How to Conquer Perfectionism: Granted, My Advice Might Not Be Perfect

A young woman draws her paintbrush across a palette as she stands before a canvas capturing the sun as it sets over a picturesque hill

Insert winking emoji…

My attempt to write “stickier” blog posts made me stuck. Call it perfectionism or overwhelm or that damning combination of both those two enemies.

It wasn’t the result I’d wanted when I completed Sticky Blogging, a much-coveted course by Happy You Happy Family blogging expert Kelly Holmes.

But I can’t say she didn’t warn me.

“Look forward, not back,” Kelly urged at the onset of the course. (She said it stickier, but that’s the gist of it.)

But I couldn’t help myself

As I learned all I should do to attract and keep readers, I couldn’t help looking back.

At my website design. The posts written just weeks before. And the hundreds of un-sticky stories and spiritual lessons captured in a decade of blissful, ignorant blogging.

All less than perfect, according to my new knowledge.

And like Lot’s wife, I became a pillar of inaction — but distinctly unsalty, in contrast to Mrs. Lot.

Her life became a monument to the futility of looking back. (Her short life story ending as a salty pillar of the Sodom community is captured in Genesis 19.)

I refuse to remain like her

“Perfection is the enemy of progress,” Winston Churchill once said.

(To be clear, Mrs. Lot had pursued the past, not perfection.)

That former prime minister of the United Kingdom, like me, sought perfection. But he learned a thing or two about the paralyzing nature of that beast.

I’ve shared his story before

How he stood before a blank canvas, unable to produce even the first stroke of paint.

How his wife came near, jerked the brush from his hand, and dragged it through all the colors on his palette.

And then plopped a glob of muddy brown paint in the middle of his pristine canvas.

And received Churchill’s thanks for her effort.

Eventually!

Why?

Because she “broke the power of the white,” he said.

Really.

The canvas was ruined. What he had feared he would do, she’d done for him. How could he make it worse?

In the mess, he found freedom to progress. By painting. By producing. By moving beyond perfection.

As must I.

And you.

Break the power of…

Whatever you’re facing today — the “blank slate” of a project or a person or that overwhelming pile of stuff you wish were a pristine canvas. Progress.

Slop your own mess of muddy paint onto that blank slate of what you want to do perfectly — metaphorically or literally, your choice — and follow that initial plop with action.

Worry about perfection later.

For me, my “muddy paint” is a bulk of scrap paper, a pen, and a hand that obligingly scribbles whatever my mind mentions about feeling paralyzed by perfection. Today.

Because I’m on a lunchtime Zoom call with a friend fighting her own battle with perfection paralysis and overwhelm.

So how do you do that too?

Sometimes you can’t plan your way out of paralysis.

Sometimes you can’t discipline yourself into doing.

Sometimes even toiling over the ring in your toilet is more appealing than tackling that thing you want more than anything else.

For fear your efforts might fail to reach perfection.

Fail fast, entrepreneurs say, so you can learn, regroup, and try again. Before you sink a lot of time and money into a venture.

Start ugly, I say

But start.

Rant, rave, and remember your mission with whatever tool you’re using.

Paint. Scribble. Brave moving the most important parts of your old phone life to your pristine new one. (Sorry, that last one was directed at me. I’ve been procrastinating.)

Make the move that commits you to complete the job.

Do it afraid if you must.

But trust the call

A friend confessed to me that she was afraid of failing as a parent.

“I didn’t have good models, and I don’t know how to do this.”

Her daughter has reached the age when my friend’s life fell apart because of adults.

Like me, she feels stuck as she looks backward because she sees what she lacks and believes she can’t succeed because of it.

Or believes she has too much to fix in herself because of her past.

“God made you her parent. You,” I told her. “Just as you are. He knew it all — everything you went through, everything you bring to the table as a parent.

“He chose you. Trust Him with her life.

“Trust His selection of you.”

What does that mean for you and me?

God made us — warts and all. His ways are perfect. (Ours are not.)

If He made us for “such a time as this” or called us to such a task as this, then we must believe we’re up for the job.

Going forward. Not looking back.

Rejecting perfectionism.

Sticky for Jesus.

Not stuck.


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