The Secret Cure for Perfectionism

Posted by on November 12, 2014

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The little canvases sat on my work table for weeks, untouched. I knew what I wanted to do with them, but I was afraid I would screw it up somehow. They wouldn’t look right. I’d just have to gesso over my work and start again. Or I’d post them and no one would like them, they’d think I was a crappy artist, that it looked weird and messy and those pieces would sit in my art shop for months, unsold, without a single view and everyone in the world would bombard my comments and Facebook page with hatemail for having the gall to bring such an eyesore into the world.

This was me last week trying to finish my new Raven paintings. I was so terrified they’d look horrible.

My brain is like a runaway train sometimes with ridiculous, anxious scenarios like these. Sometimes I feel that everything I create has to be perfect.

I’m a recovering perfectionist.

There should be a support group for people like us. I can see it now, the folding chairs all in a circle and one by one, we all stand up and recite the support group introduction script, terrified that we’ll say something wrong or look weird!

RPA. Recovering Perfectionists Anonymous.

Are you a recovering perfectionist?

  • Have you been avoiding completing a project because you’re afraid you’ll muck it up?
  • Do you avoid something you’ve always wanted to try because you just know you’ll be bad at it?
  • Would you rather trash a project than complete it imperfectly?
  • Do you get frustrated when you try to make something that doesn’t look exactly as it did in your head?

You might be a perfectionist. Like me. Welcome to the club. 

You might say, “What’s wrong with being a perfectionist? Why shouldn’t I want to do things well?”

Absolutely nothing. Striving to do things well is wonderful, and that will take you far. But the problem is that while something can definitely be good, things are rarely perfect. 

The more time you waste pursuing perfect, the less time you’ll spend actually getting stuff done, actually making stuff and putting it out there.

If you are chasing perfect, you will never get it done. You will never be satisfied. 

You’ll never take that class, you’ll never finish that novel, you’ll never start that business, you’ll never make that painting and hang it on your wall. And you’ll probably feel bad about it.

Want to know the secret to beating perfectionism? 

I know, revolutionary.

Ben Folds and the Fraggles say it best.

I need to take my own advice. 

Those half-finished little canvases had been staring at me for weeks and I knew that the only way to get those paintings done was to actually, you know, do them.

So what did I do? 

  • Wrote down in my planner a single goal for that day: Finish the freaking paintings.
  • Posted a pic on Facebook and Instagram and promised the world that those paintings would be done by nightfall.
  • And I finished them. It wasn’t even that hard and it didn’t take that long.

“Nevermore 1” 8x8x1.5 Acrylic and Paper on Canvas
$50 View Original
View 8×8 Prints

“Nevermore 2” Acrylic and Paper on Canvas
$50 View Original
View 8×8 Prints

Are they perfect? Maybe not. It depends on who you ask, but I think they look great. A lot of other people do too.

If I didn’t decide to just get them done, I’d probably still be pussyfooting around them. 

So what project is laying around in your home or your mind that isn’t finished because you want it to be perfect?

That’s right, there’s a challenge coming.

I double dog dare you to just do it. Set a deadline, make some time, and get that sucker done. Tell someone you’re going to get it done and then do it! Ride that wave of motivation until you have a completed project.

I learned this method from the incomparable Leonie Dawson, definitely in my top 10 favorite women on this planet. She calls it the Wild Donkey technique, and she even made a nifty little ebook about it that explains it beautifully. It’s called The Cowgirl’s Guide to Riding Wild Donkeys. It’s free! Go get it!  (Also, lots of other great freebies on that page)

If you want to announce the project you wish to complete, come visit on my Facebook page! And let me know when you’re done!

You can do it. Remember, nothing bad will happen if it’s not perfect. You’ll get practice and you’ll grain the momentum you need to keep doing stuff. Overcoming perfectionism takes practice!

Share your thoughts in the comments or on Facebook!

Have a lovely week!



  1. Leave a Reply

    Anne Linn
    November 14, 2014

    Oh, thank you for this. It’s very painful to be a perfectionist, to never finish something because you’re afraid, and then that dream, that beauty stays inside of you, and the world misses out. It’s hard to sit down and work on something because fear is there. But we still need to do it, to be happy.

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