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In Pursuit of Perfection

Perfectionism can be crippling. But what is perfectionism? Understanding it is the first step in overcoming it.

The doom loop of perfectionism
August 9, 2023

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This article was originally posted on Making Space, a Substack penned by our Cofounder, Matteo Grand. Subscribe below to receive more content just like this.

I am, without a doubt, a perfectionist. 

By this I don’t mean I need everything around me to be perfect, though that would be nice, wouldn’t it?

Perfectionism, as I understand it, is actually a fear of or an unbalanced relationship with failure.

It is obvious why so many of us are like this. We were brought up in a school system that handed out A for the right answer and rewarded true compliance with an A+. The world was black and white. You were either right, or you weren’t.

What this way of learning teaches us is that there is little room for exploration. There is a proven path for whatever it is you might want to do or be in life, and your duty is to follow it by the book. Anything short would be a failure.

This way of thinking quickly permeates all aspects of our decision making and shapes our experience of the world. It’s achievement oriented rather than experience orientated. 

Why paint if you’re not going to become an artist? Why design a chair if it might not be better than the one you’re already sitting on? Why learn to box if you’re not going to fight? Why start anything if you might not be any good at it? 

I have a better question. What do you value more – getting it right or giving it a go?

The truth of it is, you’re never going to be the best at anything on your first attempt, but that’s not the point. The point is to allow yourself to do the things that you enjoy and find purpose in the process rather than the outcome.

Picasso was thought to have created around 147,800 artworks during his 78 year career as an artist. That’s around 5 artworks per day, every day, for 78 years. 

To offer some perspective, only between 100 -150 of these works are considered to be masterpieces.

Had Picasso allowed himself to be consumed by perfectionism, he would have stopped the moment he felt doubt that his next work might not be his best work.

So, next time you feel that resistance, ask yourself: what do you value more – getting it right, or giving it a go?

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