Perfectionism

One of my fears at the outset of this PDP was that I would be forced to publish writing that didn’t meet my standards of quality. Since I’m a slow writer and I only have so much time each day to dedicate to blogging, these fears came true.

I committed myself to this challenge because I believed the sacrifice of quality in order to meet deadlines would be worth it in order to overcome my debilitating perfectionism. While I still wanted to work on improving the style and content of my writing, the most important skill I wanted to develop was the ability to overcome my fears about what others will think. Some thoughts from Scott Berkun in an article about not being “precious” have helped me come to terms with this difficult task:

Being precious means you’re behaving as if the draft, the sketch, the idea you’re working on is the most important thing in the history of the universe. It means you’ve lost perspective and can’t see the work objectively anymore. When you treat a work in progress too preciously, you trade your talents for fears. You become conservative, suppressing the courage required to make the tough choices that will resolve the work’s problems and let you finish. If you fear that your next decision will ruin the work, you are being precious.

Perfection is a prison and a self-made one. Whatever you’re making, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Perfection is an illusion.

Although perfectionism might be a cop-out answer in a job interview, I truly believe it is one of my biggest weaknesses. And this experiment with blogging has helped me to see that my world won’t burst into flames if I miss a comma or use the passive voice.

However, I do believe that this practice of shunning perfection can be taken too far. Berkun says that “while your work might mean everything to you in the moment, in the grand scheme of your career, your life, and the universe itself, it’s just another thing that will someday fade away.”

This goes against everything I was taught as a child. Raised in a family of over-achievers, I was taught to do everything to the best of my ability. Although I have rejected many of my family’s teachings, this one remains a central tenet of my personal code of conduct. I value my reputation, and I try to treat every task as a reflection of my character. I pride myself on the high standards that I set for my work and I don’t like to do things halfheartedly.

I believe that you never know when your creation has the potential to change someone’s life. I know that certain excerpts from unsuspecting blog posts have affected me in ways that the author could never imagine, just because they hit me at the right place and the right time. Had the phrasing been a little less poignant, the words might not have had the power to pierce my soul.

There’s a fine balance between perfectionism and bold abandon, and I’m hoping someday I’ll find it.

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