January 25, 2023

Perfectionism Paralyzes

Some people consider perfectionism as a good trait. It isn't. It only looks good at surface level, because we assume that it actually leads to perfection.

It doesn't. Perfectionism often leads to paralysis.

We think: it could be better, it needs to be better. Instead of seeing how good our work already is, we focus on why it sucks. On what needs improvement. It leads to indecision, to never shipping, to never completing the work.

It doesn't get us nearer to our goals.

Some people might also think that perfectionism comes from a place of humility. That we want to keep tweaking and tweaking and tweaking because we're humble enough to accept that our work just isn't good enough.

But it might actually be coming from ego and fear.

We could be giving ourselves too much importance. We think other people care more than they actually do. We think they're watching us. They aren't. As focused as we are about our lives, so are they with their own.

We can make mistakes. That's human. We need to embrace that. Because to think otherwise—that's the ego.

Perfectionism also sprouts from fear of failure. Of rejection. Of embarrassment. That's lack of courage. It's cowardice.

“The Stoics remind us: We can’t abandon a pursuit because we despair of perfecting it. Not trying because you’re not sure you can win, you’re not sure whether everyone will love it, there’s a word for that too: cowardice.”
- Ryan Holiday, Discipline Is Destiny

We should still strive for excellence, but we shouldn't let perfectionism paralyze us. It starts with working on our ego and building the courage to get our work out to the world, and improve it from there.