Please trust me when I tell you that as a Creative entrepreneur you are probably plagued with more than your fair share of Perfectionism.
I know what you’re thinking, “Oh, everyone struggles with Perfectionism! That’s just a human thing!” Yeah, probably. But not everyone has Perfectionism operating on them almost every waking moment (and probably a good portion of their sleep). Trust me when I say: yes, everyone can be a perfectionist at times. But not everyone has Perfectionism in the driver’s seat, settling into a well-worn ass groove and cranking up the Van Halen for the long haul!
The very inner forces that led you to starting your business – or considering starting one! – are the very drives that can punish you relentlessly as you build, strengthen, and grow.
I mean think about it. You started your artpreneurship because you are either imbued with a Creative drive that won’t stop (Hi! It me!) or you wanted to build a better business than the businesses you’d seen up to this point (It also me!). You saw something that needed to come to fruition, something no one else was doing quite right. You stepped up, you put your ass on the line.
You went for it!
If only at that critical juncture of commitment, you could suddenly become a Normal Person, someone content to put in a good day every day – but not The Best Day Ever, hitting literally 110% of all your goals, and coming in under time and with enough energy to make the family their favorite dinner then clean up afterwards! I mean forget having a Perfect Day – you should be able to have a Perfect Day every day and somehow squeeze in extra on top of that!
Anyone could live like this for a little while. But as Perfectionist artpreneurs, we live like this until it wrings the humor from our hearts, dashes the sleep out of our bodies, and eats us up. Figuratively, and literally.
Well-meaning (?) friends and family are quick to tell us to take it easy, don’t work so hard, don’t be so particular, don’t keep such high standards, et cetera. The truth is, a surprising number of them are envious of what we’re doing: what we’re capable of, what we can accomplish. But many more of them are simply scared. They are in awe of how bright we burn, and they desperately want to make sure we don’t burn out. They neg us – because they care!
These well-meaning (?) supporters don’t realize that by telling us to Take It Easy they are telling us to do something near-impossible; they are also communicating a profound lack of confidence. Instead of telling us to Take It Easy, Make Sure To Rest – I wish they’d just ask us what we need!
I made a joke yesterday: “If you think I’m doing too much, send me some cash (Venmo, Paypal, BMC) so I can get snacks and stay hydrated.” Put another way: I would never tell you that you’re doing too little – so don’t tell me I’m doing too much!
Put another way: Mind your business!
We burn bright, we run hard. Not everyone understands. That’s okay!
But I am here – one Perfectionist, one driven Creative to another – to tell you two truths.
First: we aren’t as Perfect as we think we are. We may have a high standard, we may be prodigiously talented and astonishingly vibrant. But there are these little (and big) ways that we flake, that we screw up, that we forget, that we’re muddy in our words or world conception. We are late to meetings or we fire off the email too hastily or we say the wrong thing at the wrong time or we tell someone we’re going to do something then we forget. We’re not Perfect. And other people notice: bet! They just do.
Second: to the extent we invest in the illusion of Perfection – not the illusion we are perfect, because hardly any of us believe that – but the illusion that we can make all our marks, one hundred percent of the time, without fail –
well, then the time we fuck up, the time we miss that email, the time we flub our client’s name, the time we say the wrong word in our socials –
we’ll beat yourself up all day and all night for a day or two until we’re utterly exhausted.
Ask me how I know this!
Here’s the kicker, the plot twist to all of this:
This life is worth it.
The unfettered Drive that keeps you rich like a flame, passionate and firey, up all night feverishly working, fingertips flying –
the same drive that will punish you mightily when you falter –
it’s really, really worth it.
During your highs – when things are going off beautifully, when your mind is racing and you’re in the flow – you’ll love your drive, you’ll love the spirit.
When you stumble, when you fall, you’ll suffer mightily.
(But you’ll get over it.)
I think those of us with this temperament, we are often misunderstood or talked down to. We’re rarely met on the plane we move: we may be admired but we are not often understood (unless we write about it, a lot)! I am very fortunate, because I do write about it, and I am gradually getting people to understand. I am also fortunate because my partner and my grown children know me deeply, and they respect and love me for my nature.
If you don’t have family or friends like this, I hope you find them. (Here are some!)
Because like me, you probably can’t change – or at least not change very much or very fast.
If you can let go even a little, let go of that part of you who won’t give you a break,
you’ll last a lot longer.
When your Perfectionism rears its head, and accuses you of All The Gaffes, How could you be so gauche? How could you overlook that? – when this voice keeps you up at night.
Smile, reach out and sooth, gently pry the grasping fingertips apart, and hold them lightly.
It’s okay. You’ll be okay.
Eye contact. Smile. Firm nod.
You’ll feel better soon.