How perfectionism is ruining my chances of accomplishing anything

Published by Nela Dunato on at 10:53 in Thoughts, Personal

I've realized (not recently, but it keeps hitting me on the head often) that perfectionism is number one reason why my projects don't get done.

Often people think it's laziness, but I think laziness is more of a consequence of other things not being in check. Really lazy people don't like to work at all, and given the chance not to do anything, they really aren't going to do anything but sit on their couch for a year.

(When you have a person that is passionate about some things, but doesn't enjoy doing other things, and finds it difficult to find motivation to do the things she doesn't enjoy doing, labeling this person "lazy" is too easy, and it doesn't solve any problems. You don't know the reasons behind this perceived laziness.)

Anyway, onto the real topic, which is perfectionism.

How perfectionism is ruining my chances of accomplishing anything

When I want to make a project 100% on my own terms and the way I imagined it, and I realize it's not possible for me at this moment, I choose not to do it. I postpone it for some future time when I'll have all the resources I need to do this project properly.

If I see I'm lacking skills or knowledge in some area, or that it would require equipment I don't have, and that I would have to alter my project so that it fits within my time and budget constraints, this project doesn't look appealing anymore. I rather wouldn't do it at all, than compromise.
This is sad, because a lot of my projects have never seen the light of day, and perhaps they could have if I was willing to look for a solution that was more viable.

There's also another problem.

Recently I had a conversation with a friend, and he asked me:

"If you had the resources you needed, what would you love to do?"

I said the following:

I have plenty of ideas for projects, but they're too complex for me to do them entirely on my own. I would need to cooperate with other people who have complementary skills.

I have my own vision for the project, and this is something I'm not willing to compromise. When you work in a team, you have to compromise something. And to me, it's not worth it to change my original vision in order to make the project more attractive to others who would collaborate with me.

So the only solution that remains is to hire people to do things I can't do on my own, under my art direction so that the end result is completely aligned with my vision.

I don't see myself collaborating with other people on a project that I myself have invented, unless these people are completely OK with following my direction on every single detail. And since I've been in a position where other people have managed every single detail I had to implement, I know how horrible an experience that is for a creative person, and so it's almost impossible anyone would enjoy that. I'd make a horrible manager.

I don't trust others with my baby

When explaining this to my friend, I said that to me, bringing your vision of a project to a team feels a bit like bringing a baby you gave birth to and saying, "Hey guys, I need some help raising this baby, would you guys help me out?" Of course, every good parent would be very critical of other people's attempts at raising this child – because it's their child.

To me, my personal project – a vision I was inspired with – feels like my own child. (I don't have a human child, so I can't claim my comparison is accurate. I'm just trying to illustrate how precious my personal projects feel to me.)

I can't just hand over my baby into the hands of strangers and hope for the best. I would give through, detailed instructions what, when and how needs to happen, to make sure everything that happens is aligned with my values. I'd want them to do exactly what I would do, if I had the means to do it.

I realized that this is a huge detriment to my dreams, and at this current moment I don't feel capable of addressing it. Frankly, I don't see myself being able to accept whatever happens, and collaborate with people in making something that we're all be satisfied with in the end, if the idea came from me. I'm very skeptical of it and I don't trust other people enough for it to happen.

On the positive side, it's great to be independent and resourceful, but the downside is I don't know what to do when I envision a project that's simply too big for one person.

This is something that may need to change in the future. But at the moment, it's one of my biggest stumbling blocks.

I just wanted to share this because I'm probably not the only one to feel this way. And because I'm trying to break the annoying myth of "Nela has everything figured out", that I just can't live up to.

Do you have a similar problem? Did you solve it, and can you share any tips? I'd love to hear about it.

[EDIT October 2016] I have come to terms with the fact that maybe perfectionism isn't all bad. Oh well.

Nela
Nela Dunato

About Nela Dunato

I run a boutique design consultancy that helps creative businesses evolve into premium brands and connect with their dream clients, by crafting extraordinary visual experiences.

On this blog I write about art, design, creativity, business, productivity and marketing, and share my creative process and tips. Read more about me...



Your comments

  • nevio

    nevio
    2013-08-09 at 23:18

    Mislim da svatko tko se bavi nekim kreativnim radom a ima i samopouzdanja ne želi djeliti svoje kreacije s drugim jer onda to nije "to".
    Pomoć treba potražiti samo u onim djelovima koji ne zadiru u kreativnost ili ideju a ostalo je samo mišljenje koje možeš prihvatiti (ili ne)....

