Is Perfectionism Killing Your Creativity?

by | Creativity, Encouragement, Writing | 15 comments

@lisajordan

I have a book proposal due to my editor in a week, and until this morning, I didn’t have a completed plot. For days I struggled to get words on the page because my mind was blank. I want this story to be perfect because it wraps up the series I’ve been writing.

But it won’t be perfect. And I need to accept that. My editor may request revisions. Not all of my readers will love the story. It may contain a typo or two. And I have to be okay with that.

Because if I wait until the perfect plot comes to mind, then I’m going to miss my deadline.

I’ve struggled with perfectionism quite a bit in my life. I wanted to be a perfect wife, a perfect mom, a perfect Christian, a perfect writer. But guess what?

Perfectionism isn’t attainable.

After all, whose scale determines when it’s been achieved?

God is the only Perfect One. While I’ll strive to become Christ-like through Godly living, I’ll never achieve His level of greatness. And trying to do so simply sets me up for failure.

As I read that quote, I found myself nodding. Fear of mistakes? Yep. Fear of disappointing others? Oh, yeah. Fear of failure? Absolutely. Fear of success? Yes.

So let’s talk about these fears.

Fear of Making a Mistake

The moment I hit the delete button, a pit opened in my stomach. I accidentally deleted files that someone else needed, and there was no way to retrieve them. My fingers shook as I typed the text to let the other person know what I had done. That was it. I was going to lose my job. But I didn’t. The person was disappointed, sure, but mistakes happen. I wasn’t being malicious about the files. Still, that dread comes back to haunt me every now and then.

Why are we so afraid to make mistakes? Mistakes offer us opportunities for improvements—to make better choices, to express our creativity in new ways. Take time to examine your thought process and think about how you can change your view on mistakes. Try to get to the root of that fear and figure out how you can move forward and still embrace your willingness to try, knowing your attempts will not be perfect.

Mistakes offer us opportunities for improvements—to make better choices, to express our creativity in new ways. #creativity #perfectionism #TellHisStory Click To Tweet

Fear of Disappointing Others

Oh, man. I can relate to this one way too well. I’m a people pleaser to the core. I’d say yes to things even if my plate was already full because I didn’t want to let people down. Because if I let people down, they’d hate me, right?

Wrong.

You won’t be able to please everyone. Manage your own expectations about what you want from others. You can’t change how other people react, but you are in control of how you respond to them. The next time you’re faced with a situation where you risk disappointing someone, pause to think it through—will they really be disappointed, or is that your perceived expectation? Do your very best and allow yourself the opportunity to grow through the experience.

Fear of Failure

A year ago, my very generous husband bought me a Cricut Maker. As a creative and a crafter for several decades, this die cutting machine is beautiful, and it can do so much. But I’ve used it only one time. Yep, that’s right—only once in the last year. And that was during the setup process when I cut out the sample project. The machine is quite advanced, and I’m just now learning how to use it…a year later! Why? Because I was so afraid of failing! Of screwing up. Of wasting my time.

One of my close friends is an educator, and she had a blog titled, Risking Failure. She’s younger than I am, but she taught me that failure is okay. More than that, it’s necessary. In one of her first blog posts, she wrote, “Failure means you’re willing to try something new.”

Challenge yourself to try something new knowing you may fail. But that’s okay! Embrace it as you strive to improve and grow in your creative endeavor. Growth happens because you were willing to try…and fail. If you allow your fear of failure to keep you from trying, then your creativity will remain stagnant.

Fear of Success

Months after my debut novel released, it finaled in a major writing contest. My stomach churned and my heart raced as I sat in that banquet hall wearing my little black dress as I awaited the results of my category. When I heard my name, I was so stunned, but somehow I made it to the stage to accept my award and to give my speech. Winning that award was incredible, and it’s one of the cherished moments of my writing journey, but along with that came a different kind of fear of success—a fear of not being able to measure up again. Since that first book, I haven’t finaled in that particular contest again.

Fear of success can be more about the change that happens than the success itself. More responsibility, higher expectations, less privacy, less downtime, more pressure to do it again. And again. Consider your creative pursuit and see if it’s what you really want to do. Then think about what holds you back. Everyone responds to change differently, and sometimes it’s difficult to say how you could respond to success until you’ve achieved it. But that shouldn’t stop you from trying to do what you love.

Don’t allow perfectionism to steal your joy and stifle your creativity. Learning to move past your fears will empower you to embrace the changes and growth that lies ahead. Sure, some of it will be painful—growing pains usually are—but isn’t your creative pursuit worth it?

