I’ve always been envious of productive people—people who accomplish things and make things, even if blighted by imperfections. I’ve often wondered why some people are able to get more done than others. I mean, why are some people the producers and some people simply the spectators? A lot of people I know that produce things, whether it be a novel, a business, soap, books, music, jewelry, clothing etc are not the perfectionist types. Many of these individuals are willing to humbly deal with their mistakes and move on with new attempts.
You get less done when you’re a perfectionist. You procrastinate and decide not to do things because they aren’t “great” or the degree of “great” that you had in mind. This is self-sabotaging behavior. Please remember, you have only one life, your time is already short. If you are privileged to live to be old—70’s, 80’s, 90’s, the chances of you being able to fully use your brain and body are low. The time to think, create and produce is now. The time to devote yourself to your interests is now.
In 2009 when I was taking a Psychology 101 class my Psychology professor discussed something that I will never forget. She said, “There are a lot of students out there who purposely won’t study for tests and quizzes because if they do end up doing poorly on a test or quiz, they are able to then psychologically reassure themselves, “Well, I didn’t study for the test/quiz anyways”. By doing this they don’t feel as badly about their test results than had they studied and then done poorly or mediocre on the test. She went on to say how this was a perfectionist mind-set and how self-sabotaging it is.
In other words, it is sometimes more psychologically reassuring not to try (produce/create etc), then to try and experience failure. Even if you do study hard and then do poorly or mediocre—yes—if can be a sharp blow to one’s self-esteem more than if you didn’t study at all and did poorly or mediocre, but this isn’t what education is about. Education is about retention of information over the long-haul and being able to apply it somewhere else in life or translate it to some other subject. Studying might not yield an excellent or even mediocre test score but the chances of you storing some of that knowledge in your memory bank to utilize in the future is much greater than had you not studied at all.
We all do this from time to time. We give up doing things because we aren’t anywhere near the best. We see others who are far, far better than we are so we think, “Why bother? I’ll just be a spectator. I’d rather not try at all than potentially endure criticism (or low test scores).” This behavior is much easier and you definitely endure less criticism, but can you ever experience your potential? What about all the opportunities that emerge as you study, learn and improve?
When you consider the brevity of your own life and the highly improbable natural sequence of events that brought you into existence, shouldn’t you try? You might develop something lasting or bring an idea into the world never thought before----- and the harsh criticisms of your adversaries will one day be as dust.