  • Mihovil

    Mihovil
    2013-08-12 at 01:02

    Moj poduzi odgovor: http://soulstudio.info/blog/working-with-other-team-members-and-dealing-with-clients-bad-ideas :)

  • Nela

    Nela
    2013-08-12 at 22:16

    @Nevio: Slažem se. Naravno, "kreativnosti" ima u raznim poljima i ja ne znam sve o svemu. Ako bih se upustila u izradu recimo, animiranog filma, treba prepostiti ljudima koji su profesionalni da odrade svoj posao, ali meni je jako bitno da to na kraju izgleda što sličnije mojoj ideji.

    @Mihovil: Bome, svaka čast na trudu! :)
    Ipak moram napomenuti da se ovo što sam napisala ne tiče klijentskih projekata (iako i tu ima materijala, ja ne vjerujem da je klijent baš uvijek u pravu) ili rada u timu kao takvom općenito. Ovo što kažem specifično je za moje kreativne ideje bez vanjskog inputa za koje mi jednostavno treba tim jer ih ne mogu izrealizirati bez ičije pomoći.

    Kad se radi o zajedničkim projektima ili klijentima, to je područje gdje ima učenja od drugih i kompromisa, a stvari se ne svode na "sviđa mi se/ne sviđa mi se" već se važu dobici i gubici i odabire se ono što je najkvalitetnije ili najviše cost-effective, ovisno što je bitnije.

    No oko nečega se u potpunosti slažemo, a to je da ako mi se ne sviđa u kojem pravcu projekt ide, izgubim entuzijazam i sve mi je teže neko kad sam u kreativnom flowu :)

  • Mihovil

    Mihovil
    2013-08-13 at 12:44

    @Nela: Znam da se tvoj clanak ne odnosi na klijentske projekte, ali sam se ja bas nedavno nasao u takvoj (spomenuto u mojem clanku) situaciju pa sam povukao poveznicu (bit je ista - gubitak kreativnog flowa, kao sto si napisala). A klijent definitivno nije uvijek u pravu, tu se slazem. :)

    E vidis, ja sam gledao tvoju situaciju sa gledista tehnickog clana tima, a ne voditelja samostalnog kreativnog projekta, sry na nesporazumu u tom dijelu. :)

  • nevio

    nevio
    2013-08-13 at 19:30

    Da ipak budem malo određeniji.
    Ne znam da li se tu radi baš o perfekcionizmu ili možda o nečemu drugom. Meni se isto dešava da započnem nekakvu stvar i u početku sam zanesen tom idejom da bih negdje u sredini taj entuzijazam splasnuo na nešto poput; "Ovo ništa ne valja"
    Najčešće tu stanem i ostavim tako nezavršeno mada nisam od toga skroz odustao.
    U mašti stvari izgledaju puno ljepše.
    Možda je ta "slika" osjećaj koji treba prebaciti na medij koji ,opet, ljudi konzumiraju bez osjećaja.
    Nakraju se otuđiš i nemaš povjerenja. Daješ sve od sebe da to ispadne najbolje a malo tko to zaista cijeni.
    Onda izgubiš volju i radiš samo za sebe i svoj gušt.....

  • Nela

    Nela
    2013-08-19 at 11:42

    @Mihovil: Naravno posljedice su vrlo slične kad god se desi neko neslaganje unutar tima, bilo s klijentom bilo s kolegama... dogodilo mi se više puta :)

    @Nevio: To mi je poznato! A imam i prijateljicu koja piše priče i svaki put kad piše neku dulju formu kao što je novela ili roman, dogodi se ista stvar - nakon početnog entuzijazma dođe sumnja i negiranje svega dotad napravljenog, "Ovo ništa ne valja!"
    Vjerojatno većina ljudi ovdje stane, a pretpostavljam da treba samo nastaviti i da će taj period "kušnje" proći.

    Da, u mašti stvari izgledaju savršeno i to je vrlo visoka letvica kojoj se ja još nisam u stanju ni približiti. S druge strane istina je da mi bude malo krivo kad se izuzetno potrudim oko nekog rada i ne dobijem nikakve reakcije na njega. Tješi me da to radim za sebe, da bih to radila i kad ne bi bilo ni interneta ni galerija...

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