Most of us strive to always do our best; especially when what we are doing is something that will be for public consumption. Whether it is our personal appearance, preparing our house for company, Facebook posts, or something we have created, from art, photos, and writing, right down to our children, we always want to be reflected in the most flattering light possible. It’s human nature.

But many of us become derailed by this, as our need to “do our best,” under pressure both real and perceived, morphs into the diamond-hard need to be “perfect.”

On the surface of things, the word “perfect” seems like something to aspire to, or high praise. In reality, it is a sticky snare, baited with alluring fragrance, pulling you in and then trapping you, since, as everyone knows, nothing is, or can be, perfect.

It's a trap!  Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day, Love, Mother Nature

It’s a trap! Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day, Love, Mother Nature

So while we justify our journey down the rabbit hole in seek of perfection, there is a part of us that knows perfectionism is just another word for procrastination; another way for us to subconsciously sabotage our own work so that we don’t have to face our fear of failure and rejection when we put it out there for public scrutiny.  We don’t have our friends over because our house isn’t impressive enough; we don’t take that class because we’re not smart enough; we don’t write that story because we’re not talented enough.  When perfection is the goal, we will never measure up; we will never quite be enough.

When I posted yesterday about pressure, a friend who is also an author started an interesting conversation with me on my Facebook page. One of her comments was about impostor syndrome, and wondering if there could be a bit of that going on. I’d written about impostor syndrome a while ago; how surreal it seems, and yet how many people seem to suffer, silently, with it.  As far as I feel I’ve come personally, and as much as I’ve grown, there is still that underlying feeling of not being good enough; that fear that if people knew the real me, they would never like me, the way they seem to like “surface” me.

So how does perfectionism connect to impostor syndrome?  Web site fastcompany.com sums it up like this: “Since you don’t feel you’re the absolutely most perfect person at your job [or insert other flawed facet of your life here], you quietly accuse yourself of being a fraud, and then feel shamed for being so phony, and then intensely vulnerable for feeling shame, fueling a need for further self-protective perfectionism.”

It’s a pretty vicious cycle, and not a fun way to feel at all, not to mention what it does to your productivity.

So how, then, do we break the cycle, so we can live normal lives, feel good about being ourselves, and create without fear of judgment?

Well, to quote Nike, “Just do it.”  Or if you’d prefer, author Susan Jeffers, who wrote Feel the Fear…and Do It Anyway.  (Note:  I haven’t read the book, but the title is catchy enough to stand on its own as a quote or a mantra for self-motivation.)

If nothing quite that glib works for you, remember Ann Lamott’s oft-touted (because it’s awesome) essay, “Shitty First Drafts.”  Not only is it fun to say and a great read, it’s one of the definitive pieces on…well, getting over yourself, as a writer.  And really, if you’re any good with metaphor whatsoever, you can translate this into something that applies to whatever it is that you, personally, struggle with.

If that doesn’t work for you, or you’ve been-there-done-that, what about this little beauty, mentioned to me by my aforementioned friend, in the same conversation:  the 50 pounds of clay experiment.  I’m not a designer, nor a potter, but I can figure out how this relates to my life.  How in order to improve at anything, you have to actually work at it, without fear of judgment or critique – whether from outside, or inside your own head.

Finally, author Ira Glass says it so well:

So, just do it.  Do a huge volume of work.  Get better.  Ignore the naysayers both outside and inside your head.  Remind yourself that you are a work in progress, and the only way to get better is to DO.  Remind yourself that perfection is an unattainable goal, and that you should strive only to improve yourself, and do the best that you are currently capable of – and that will change, from one day to the next, fluctuating much like the stock market does, but overall, given time, your end results should be of higher quality than when you first started.

Assuming, of course, that you do it.

Put aside your perfectionism, and know that you are good enough, right now, exactly as you are.

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