A plague exists amongst the creatives of today. It hides in the shadows, waiting for us. It knows when you pick up your pen. It

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Break Free from Perfectionism!

A plague exists amongst the creatives of today. It hides in the shadows, waiting for us. It knows when you pick up your pen. It feeds on the texture of an empty page. It watches as you open the lid of your Macbook. As your fingers reach for that keyboard it’s grip takes hold.

It’s known by many names.

Some call it The Fear. The Greeks call it τελειομανία. Gen Z probably don’t have a name for it (you peeps be confident AF).

The rest of us know it as… Perfectionism.

Today, right here, we take the first steps of clearing this affliction from our collective consciousness. Let’s get to it.

The problem with perfectionism

If you’re a freelance designer, artist or have ever created anything new, you’ve likely battled with perfectionism. It tells us that we need to create to an incredibly high (unachievably high) standard otherwise we’re useless. We’re shit. We should give this up and go do something else.

If you find yourself constantly seeking flawlessness, I understand and I sympathise. It’s not a fun place to be. But let me ask you, what have you ever created that’s perfect? Just name one thing you’ve made that’s objectively flawless.

If you have an answer, please send it to me! I’m desperate to see it!

If you don’t have an answer then you’re just like every other person on this planet. And we’re already on the path to removing this scourge.

Second question, what does perfectionism bring you? Does it help your process?

Like any anxiety it impacts our mental health. For most creatives, certainly the freelancers I’ve mentored, the perfectionist mindset leads to chronic dissatisfaction, creative paralysis, burnout and a negative impact on our mental well-being.

Not ideal!

Perfectionism isn’t actually a mission to make something perfect. It’s a fear of making something that’s a bit shit. Either in the eyes of ourselves, our peers, our clients or worse, the people we don’t like. And that’s fine! No judgy. We all do it. But reframing it that way is super important because it makes it much easier to manage.

Everyone has a fear of judgement – the world we live in feeds off of self-comparison. But it’s time to break free from the grip of perfectionism and unleash your true creative potential. So let’s explore the detrimental effects of perfectionism, the benefits of overcoming it and practical solutions to develop a stronger mindset, create work you love and a happier life while you’re at it.

The Benefits of Solving It

If you suffer from perfectionism, overcoming it is the best thing you can do for your career and your mental health. By letting go of unrealistic expectations, you free yourself from the shackles of self-doubt and fear. Embracing imperfection, your beautiful flawed self, allows you to create more freely, take risks and explore new ideas.

You’ll produce more interesting work, you’ll hit deadlines faster and you’ll experience greater overall satisfaction with your work. Additionally, breaking free from perfectionism enables you to achieve a better work-life balance, as you’ll spend less time obsessing over minute details and more time enjoying your personal life.

Why What You’ve Tried Hasn’t Worked

You may have attempted to combat perfectionism before, but traditional approaches might not have provided lasting solutions. Generic advice like “just let it go” or “don’t worry about what others think” often falls short in addressing the root causes and challenges of perfectionism. To truly overcome perfectionism, we need practical strategies tailored to the unique experiences of millennial and Gen Z creatives.

The Solution

  1. Accept that you aren’t perfect and that’s okay!
    Look, friend, I may be the first to say this to you, and it comes with kindness.. you aren’t perfect.. and that’s okay! None of us are! Sure there are personal exceptions, something might be perfect to you, or perfect for you, but nothing is objectively perfect. Striving for it is a wonderful way to spend life, as long as you don’t let it choke you on the way.
  2. Recognise the Paralysis of Perfection
    Acknowledge how perfectionism affects you in your work. If it’s leading you to creative paralysis then it’s suffocating your work. Mistakes and imperfections are a natural part of the creative process. How often has a happy mistake occurred in your work that’s changed the direction of a project? For me, many! So embrace the notion that through mistakes, iteration and learning from failures, you can grow and produce even better work!
  3. Set Realistic Goals and Expectations
    If you don’t know what you’re working towards, how do you know when you’ve hit it? Define clear, achievable goals for your projects, focusing on progress rather than perfection. Break down tasks into manageable steps, allowing yourself to celebrate milestones along the way. Remember, excellence comes from consistent effort, not from seeking unattainable perfection.
  4. Embrace Iteration and Feedback
    Not everyone is going to love your work first time. Some may never love it! So when it comes to feedback, embrace it! View feedback as an opportunity for growth rather than criticism. They’re not telling you you’re a shit person, they just don’t like the font you chose. Embrace the iterative process, seek input from trusted sources (in my experience, don’t ask your parents, they don’t get it!) and incorporate constructive feedback into your work. Collaboration and diverse perspectives enhance creativity and produce superior outcomes – embrace them!
  5. Practice Self-Compassion
    Be kind to yourself! Give yourself a break and practice self-compassion. Treat yourself with the same understanding and support you would offer to a friend facing creative challenges. Embrace imperfections in your work as stepping stones to improvement rather than personal failures.
  6. Go Back to Your Inspiration and Trust Your Process
    Stressing over perfectionism doesn’t help. So when you feel it coming on, rely on your process. Go back to your source material, review your client notes and revisit your inspiration, the answers are already there for you. Like we said, it feeds on the texture of an empty page, so don’t give it one. Just try something and see what comes – if it’s a bit shit that’s okay!
  7. Shift Focus to Impact and Connection
    Great projects aren’t great because they’re perfect. They’re great because they deliver on their goals. So if perfectionism is gripping you, shift your focus from seeking perfection to creating meaningful impact in the project. Emphasise the value your work brings to others and the positive impact it can have on their lives. By shifting the focus outward, you’ll find a greater sense of purpose and fulfillment in your creative pursuits. And that, my friend, feeds your soul.

Help is available!

Perfectionism holds you back from your own creativity, halts your career progress and robs you of the joy in your creative work. By embracing imperfection you unlock greatness and create a fulfilling freelance work life. Embrace imperfection as a catalyst for growth, and watch as your creativity flourishes, bringing you both professional success and a happier, more balanced life.

Are you ready to break free from the chains of perfectionism and unlock your true creative potential? I’ve helped many creatives overcome their own perfectionism. Contact me at orwell@orwellmcg.com and let me help you embrace imperfection and unleash your creative self.

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

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