How Perfectionism Holds Us Back

When I was a senior in college, I took a Career Readiness course. We covered resumé writing and interview skills, took interest inventories and career assessments.

(One such assessment told me I should be a florist or a flight attendant. I hate tight spaces and can’t keep plants alive under the best of circumstances. But okay.)

One thing that stayed with me was this:  in a job interview, always turn your weaknesses into strengths.  

(I watch endless hours of television might be reframed as I am well-versed in pop culture. For example. That’s a job I could get on board with…)

In every job interview I’ve ever had, I’ve been asked to assess my own strengths and weaknesses. I have always listed perfectionism as a weakness. 

“I am a perfectionist. I have to make sure that everything is at its best before I put it out there. I think it’s a weakness because I take my time to create things.” 

I never actually believed this was a weakness until long after I was done interviewing for jobs. 

I thought it was a strength, and that I was being modest. 

But it is a weakness. 

Actually, I’m going to reframe that. It is a set of very human thoughts. 

My work has to be good enough.

I have to be good enough. 

This isn’t good enough. 

In my life, perfectionism has manifested itself as tendency to not try things if I know I won’t be good at them right away. 

In my writing, it shows up in two ways:

  • I don’t write at all, or
  • I work a story to death and never actually  submit it anywhere because I don’t think it is good enough. 

I called out my perfectionism for what it was doing in my life about three years ago, when I heard a life coach say “try doing B-minus work.” 

In other words, do the work, turn it in, and move on. 

Do this over and over and over. 

Because if you are a perfectionist, what you think is B-minus work will probably be just right.

In the mind of a perfectionist, the A+ is unreachable. It is never good enough. 

So allow your stories to be B-minus for a while. 

Write them, put them out there, and move on. 

It’s how we become writers. 

And our stories are already perfect. 

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