Four Cures for Creative Perfectionism

Someone hung up a little sign in our media ministry office – “Better done than perfect.”

For many of us creative types, perfectionism is our big vulnerability, that “given” we laugh about sheepishly together. When your focus is creating and communicating, going public with what you produce, it feels like there’s always a lot at stake.

The truth is doing something new is often sloppy. Creating and pioneering can be a messy process. And perfectionism – that often familiar ball and chain – is only going to get in the way.

So here are some thoughts:


-Just get started

For writers, it’s the curse of the cursor – the blank document open before you, that little black cursor blinking away at you, mockingly. Perfectionism – anticipating all the ways this could go wrong, all the things that will have to be improved and changed and chopped once we actually MAKE it – often just keeps us from getting started in the first place. The challenge of having to get it just right and knowing it’s probably impossible anyway, leads to many a procrastinated project. So tell perfectionism it’s lost this battle and just get started!


-Embrace the learning process

Perfectionism often lives in fear of criticism, fear of failure, fear of finding fault. If this thing I produce has no faults, I can (finally) rest easy. On the other hand, humility is willing to put itself out there, willing to be known for what it is, willing to learn from others, learn from mistakes. Teachability is a humble antidote to the pride of perfectionism. So next time some project goes horribly wrong, don’t lose too much sleep over it, but in humility, allow yourself room to reflect, get advice and tackle the next project a little wiser. And someday maybe you can laugh about that overly earnest, amateur video you made 5 years ago.


-You are not what you produce (Don’t take it so personally)

Perfectionism often comes when we find our identity a little too much in what we make or achieve. If my project is well received, then I am well received. Perfectionism keeps us in a place of insecurity, where our sense of worth and value is always on the line. It hangs in balance with each assignment. (I’m only as good as my last project.) The antidote to this false sense of worth is, of course, commitment to the true Source of our worth. Our sense of identity must be grounded in who God says we are, not in other’s perceptions or our own assessments. So let’s discover what He has to say in His Word and in our prayer-dialogues with Him. Let that become our first reference point.


-Burn your idols

Excellence is a wonderful goal but it can turn into something driven and idolatrous when it becomes about achieving flawlessness or maintaining a certain exterior. Perfectionism can stem from a wrong view of God’s character (conscious or unconscious). If we on some level believe God is a harsh, demanding God, constantly finding fault, needing to be appeased, we will serve Him fearfully, convinced what we produce will never satisfy Him. This driving perfectionism robs us of the joy of relationship and serving Him. So let’s burn our idols, our false views of God, and discover more of who the Father really is!