Why Perfectionism is Holding You Back

In life, we're all taught to aim for perfection, aren't we?

But, I’m not convinced that trying to be perfect, or making everything around us perfect, especially in business, is a good thing. In my opinion, it can be quite detrimental. 

High standards are great, and it’s true that you should always put effort into the things you care about, mostly because it feels good when we're rewarded for our hard work, especially when we're passionate about something.

But, I wonder how many of us are wasting time trying to make things seem completely flawless before presenting them to the world. When you stop to think about it, how much is that approach holding us back?

Brené Brown says:

“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact. It’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction and life paralysis.”
 

For the most part, when it comes to running my business I’m not a perfectionist and never have been. I've always accepted that I’m a bit flawed, relatable and normal, and so is my business. I know I’ve got limited time and resources available to me, so I’ve adopted an attitude of done is better than perfect which helps me stay sane and run a busy business at the same time.

I’m not a slob, I like tidiness and organisation because it makes me feel calmer, but I really don’t care about showing my less than perfect side to my audience. I think sometimes people appreciate seeing things go a bit wonky or watching something evolve from something a bit rubbish to something good. Not aiming for perfect doesn’t mean you’re lazy, it simply means you've learned how to prioritise.

Having said all of that, there have been a couple of occasions over the years where I got lost in aiming for perfection, and afterwards I realised what a huge waste of time it was.

I used to spend hours writing, rewriting and editing blog posts for my handmade homeware business, all of which, when I look back were probably not particularly relevant or interesting to my audience.

I wish I’d have been a little more carefree in my approach to writing because it would have freed up time for other things.  But I was very particular about it all and wanted to make sure everything was just-so. Basic grammar is a must, but I really didn’t need to be so fussy with my blog posts, because most people skim read anyway!

And, do you know what, not one of the blogs I wrote for my homeware business exists on the website anymore, I deleted them all and I now cringe about all that wasted time.

Another time I’ve got lost in trying to make everything perfect was last year in lockdown. Last spring, I thought it would be a great time to look in to mentoring other small business owners. I had wanted to do this for years and had loads of ideas for content that I could share. But, instead of writing and sharing this content, which is at the heart of helping others, I decided I wanted to start a brand-new business, and to do it all properly from day one.

So, I spent ages on Design Deeds choosing brand colours. I researched different typefaces on Pinterest, chose a business name and spent hours creating a logo on Adobe Photoshop. I created a new Shopify website which included buying a domain name, and an email. I set up a new email newsletter account, chose a theme for the website and I created a downloadable factsheet on Procrastination Tips for subscribers. I got completely lost in the detail, in trying to make it look super professional, and it ended up sucking the joy out of an idea I’d been really excited about. All I wanted to do was to tell some stories about business life, but I ended up spending all my time creating this new brand.

In the end, I lost interest, I could feel burnout approaching and it didn’t feel like something I wanted to channel my time into anymore, so I gave up and walked away. Instead of working on the things I was passionate about, which was the content, I was obsessing over choosing the right shade of coral.

I’ve come back to the idea again this summer, because it really is in my heart to share some business stuff! But, this time, I’ve just been noting down my ideas and writing while I’m feeling inspired. I’m not setting up a website, or a logo and I haven’t chosen a business name yet because I want to save my energy for what matters now and see how it evolves.


 

When I started my handmade business in 2012, I followed the “done is better than perfect” approach and I think this is what helped me get some momentum going. I would think to myself well, it’s not quite how I pictured it, but this is good enough and I’m going to put this out there and see where it goes.

I started out selling on Facebook and Instagram, there was no website and yes it wasn’t as professional as I would have liked but I got sales through those early social media posts and my business grew from those sales.

Initially my photographs were not very good. But, I just did the best with the knowledge I had at that time, so that I had something to share on my social media, something to get started with, and I learned along the way.

My product range has evolved over time too, I know a lot of people aim to launch a business with a whole sleek collection, but I started out with a few items, and added more designs as I went along, and it was absolutely fine!   

Sometimes you can agonise over creating a perfect new design, and spend hours going back and forth. My best-selling product is my pumpkins; a product I made on a whim in my little home studio one day, they didn’t look exactly how I had pictured them, they certainly weren’t perfect, but, I shared them on a social media post and my audience instantly loved them and have done ever since.

If you’re reading this thinking why wouldn’t you try to make everything look super sleek and professional, well because most of us will struggle to find the time to endlessly tweak and faff. If you’re just starting out, it can drain you of your enthusiasm for a project, and, while you’re faffing around with the font sizes on your website, you could be making sales.

Life isn’t perfect, and neither is any business, or any person behind a business, and you might burn yourself out if you keep obsessing over making it all appear that way.

Your energy and enthusiasm are what will make your business successful, so you need to protect that by thinking of the bigger picture and not the tiny, insignificant details.

If you’re thinking of launching a new business, allow yourself to be a beginner because business is constant growth, evolution and learning. That’s the fun bit. If you look at most successful businesses, they have evolved. There’s nothing unprofessional about getting started and giving it a go. It can be hard when you look at other people and see how polished they look, but we all start somewhere, and it takes times to cultivate your brand properly and to learn what you’re doing.

Have you ever seen those social media posts which are: “How it Started vs How it’s Going”? That’s because growth, putting in the work and watching a business flourish are things to be celebrated and applauded. Evolving over time without aiming for perfect from the start will endear you to your audience.

If you’re already running a business and finding yourself short on time, try to let go a little. Do you need to make your photography, social media, branding, website etc. picture perfect and faff with it endlessly for your business to thrive?

I would like to disclaimer this post by saying that if you sell handmade products, quality is key to happy customers. Quality will encourage customer loyalty so don’t half-ass that! It’s one area you need to give a lot of care and consideration because it will shine through. But, your skill will probably be quite natural to you anyway, so just go with it, don't be hard on yourself and enjoy creating.

To finish, here are 12 things I think aiming for perfection can lead to:

  1. Procrastination
  2. Stress
  3. Overwhelm
  4. Worry
  5. Low self-esteem
  6. Frustration and disappointment
  7. Lack of enthusiasm and creativity
  8. Lack of time for more important things
  9. Lack of mental energy
  10. Being stubborn and not able to adapt
  11. Alienating other people
  12. People not being endeared to you

Do any of these resonate with you? If they do and you think you’re constantly getting stuck on detail ask yourself what’s all this perfectionism for, what will it achieve in the end?

Brené Brown concludes:

"If you want to be happy, stop trying to be perfect. In the fast-paced world of business, it's better to aim for excellence, then to take the long shot to perfection...”


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