Community//

The Pressure of Perfection

Perfection, procrastination and paralysis have held me back from progress for years. But I'm slowly learning to understand that the nitty, gritty, and not-so-pretty parts of life are more important than achieving so-called ‘perfection’.

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

Do you ever get that excited feeling that comes with a new notebook? The fresh, clean, unspoiled pages just waiting to hold all your notes, thoughts and ideas? You picture the lined pages precisely penned with your neatest handwriting, with notes, diagrams and lists perfectly laid out in colour-coded order.

Is that excitement then marred with a tinge of resistance: a small, niggling feeling of What if I make a mistake and it looks messy and I have to start again?

Do you then feel like it’s too much work to start right now, and promise yourself that you’ll sit down and “do it properly” when you have the time, so that then it will be super neat and tidy?

Does that notebook then spend the rest of its life on a shelf, pristine and untouched, not fulfilling its purpose?

The blank page of a new notebook: one of the most intimidating things in the world.

Perfection Paralysis

I put pressure on myself for the smallest things. It might be not wanting to “ruin” a notebook, spending ages taking a hundred pictures to get “the right one” for Instagram, or putting off starting a project for fear it won’t look as good as it does in my head.

Whilst doing some reading for this post I discovered that perfectionism can be a very serious and damaging condition. Thankfully this isn’t the case here, but my version of this kind of pressure has had more of an impact on my life and business than I realised. 

The biggest issue is it stops me from progressing, or at least at a quicker pace. This isn’t to say I want to rush ahead, but I definitely make slower progress than I’m capable of.

This is no more clear than in my want to develop my illustrative style. Logically I know the way to do this is to do more – practice, make, create! But when I sit down at my desk with a head full of ideas I procrastinate, and find a million other unimportant things to do beforehand. Usually it’s something along the lines of I can’t do painting until the dishes are done or until the studio is tidy. This creates an idea that the conditions have to be, wait for it… perfect… before I even start.

When I do eventually sit down to start – which usually takes days or even weeks – I’ve thought about it so much that it becomes this beautiful, unattainable work of art in my head. By then I’m so freaked out by this imaginary standard that I simply won’t start.

The same goes with bullet journaling. I first discovered it in 2016 and found the mix of creativity and organisation right up my street. I’ve always loved notebooks and stationery and it seemed like an ideal fit for me. But after spending some time researching different layouts and ideas I became so put-off by the perfectly styled Pinterest pictures that I simply lost interest. It wasn’t a conscious thought, but in hindsight it was something like “I don’t have time/want to make the time to make these perfectly beautiful journals, so I just won’t try.” In the big picture this isn’t a big deal, but this unattainable perfection = no action behaviour is a pattern.

In the words of Carrie Bradshaw:- I couldn’t help but wonder: Where does this pressure come from?

The Facebook Effect

To be quite honest, I don’t know the answer to that. But I have a sneaking suspicion social media has at least something to do with it.

The Facebook Effect is when people post only shiny, happy, positive things, that to outsiders creates a false impression of seemingly perfect lives. This isn’t the fault of the people posting – after all this is what social media is for. It’s less common for folk to share the disorganised, unpolished sides of their lives and that’s understandable – nobody wants to air their dirty laundry, metaphorical or literal. But the problem we are left with is this unconscious bias that Everyone on Instagram Has a Better Life Than Me.

Perhaps what adds to the pressure is the fact most of our social media content comes from people similar to ourselves. It’s easy to disregard celebrities because their lifestyles are so far removed from ours. But when you see your friends, family, colleagues and peers all posting their highlight reels it’s difficult not to compare ourselves and feel inadequate.

Rather than berate anyone for using social media as it is intended, the key thing to remember is: it’s our responsibility to remind ourselves that SOCIAL MEDIA ISN’T REAL.

It’s All About Balance

Perhaps we need an Anti-Instagram to balance out the glossy images. Somewhere only for our dishevelled bedheads, our scribbly notebooks, our messy homes, our wonky cakes, our spotty skin, our red-faced workouts, our piles of dishes, our mountains of dirty laundry, our bad days, our sad days – our real lives. And there would be no filters allowed.

What could we call this glorious app? Real-stagram? Life-stagram? Human-stagram? Suggestions on a postcard.

My current pile of laundry, in both Instagram and Real Life modes.

Done is Better Than Perfect

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever got is “done is better than perfect”. It’s one of the few pieces of advice that I’ve actually put into practice.

The most recent evidence of this is with this blog and Instagram for Laurabelle Studio. A few months ago I would have spent AGES planning and writing and pottering and tweaking and ultimately trying to perfect. And after all this pottering and planning and procrastinating I would have most likely found some other excuse not to POST – the most important of all the P’s. 

It’s different now though. Perhaps it’s been the effects of lockdown or the wisdom that comes with age, but I’m slowly learning to let go of those perfectly procrastinating habits.

And do you know what I’ve learned? It’s so much more fun to not worry about perfection and learn along the way. Groundbreaking right?

My feed and blog are by no means perfect, but I am so darn chuffed when I look back over the last three months and see what I’ve built so far. It’s been imperfect and consistent, which is a much better combination than each post being absolutely the best version it can ever be, and posting on the rare occasion that something is deemed “perfect”.

The same goes for bullet journaling. I’m now halfway through the journal I started in April this year, and it’s such a massive asset to the way I work. The reason I’ve embraced it this time around is because I said fuck it and went ahead and just got started. The lines were wobbly and didn’t line up perfectly, but it didn’t matter as much anymore. When I spotted something that didn’t work, I changed it on the next layout. And the next one, and so on until now, four months on, I have a messy, scribbly and ridiculously functional system that I take such great joy in using imperfectly every day. 

My current bullet journal, in all its imperfectly perfect glory.

Some Friendly Advice

I didn’t intend for this to be an advice-giving post, but whilst writing this blog I realised two things that could help anyone who might need it:

  1. Remember that social media isn’t real life (and keep reminding yourself
    because you will forget)
  2. Notice when you’re putting any kind of pressure on yourself and gently
    get yourself to stop

Life is too damn short for perfection.

A Messy Manifesto

Feel free to copy, fill in and stick at a wonky angle in your gloriously imperfect notebook.

I, ______________ hereby declare that I free myself of ideas of ‘perfection’ and embrace the messy, complicated and unfilterable parts of life on my feed. I will do my best to encompass this mantra in my posts, sharing the nitty, gritty, and not-so-pretty parts of my life alongside the nicer, ever-so-slightly filtered parts.

Signed,

______________________________

One of the Friendly Reminder prints, available in my Etsy Shop

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Paul Bradbury/Getty Images
Wisdom//

How to Conquer Perfectionism Before it Beats You

by Gustavo Razzetti
Community//

Strive for momentum, not perfection

by Amanda Westland
Community//

“Don’t seek perfection. ” With Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated & JP Piccinini

by Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.