Is Your Perfectionism Hurting Your Work?


Lately, I’ve been in the process of painting the interior of our home. That meant a lot of spot-fixes for dents and holes. Most were pretty obvious. It was the smaller ones that I got hung up on. I found myself fixing ever smaller imperfections. It got to a point where I turned off the lights and shone a flashlight sideways onto the wall to spot them all.

Finally, my partner said “You know. No one else will be coming in here and shining a flashlight sideways on the wall.”

I’m talking about perfectionism.

I’ve noticed a definite trend in my illustration work. I have difficulty starting a project (that post here), get into the “zone” in the middle, but have difficulty finishing.

I appreciate the fact that I have an eye for detail. I’m proud of the level of craft I can put into my work. I care about it and want to make sure it’s as good as it can be. But my pickiness can be a hindrance. I get in my own way.

We may feel that “adding one more thing” will push our layout over the top. But doing endless iterations to get the “perfect” layout is just spinning your wheels.

Being perfect isn’t efficient.

Perfectionism isn’t simply about being picky. It can also be about self-doubt. Some of you may feel your work isn’t good enough to be put on display. Think of your ideas as though they were in a bucket. You need to empty the bucket in order to fill it up again.

Don’t hold onto your ideas. Empty the bucket.

When I look back at my earlier work, I don’t look at the imperfections as failures. I look on them as learning experiences. If you’re not completely happy with how a project turns out, then document it for next time. Take the energy endlessly altering the layout and put it towards a new project.


Being a perfectionist:

  • means projects take longer to finish.
  • means sharing less of your work.
  • causes unneeded anxiety.


Letting go:

  • doesn’t mean you’re lowering the bar on quality.
  • means you’ve reached the threshold of what you can accept.
  • means you’ll likely be the only one who’ll ever know the difference.

It’s not a race, but you do need to cross that finish line.