As with all things, perfectionism has two sides: positive perfectionism and negative perfectionism. Positive perfectionism supports productivity and creativity. On the other hand, negative perfectionism, as you’d expect, interferes with productivity and creativity. Not everyone has the perfectionism trait — positive or negative. Do you? Not sure? Read on to identify which, if either one, you embody.
As the Plot Whisperer, I often encounter writers and artists who display one of the most crippling side effects of negative perfectionism—procrastination. Rather than show up for their work, they stall, delay, put off, waste time, insist they can’t begin until the house is clean, the dishes washed, the dog walked. Do you ever feel that way? An idea bursts forth that excites you. And then, before you even give yourself a chance to explore and discover all the idea has to offer, you find reasons to wait until tomorrow or the next day or not to begin at all.
• “What’s the use? I just make mess of it.”
• “I’m probably not good enough, so why even try?”
• “Last time I tried something new it didn’t go well. Chances are it will backfire again.”
Lately I worked with a writer who embodied what I now consider positive perfectionism. Her willingness to dig deep for her novel led me to think of all the other creative people I’ve worked with who could be considered positive perfectionists. They are artists and writers who are determined to create the very best story or painting they possibly can. They want to write better and paint better. They strive to master their craft by taking workshops, showing up for their work consistently, devoting time to practice, allowing themselves to fail in order to determine what went wrong so next time they’ll do better, encouraging themselves when they falter, and studying others who are successful in their field to inspire their own creative work.
So the next time you’re in the throws of procrastination or negative self-talk bemoaning your inability to be perfect, flip to the other side of perfectionism. Take a class. Allow yourself to fail. Encourage yourself rather than tear yourself down.
We are, each of us, life-givers and born to create. All of us are imbued with this most value asset—our creativity. If you’re not creating, likely the only thing standing in your way is you, and your own self-talk and false and limiting beliefs. Clear your mind and make a space for the creative force to reside. Break through and allow the endless possibilities flow through you. Living a full and joyful creative life is your birthright.
To Learn More
To learn more about positive and negative perfectionism, and for tips and support on how to move past negative perfectionism to live your best creative life, check out my new workbook: Boundless Creativity: A Spiritual Workbook for Overcoming Self-Doubt, Emotional Traps, and Other Creative Blocks
* * *