For years I resisted the word “perfectionist.”  I thought that word sounded simplistic and anal-retentive.  It reminded me of surface-obsessed people running white gloves over lampshades and endlessly rearranging boring red long-stemmed roses in cut crystal vases.

“Perfectionism” sounded like a hobby for people who didn’t have anything better to do with their time.

But at the same time, I found myself exhibiting the following behaviors:

  • endlessly thinking everything all the way through and not really being able to stop

  • not really trusting anyone else to do things properly
  • feeling that if I couldn’t succeed, I probably oughtn’t to try
  • being convinced that other people were constantly judging me and my work
  • needing other people to notice and appreciate how hard I was working all the time
  • unwilling to start something unless I was pretty sure I could rely on the outcome
  • having unrealistic, if not impossible, expectations of myself
  • having unrealistic expectations of what I could accomplish in any given time period

Now, it’s true that the above behaviors are exhibited by almost everyone at one time or another.  And for an artist, well, “achieving the impossible” is practically our favorite thing.

Some of the greatest works of all time were the result of some artist pouring totally insane amounts of money, time, energy and life-force into a project everyone else thought was totally crazy.

But perfectionism wasn’t causing me to pour energy into my projects; perfectionism was preventing me from working.

Has that ever happened to you?  How did you break the cycle?