The Inner Demon That Trumps Them All
Written by
Sue Mitchell
June 2012
Written by
Sue Mitchell
June 2012

imperfect tile work
Photo by Lali Masriera

In another post, Naked in Times Square, I listed many of the internal obstacles, or what I like to call "inner demons," that pursuing creative work can bring out. To save you the trouble of checking it out, here's the list again:

  • Fear of judgment
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of success
  • Okay, lots of kinds of fear
  • Overwhelm
  • Imposter syndrome
  • Second-guessing
  • Indecision
  • Difficulty staying focused
  • Procrastination
  • Setting priorities
  • Do we really need to list them ALL?

Recently, I've come to the conclusion that every single one of the demons on that list is actually caused by the Mother of All Demons: Perfectionism.

Think about it. Why would you fear failing -- or success -- if you were comfortable with not performing according to the ideal? When we procrastinate tasks that we actually want to do, underneath the resistance is the sense that what we do might not be good enough. When we can't decide, it's because we're worried we might decide wrong -- our decision may not be perfect. Overwhelm? Strongly influenced by feeling like we have to do it all, or we won't be...perfect.

If this is true, then imagine how powerful it would be for you in your life and creative work if you could overcome perfectionism. Personally, the more I overcome my perfectionism, the more I am set free.

The Japanese seem to have a pretty good handle on the perfectionism thing through concepts like kaizen (being satisfied with small steps toward goals) and wabi sabi (seeing beauty in imperfection). Yet look at the quality of what they produce. I'd put my Honda up against any Buick, any day of the week! This demonstrates something counterintuitive:

Giving up perfectionism actually helps you perform better and achieve more.

How liberating is that?

As you go about your day, take a look at how often your resistance or fears are coming from the crazy expectation that you should do no wrong. Then please share your observations in the comments!

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