning down the opportunity to jump in a photo with your kids because you are currently unhappy with your body or hate the way you look in pictures?
From a business standpoint, I know the feeling of looking back on work from earlier years and cringing. I promise you. There were some things I launched that still haunt me. However, I think we miss out on the blessing of growth and of developing ourselves when we do that. Instead, we should look back and marvel at how far we have come. At how much we have shared and given over the years. We should marvel at how many people we have had the opportunity to serve through sharing our gifts. We should be celebrating how much we have learned because that and the experience gained is priceless.
Perfect is an illusion. It doesn’t exist. What you may deem as perfect will be sub-par to someone else. There will ALWAYS be someone or something better, more this, more that. And the longer we allow the weight of perfectionism to weigh us down, the less we do and experience. And that is a real shame.
That new course that you created, but have sat on because you are worried it’s not good enough to launch? There is another entrepreneur out there who launched theirs and is making money from it. That website that you keep redesigning? Yep. Someone out there has a better one and in the meantime, your potential customers have no place to go to find out more about how you can help them. That business idea you have but have told yourself you’ll look into it more when “life isn’t so busy”? Yep.
So I thought it would be fitting to show up imperfectly right here and now. Do I wish I had a curated brand image of myself to go with this post? My hair perfectly coifed with a well-thought-out wardrobe option to go along with it? The critical creative and brand strategist in me says, sure. That would be nice. Instead? It’s a last-minute selfie at my desk on a Tuesday. In my bedroom where I run my business in our temporary tiny living space. While I wait for the plumber to come and fix the kitchen sink. With tired eyes from being up dosing medication to correct my daughter’s high blood sugar spikes.
It’s not pretty, but it’s real. And I’m here, showing up, doing it. Refusing to play small, refusing to live in default mode, and refusing to let the weight of perfection hold me back. Because at the end of my days I don’t want to be put six feet under next to my perfectionism and the ghost of the experiences I could have had.
And you could wait an entire lifetime for things to be perfect to start that business, for your body to be perfect, or for your house to be ready. But are you willing to? Are you willing to toss the weight of those missed experiences on top of the load perfection already requires of you?
You just have to ask yourself that question: Can you live with missing out on it all?
Your happiness and the person you could be lies in that question. Choose wisely.