Perfectionism: how to sabotage every step of a process.

In this video I am talking about the takeaways from an article by Elizabeth Grace Saunders. Transcript below.

If you cannot start

If you cannot finish

If you are stuck in the middle… you know you have a case!


Why do I want to talk about perfectionism? Because it hurts those who struggle with it. And sometimes people around.

You may be paralyzed by perfectionism in your art, creative project, taking the next business step or in redesigning a part of your life.

At this moment I have no intention to convince you that you should just give it up.  It has to be done gently. It is all connected to the ego, self esteem, and how you see yourself. (but I have two remedies I talk about in the next video)

How does perfectionism show up at different stages of a project? 

If you cannot start

If you cannot finish

If you are stuck in the middle…

…you know you have a case of perfectionism, lol!  Sorry, I’m laughing, I know it’s painful,  but at this point I am laughing at myself.  Because that was my issue too. Shadows of perfectionism are still lurking in the corners of my creative life.  All the concerns and doubts showing up in your mind sound legitimate. But this is how it tricks you… to never finish anything.

Recently I read an article by Elizabeth Grace Saunders in 99u publication. I loved how she counterbalanced  the perfectionist with a pragmatist

This is how to outsmart perfectionist’s sabotage, during a creative process.

1. Stage one / the beginning

The voice of perfectionist’s says: “I’m not ready, I still need another certificate, I still need to finish that course. I cannot start until I have a big undisturbed block of time.” 

So on one hand you have an inner itch, a desire to start something, but perfectionism puts your foot on the breaks.  You may truly need another certificate, but in some cases it may be “just” an excuse. It’s just undermines your confidence.

The voice of pragmatist’s says: I know there will never be ideal time. So I plan. I set aside time to get started.  I get to work regardless if I feel like it or not. I understand the beginnings are messy. But that’s ok.  I have enough time to correct, regroup and finish on time. 

2. Stage two / Lost in the middle.

I remember sitting at a cafe, me and my friend were writing, talking from time to time. And at some point she asked: “When you write something, how many times you read it to yourself?” “Hmm… – I tried to recall…- I think  like…  52 times! LOL this is sick!”

This is what your inner perfectionist is doing in the middle of the job: you revise endlessly, doing additional research, you obsess about every detail. “This leads to distracting activities and searching, preventing you from creating something tangible. This creates a lot of overwhelm putting lot of time in one part of a project and skimming the surface of the other parts.”  

The pragmatist would say: “I define the meaningful end product and start to clarify the immediate steps to create it.  Then I look at how much time I have and allocate time budget to the steps. As I work, I push myself to keep pace with the goals, giving myself permission to circle back,  if I still need additional hours in the end.” 

Note from Jo: the way I am moving from perfectionism to pragmatism in a middle of a project, I stop and trust myself. I tune in and check what I feel about it, what I have to say about it. This is how I come up with the most original ideas. It brings so much more flow to the process. 

3. Stage three / The end of a project

The perfectionist will not let you finish. A-ny-thing.  It says: “If there is just one more detail, one more part that I think I can improve, then the work is not done.” 

The pragmatist offers:  “Define done from the beginning”. There is no things that cannot be ever improved in the future: look at the engines, airplanes, books… the airplanes are still flying, the books are still being published… but the creators are still working on improving them to release in the future an improved version. Meanwhile we enjoy the current version someone defined as “the finished product or creation”

Additionally – fear of feedback

Sometimes we don’t want to finish anything because we are afraid of the feedback and judgement. Here is another way to handle this: by changing your stand it, your perspective. Whenever or whatever you create,  the only requirement should be that you stand behind it 100%. That it has to be done. That you believe in it.

You can still listen to the feedback – but you don’t have to agree with it.

As a creator your only job is to create.

Still struggling? Watch my video: The best remedy to perfectionism 

The article by Saunders was published in  the 99U publication