So make the mistakes, risk displeasing others, embrace failure, and push yourself to succeed. By overcoming your fears, you may find your well of creativity refilling…and you may encourage someone else to reach for their creative dreams.

Your Turn: Does perfectionism kill your creativity? What fears are you facing? What are you doing to overcome them?

Don’t allow #perfectionism to steal your joy and stifle your #creativity. Learning to move past your fears will empower you to embrace the changes and growth that lies ahead. #TellHisStory Click To Tweet

I’m linking up with #TellHisStory.

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15 Comments

  1. Wemi Omotosho

    Great post, I’m also a bit of a perfectionist. I’d never thought of it to be as a result of “fear” before but it makes sense. Thanks for the reminder that “perfectionism isn’t attainable” and God is the only Perfect One. Blessings

    • Lisa Jordan

      Wemi, thanks for visiting. I didn’t realize it came from a place of fear until I had to deal with it first-hand. Now that I know, I try to get to the root of the fear and work my way past it.

  2. Lesley

    This is a great post, Lisa! I identify with all these fears and I need this reminder not to let perfectionism hold me back.

    • Lisa Jordan

      Thanks for visiting, Lesley. I think we all need reminders not to let perfectionism to hold us back from what God has called us to do.

  3. Jed Jurchenko

    Hey Lisa, a huge congrats on having a book proposal on the way. That is a big deal! And thank you for this post. I wrestle with perfectionism too. And every time I think I’m over it, perfectionism sneaks back again. It’s nice to know I’m not alone and to be on this adventure with other recovering perfectionists.

    • Lisa Jordan

      Jed, thank you! I hear you about how that pesky perfectionism can rear its ugly head again. Thankfully, we can learn strategies to move past it.

  4. Beth K. Vogt

    Lisa: It’s so odd, really, how we fear both failure and success. And I hope you’ve dragged out that Cricut machine and are having fun with it!

    • Lisa Jordan

      Beth, at first, I was confused about why someone would fear success until I did a little more digging, then I understood. As for the Cricut–I’m learning it and looking forward to embracing my creativity with the projects I have in mind. <3

  5. Sharon Hughson

    Ha! It’s been a couple of years since I got my Cricut for Christmas. It sat on my desk looking pretty for quite some time, too, although my daughter-in-law came and used it a few times. Then right before COVID struck, I asked her to help me make some things for a craft I was doing with my Sunday school class. A month into COVID, I brought it out on my own (with some YouTube tutorial videos) and made a slew of personalized onesies for my granddaughter’s first birthday.
    Believe me, they weren’t perfect. I can pick out every mistake. Because I’m a recovering perfectionist, too. Thank You Jesus for truly being perfect. Help me lean into Your grace instead of depending on my own strength.
    Wonderful post, Lisa! God bless you!

    • Lisa Jordan

      Sharon, thanks for visiting and responding. Once I turn in my book proposal, I’m determined to use my Cricut to create gifts for Christmas. I’ve watched YouTube videos, and I downloaded a book from one of my favorite crafters.

  6. Tonya

    This is me to a T. It holds me back in writing & I have been trying to overcome it. It hits really hard in brainstorming. I spent over a month stressing over a dms & SEQ simply because I was afraid of choosing the wrong. So I didn’t choose any. I’m realizing in early stages I have to get something down and not obsess over it or I’ll never get anywhere.

    • Lisa Jordan

      Tonya, I know exactly what you’re feeling. I’ve been there–so paralyzed by screwing up that I didn’t do anything. But you are not alone in this! Email me, and I will help you brainstorm!

  7. Jeanne Takenaka

    Lisa, I think I’ve dealt with every one of these fears. I loved your perspective in navigating each one of them. Fear is so sneaky, but it seems to be at the root of a lot of things I struggle with. Perfectionism has definitely been a thing I’ve had to do battle with. And yes, I completely agree that it’s based in fear. Great post, my friend!

  8. Lois Flowers

    Lisa, I wouldn’t say I’m a perfectionist in everything but when it comes to writing, I do tend in that direction. Just reading you words helped me articulate a fear that goes along with the fear of success, and that is “what if I can’t do it again?” The truth is, I CAN do it, but I’ve allowed this fear to hamper me for a long time. Not anymore, though. 🙂 Thank you for this encouragement to push through the fears and keep putting words on the page.

    • Lisa Jordan

      Lois, I’m so glad you were able to tell yourself you can do it! God doesn’t give us a dream only to take it away. He will guide and sustain us as we lean into Him and listen to His promises.