Latent Lollygagger: Perfect is the Enemy of Go

This month’s theme is Perfectionism.

I just sat with my fingers hovered over the keyboard for a few moments, wondering how to start, what to say, and then realized this is a perfect example of how perfectionism can actually impede progress. Impede desire.

I’m sure you’ve all heard some variation of the saying, “Perfect is the enemy of done.”

I’d like to also add, that sometimes, “Perfect is the enemy of go.”

Like just now, as I was thinking about where to start, what I was really thinking was, “How can I immediately write the perfect first line that then leads seamlessly into the second and so on until the blog just magically unfolds in front of me?”

As if editing weren’t a thing.

As if I didn’t have a delete key.

Nothing can magically unfold until I write a word.

I can delete that word later.

Or not.

My perfectionism wants even the first attempt at something to be perfect.

Paradoxically, perhaps, this means that my perfectionism can be the biggest deterrent for getting anything done.

I’ve often thought about, and discussed with my therapist, the fact that I worry about trying to dampen my perfectionism because it seems like the driving force behind any of my successes, my determination, my discipline.

But it occurs to me: of course it wants me to think that. It wants to convince me that it’s indispensable for how I want to live my life, so that I don’t get rid of it. It wants to survive, so it needs to have a reason for being.

What if it’s not true?

What if my perfectionism actually stands in the way of my desire, because it tells me that I shouldn’t bother even starting if it’s not going to be perfect?

That novel will never get written if it needs to flow out perfectly.

That blog post. That poem. That photography. That piece of art. That run. That difficult conversation.

The first step in anything big and scary is usually rocky. It looks huge. My perfectionism convinces me I can’t take that leap, but look over here, here’s a safe thing you can do instead that is guaranteed to go well and you won’t trip and fall.

Photo by Erik Dungan on Unsplash

Here’s an email to answer and check off the list instead of sitting down in front of a blank page.

Here’s a query to send off instead of asking the hard questions about why I’m not getting responses.

Here’s a meeting to schedule instead of pulling together materials for a big project.

It’s deceiving, because all those little things do, in fact, need to get done. But they’re busy work. Necessary, but very easy to view as productivity instead of background noise. They’re not the things that will be fulfilling at the end of the day.

When I’m able, I try to bypass the perfectionism by finding a smaller step that at least leads in the same direction as the big one. So it doesn’t seem as scary, as overwhelming.

But sometimes, and this is the part of my brain that feels underdeveloped and in the shadow of perfectionism, I just need to take the leap and I may fall and I may land safely or it may not look like anything I expected, but that I can trust myself to be capable of surviving and capable of having the capacity to deal with whatever is waiting for me after I take the leap.

Perfectionism wants a plan and structure. Life demands uncertainty and unknown.

The bridge between the two is trust.

How does perfectionism affect your life? How do you embrace imperfectionism? Comment below or on my Facebook page.

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