I have battled with perfectionism my whole life. Whether in the my personal or professional life, I would consistently be disappointed with what I was working on because it was never perfect. I would set the perfection bar so high that no matter what I did, it would never be good enough. At the height of this perfectionism, I saw it bleeding into my interactions with others.
Not only did it show up in the moment, it also manifested itself in the trajectory of my career. This perfectionism is what I’ve come to realize now as my creative roadblock – what some people call analysis paralysis (or being stuck in your head). I would always tell myself and others that the last piece of work you produce should be the best thing you produce and although I believed it at the time, that was an incredibly unhealthy way to look at things. It ultimately led to me halting a lot of the personal projects I had been working on, and led to my creative block and burn out that lasted two years. As tough as this period was, it forced me to look at the path I was on and analyze whether or not I was truly living the life I wanted.
As many of you know, I work in the creative industry. For a lot of my career, I believed my worth came from the ideas I had and my ability to execute on them in innovative ways. I believed that when I was not able to execute on this, I was unable to do my job and stay competitive. I felt that if I didn’t keep ‘one upping’ myself that I would become irrelevant. What I didn’t realize was that this could have not been further from the truth. Not only did it create an unrealistic expectation for myself, but it also depleted my creative resources.
This period of stagnation was tough for me to deal with. I felt lost and unsure what my future held. I was unsure if film was even the career path I wanted to continue on. In this time, I also found the person I had lost when I first set out on my path as a filmmaker. This space that was created allowed me to just be. It made me realize that sometimes it is okay to just be. I know it seems hard but life isn’t just about accomplishing things. Sometimes it is just about being present in the current moment.
For the first while into my period of ‘being blocked’, I really struggled with my identity as I had, up until this point, defined myself by the work I produced. For two years I said ‘yes’ to the ‘I’ll be a better version of myself and a more perfect version of myself tomorrow’ voice. I procrastinated and I stopped myself many times because I didn’t want to be judged by others because what I was working on ‘wasn’t good enough’. My reasons for creating had been lost in the shuffle. As I started to crawl my way out of this place, I started to realize that there was much more to life than chasing this dream of perfection. I’ve come to terms with the idea that okay is okay. I started to create again for myself.
My biggest realization through all this is that what defines character is much deeper than your portfolio. Your integrity is the one thing people can’t take away from you. Your ability to build and maintain relationships is also much more important than being known as someone who ‘grinds’.
When it comes to actionable steps you can take to reframe your relationship with perfection, I would first start with defining what perfection is in the first place.
What is it that you are reaching for that you hope to achieve?
What is it about this bar you set that is so attractive?
Is it a grass is greener thing?
Is it simply a matter of not being happy with your current place in time?
What would life look like if you were okay with okay?
Education and the learning process is half the fun. I know everyone wants the brightest and best RIGHT NOW without the journey but this journey is what makes things interesting. If we all had as glamorous of lives as is made out through social media, I’m not sure the world would be at the place it is today. Share the struggle of the journey and use these moments of imperfection to show that it is okay to be imperfect. Show what it means to truly live a fulfilled life. Show what it means to move into the present and be okay with what we are doing in any given moment.