After about 20 years, I finally admitted to myself that I am a perfectionist. Not in the way you may be thinking, however. I am not someone who executes everything perfectly. Far from it, actually. Even my handwriting is a nearly illegible, half-cursive scrawl. My life mentality, often, is “it’s good enough!” or “it is what it is.” Then, sometime earlier last year, I had the epiphany: I suffer from what I call perfection paralysis.
Perfection paralysis is a condition in which I assess a task or situation and proceed to procrastinate if I don’t think I can do it well and in five minutes or less. By shutting down, I hope to evade the feeling of failure that whack-a-moles me with such force that shame courses through my body in tidal waves. (Yeah, being a perfectionist sucks.)
Last year, however, I realized I had some dreams that I wanted to accomplish. Write a novel. Finish a self-portrait series (I’m a photographer). Learn to dance. And I wanted to do them all without chasing what I have coined the 4Ps: purpose, profit, productivity and pleasing other people. Because I already do this, at a minimum, 40 hours a week. If I removed the 4Ps and did things for the joy of doing them, would that cure my perfection paralysis? I wasn’t sure, but decided, as I proclaimed to several friends, that I was going to give myself permission to suck for a year. If catastrophic, life-ending failure chomped me to bits, then so be it. (All I needed was fingers to continue my day job as a writer, right?)