How to Overcome Perfectionism
How to Rescue Yourself From the Ice Cold Claws of Perfectionism
In the late spring of 1987, I stood in the art book section of a large bookstore in Arnhem, the Netherlands. I was 23 years old, my hair was dyed bright purple, and tears were streaming down my face.
I had just realized that the book: "Esther de Charon de Saint Germain, An Artist Life", would never be written.
I gazed at the books about the genius of Picasso, Louise Bourgeois, and Claes Oldenburg, and took a decision that would change the course of my life forever.
I accepted that, as an artist, I had always been a failure in the making.
Gone were the days of art.
Designing and painting were a thing of the past.
It was so obvious to me. Being an artist was for the chosen ones. The brave ones, who were prepared to suffer, to live in drafty attics. Who were prepared to wait for commissions to magically appear.
I was not borderline enough to roll in the mud. Too prudish and scared to show me.
I was just very middle of the road. I was a disappointment.
Within 1 week I left art school and enrolled in the University of Amsterdam to become an art historian.
At the university, I studied, described, discussed, compared, and categorized art. Without touching it. And you know what? I loved it!
Walking through the Rijksmuseum with my notebook felt so safe — like being in a feel-good movie.
I boxed my art supplies and trashed my paintings. I carefully deleted everything that was remotely artsy.
For 27 years I worked in the field of art, culture, branding, and design as an organizer, curator, consultant, and coach. The only time I touched an artwork was when I lifted a painting out of a box and hung it on the wall of a museum.
And then I found out my secondary archetype is the creator.
My first reaction: “Who me? A creator? No way!“
But then I learned the creator has a huge pitfall: Perfectionism.
To be honest, I never considered myself a perfectionist. I gathered that, had I been a perfectionist, my life would have been less messy.
More, well... perfect.
But then it dawned on me. Quitting art school was NOT the best thing I’d ever done. I had given in to perfectionism. I had been so scared to be not worthy enough, I had taken myself out of the game.
I had been in the slimy ice-cold claws of perfectionism since I gave in at the bookstore in Arnhem.
Perfectionism has nothing to do with being perfect.
Perfect is an A for an exam.
A table set by Martha Stewart.
A smooth paint job on a ‘39 Cadillac.
Perfectionism kills your creativity because it convinces you that your talents are nothing special — that you are not creative at all, that you are just plain ordinary - and by the way - also too fat, thin, old, young smart, stupid small, tall, rich or broke.
How to Take Action on Letting Go of Perfectionism
This article was previously published in the Huffington Post This version is updated on July 4, 2021
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Esther de Charon de Saint Germain is mother, partner, friend, sister and aunt and a self-love advocate and business and branding strategist. A speaker, author, soul whisperer, and the founder of the Brave Movement that teaches women entrepreneurs to build a business based on self-love, radical self-acceptance, and true confidence. Featured in Huffington Post, Marie Claire, Elle, and Thrive Global, Esther is the founder of the Self Love Success Club Follow Esther at Instagram | Facebook I Pinterest
HOW TO OVERCOME PERFECTIONISM
Perfectionism is the silent killer of your happy talents.
It whispers in your ear when you’re writing an article: “Are you sure people like to read this?”
Her ugly daughter, Procrastination will take over.
She presses her moist check to yours and hisses: “Why don’t you do something different first. Your house is dirty. Clean it! What will people think?”
Perfectionism will visit you when you’re almost ready to make your website public. She will occupy every inch of your brain:
“Sweetie... Are you sure? You can't publish this. There might be a mistake somewhere. Have a good look at that beautiful website Carol had made. It’s very difficult to be as good as he is!”
Perfectionism will call in her ugly twin Self-Doubt and Overwhelm. Like an army of deranged Uruk-Hai, they will immediately start trashing up your ideas, causing such turmoil and chaos that it's easier to give up now than having to clean up after them.
Finally, the oldest sibling will arrive.
Permanent disappointment etched on your face. It's Comparison. The killer of all joy. She's so famous that she's got a syndrome named after her: Impostor Syndrome. Unfortunately, that fact fuels her presence even more.
She will sigh and look at you with a: "Oh darling, you still believe you can make it, right?"
She will wrinkle her face in mock-compassion and tell you: "That book you are thinking about? The one that made you jump out of the shower yesterday? It has already been written."
"That program you want to host? Oh dear, oops... someone else is already promoting it."
"You're too late, hon. It's just not original. I'm sorry, I mean to say: you are not original. Yes, that makes you cry I can see that. Well, life is tough. I'm just protecting you."
Of all the fucking Fear Sisters Comparison might be the worst of them all.
How to deal with pervectionism ; -)
1. Most importantly: Acknowledge it.
Don’t wait for 27 years as I did. Stand up and say: “Hi, my name is... and I’m a perfectionist.”
2. Recognize it.
Perfectionism is smart. It presents itself as a great idea. See if you can find which one of the ugly sisters (or boring brothers) are trying to persuade you from showing up, following your bliss or just have fun.
3. Be compassionate to yourself.
Being a perfectionist is not some kind of punishment from the universe. It’s an unwanted byproduct that came with your creativity and talents.
4. Laugh at it.
Like with shame, nothing puts the uptightness of perfectionism more in perspective than a good laugh.
5. Act as a product designer.
To have a strong product you need to fail — a lot. Product designers focus on fails and mistakes to make their product safe before they release it. Every failure makes for a better end product.
6. Let go of the fear, but do not let go of your beautiful ideas!
I promise you, once you get the hang of it, you will be able to let go. To hang loose.
7. Love and accept yourself unconditionally, no matter what.
Love and accept yourself in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer.
Great result? Love yourself.
Love yourself. Don't wait for praise from others.
8. Be with the people who get you and who go through the same struggle as you
In the Self Love Success Club 'Selflovepreneurs' make money doing what they love the most by loving ALL of themselves (it's by far the best way to deal with Perfectionism)
9. Challenge yourself and make miztakes om purposs
I know it's abslolulty horroble. Your brain cries: Nooooooo.
It's why dyslexic people often have a dufficualt time puvlishing their work (if that's you Halleluja for being out there anyway). It requires courage, but it will help you to let go of the Ice-Cold Claws of Perfectionism.
WHATEVER YOU DO.... DO NOT GIVE IN.
Do Not Surrender to the Ice Cold Claws of perfectionism
The idea came to YOU. It's up to you to deal with the ugly Fear Sisters.
Don’t give up on that blog post, the drawing, the idea that came up in the shower. Make it, do it. Not every creative lead has to become a bestseller, cure cancer or spread eternal happiness.
It will be something that makes you happy, that brings you joy, and that’s how you change the world.
One Happy Mind At The Time.