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Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching™

What to Do When Paralyzed by Perfectionism?

4 Solutions to try when paralyzed by perfectionism in the creative process.

By Jill Badonsky, MEd | Updated February 17, 2019

Dear Muse,

I need some help putting play into my creations. I am too much of a perfectionist and am paralyzed by fear much of the time. —Stuck in Park (SIP)

Dearest Sweet SIP,

Cat Bird Castle by Jill BadonskyYou’re not alone, my dear. Perfectionism is in epidemic form out there in the world and it not only keeps people paralyzed when they want so badly to create, it can also rob them of any enjoyment once they DO begin.

The feeling of never being “good enough” clouds the rewards of the creative process. Perfectionism can feel like a sentence in a prison of oppression whose punishment is the inability to relax, accept, discover, have fun and acknowledge progress. And that sucks.

You have the advantage of KNOWING you are a perfectionist. Many people have the notion that perfectionism means keeping a meticulous house free of clutter. Creative people are often prone to clutter but are tormented in the creative process by not being able to create the perfect piece or art, work of writing, or business immediately. Some don’t even try or quit too soon because they cannot tolerate feeling imperfect. They often are immobilized by not being able to perfectly translate their idea from their mind to reality. This is self-sabotage.

Where Perfectionism Comes From

Perfectionism arises for a number of reasons. Here are just a few:

  • You never felt like what you did was good enough according to someone who was never satisfied. You adopted the style of never being satisfied, no matter how well you do.

  • Who you are did not count as much as how well you did things.

  • You irrationally compare yourself with the work of others who have persevered through through all the initiation rights of creativity which includes struggling at the beginning of the process.

  • You have adopted unreasonable expectations that are massively circulating in the current pool of consciousness. Society has perpetuated perfectionism with images, promotions and adoration of what appears to be the perfect.

Solutions That Work

Here are four solutions that work for many who are paralyzed:

  1. Simply ask the following questions without needing an immediate answer:

    How would it feel like to put more play into my creations? What’s one small way I can do that imperfectly?

    What if I acted as IF I weren’t paralyzed and pretended I was driven to create even if nothing I did started out well, but I trusted that it would evolve into something?

  2. Good EnoughLose the all or nothing at all perspective of either I’m great or I’m awful. At first shoot for small and awful and then allow yourself to shoot for “good enough.” “Good enough” is a mantra that liberates many recovering perfectionists when they notice they are being lead by the never-good-enough-demon.

  3. Lower your expectations and just begin with permission to flounder, experiment, explore, be a child, intentionally created something that sucked — give yourself a very short time limit. Rinse and repeat. Know that this is how all successful creative people begin. Persevere.

  4. Consider the words of Vincent Van Gogh “If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”

"There are two kinds of perfect: The one you can never achieve, and the other, by just being yourself." —Lauren King

"While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior. —Henry C. Link

©2014 Jill Badonsky. All rights reserved.

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