The Art of Perfectionism: The Good and the Bad

11 Mar

Perfectionism is defined by my Mac’s dictionary as “refusal to accept any standard short of perfection.” It lists perfection as “the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.” In a way, striving for perfection is a virtue, an art in and of itself. But it can also be deadly and rob you of success. Why?

The good

Aiming for being or producing the very best is admirable; it can only be a good thing! It is good to set high standards to push yourself to be better.

The truth is that no one can be perfect. No service can be perfect. No product can be perfect. But the effort we put into trying makes up for it! After all, paying attention to the details often pays off in a big way. However, focusing too much on the details as perfectionists tend to do causes one to lose sight of the big picture.

The bad

Therefore, in the end, perfectionism is a distraction, a stalling tactic, a leech that swindles away your time if it gives way to procrastination. Here are my examples of this in action:

-the desire to remove works which are not considered perfect (or “good enough”)
-the desire to withhold works from public viewing until they have attained perfection
-the tendency to procrastinate

When browsing through my gallery on deviantART, I inevitably see my older art on there and cringe at how “poor” it is compared to what I can do now. Because the older pieces are no longer my current best work, I want to take them down so no one has to see them again. Part of this is logical, since I want to show my best. That’s why I have so many folders in my gallery; hiding away the older art until dA’s “More Like This” or “More From This Artist” draws them out. But part of it is perfectionism, the mindset which births the opinion that the older pieces are no longer good enough to be displayed in my main gallery and must therefore be filed away somewhere where few will look. It is this part–the perfectionism part–that makes the desire to remove my older artwork ridiculous.

The reality is that having my older artwork in the public domain shows how far I have come as an artist. It shows my improvement without me ever having to do an improvement meme.

Recently I have begun challenging my perfectionist tendencies by uploading sketches daily. This means that almost every day, I sketch something new. I resolved to upload even when I don’t feel that the sketch is “ready to be seen,” and that they don’t have to be perfect–they just have to be something I’m at least mostly satisfied with. Why did I begin doing this? Because I had gotten tired of saying, “I draw all the time; I just don’t upload a whole lot.” I had gotten tired of flipping through page after page of traditional art that I’d seen over and over again for months, and in many cases, years, all the while thinking how weird it was that I hadn’t uploaded most of it (in fact, most of it only one or two other people have seen!). And the thing is, because a lot of that art is unfinished due to my dissatisfaction with it at the time, if I were to upload it now, I would have to re-draw it (see point #1).

Here’s the thing–even though there are days when I don’t upload a sketch for whatever reason, I’m not letting myself beat myself up over it. If I make progress on something, and if I upload to deviantART, for example, that’s just as good as uploading a sketch. Besides, life happens.

A perfectionist has the tendency to procrastinate because something they are doing (or want to do) is not yet perfect. They may say things like “No matter what I do, it always sounds bad” or “I’ve been working on this for X amount of time, and I just can’t get it to look right” in which case they are likely to scrap the entire thing or not save their changes and try again another day. (True story; in fact, this just happened to me yesterday with trying to record a good cover of a song. Why don’t I upload a lot of videos with my singing? Because I keep noticing all the things wrong and hate it so much I delete the file. :3c See point #2.)With drawing, perhaps the picture is lacking the finishing touches, or I really just don’t feel like drawing that certain part and want to put it off for another day. Three weeks might go by before I get back to it, when I realize what was missing.

I think a part of that is the strong desire not to have to go back and edit anything. But there’s no way I can put out a perfect piece of anything, so…there’s no use thinking that. ^^;

The solution

With all that said, what the heck do you do to get yourself out of the perfectionist mindset?

I think I’ll talk about that in another post, since this one is fairly lengthy and full of words already. And I won’t wait to post this until the second post is written–the way I see it, that would be giving in to perfectionism! I’ll update with the link when it’s up. 😀 Thanks for reading; I hope it helped bring some things to light. I’m learning a lot about this myself. Let’s do our best!! ></

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