How To Not Let Perfectionism Ruin Your Art

Photo by Tim Wright on Unsplash

Perfection is a myth, but your art is real. It’s time to begin focusing on what you create instead of the lies perfectionism whispers in your ear. If we want to overcome perfectionism’s grip, we can’t sit back. It requires active work to change our patterns so our art doesn’t suffer.

Reframe perfectionism’s grip on your creativity

At its core, perfectionism is trying to push you to make your work the best it possibly can be. However, what begins as a desire to do well quickly spirals into a self-sabotaging nightmare if your fear of being wrong begins to eclipse actually doing your work. 

It looks like this: your attention to detail minimizes iterations. Your sense of direction gives your team guidance early in a project. Once perfectionism wraps its grip around these skills, we begin to falter.

To prevent this we need to reframe the situation: affirm your skills every time you sense your perfectionism growing. The very skills that lead to this struggle are what makes you a great artist, whatever your medium. As long as we focus on the skills and how we’re growing, we can turn these negative situations into positive ones.

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a sh*tty first draft. … [A] lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.” ― Anne Lamott

Know that your inherent value doesn’t only lie in your work

You have value that goes far beyond anything you create. Once we realize this, we can create art that shares our story and focuses on our “why,” all without focusing on our desire for perfection.

Maybe it’s because you want to encourage those with depression by sharing your own story. Or it’s writing about your meandering career path to encourage those feeling helpless about their prospects. Whatever your “why” is, we can share it without fear of imperfections because we know that it is not the totality of who we are and whether or not we are worthy.

Take a break and work on something easy

Perfectionism often veils doubt. Instead of learning a new skill or starting a new project, we want to skip the growth and get to the shiny final product. The next time you begin to feel your perfectionism lurking just out of view, stop what you’re doing and take 30 minutes to work on something you know you can ace.

This gives you the confidence you need to undertake the difficult tasks. The more we can exchange doubt for confidence, the greater the chance we’ll withstand perfectionism’s grip to publish work we’re truly proud of.

Published over perfect

The Navajo people create their work with deliberate mistakes. Though small, they use these mistakes to symbolize that the Holy Ones are the only perfect beings. Their work is exceptional, even though they embrace humans’ fallibility in order to honor their spiritual beings.

We need to create in the same way. Instead of forcing our perceived level of perfection onto our work, we should create knowing that our mistakes make us perfectly imperfect humans. This isn’t an excuse to be reckless. Rather, it’s a chance to stress less and create more.

Life as an artist is filled with achievements, but it’s often marred by perfectionism. Instead of letting it ruin your art, begin reframing these thoughts to train your mind to know your worth. This makes the process difficult, but it’s not impossible.

Learn to recognize the signs, then begin to stitch your art back together by working on something easy and publishing before it’s “perfect”. It’s the only way to help your art thrive while moving away from perfectionism and towards a fulfilling creative life.