Perfectionism Issues: What’s Good Enough?

NOT into reading? LISTEN to the audio version instead! (Or listen to me narrate along as you read the text below. Best of both worlds? #AudioBlog)

What happens when a once-diehard *NSYNC fan is out in New Orleans with her cousin and her high school friend?

A magical encounter (and a heavy amount of beignet pastry consumption.)

The magic? Hanging out at 2 a.m. with JC Chasez, a guy whose face was once plastered on my bedroom wall (did I manifest this? I mean. When I woke up in the middle of the night as a 14-year-old, I was technically hanging out with his image.)

It was May 2014 (haha, of course, ‘it’s gonna be May’ for an *NSYNC run-in) at the Old Opera House in the French Quarter. JC was in town working on a production, so our conversation mostly revolved around creative work.

I recall telling him about Instacurity – a project a friend and I had launched that satirically examined society’s obsession with their social media presence, influence and likeability (yes, we were ahead of our time.)

SK: Oh yeah we make these comedic videos and post them randomly an—

 JC: No, see that’s the problem! You can’t do randomly.

SK: Well it’s whenever we have a good idea…

JC: You have to do it consistently. It’s the only way.

Yep. I got creative career advice from JC Chasez.

Whose birthday happened to be this past week – August 8 (yes, as a diehard *NSYNC fan I had a lot of useless facts memorized about them); obviously, JC’s day of birth had me reminiscing about our fated encounter.

This was the first time I was thinking about it, though, in this new stage of self-reflection. I started wondering: Why didn’t we take JC’s advice?

At that point, Instacurity was on an indefinite hiatus, as resources were limited and team members were focused on other priorities in life. So while I could try to figure out the why of 2014, dwelling on that conflict wasn’t going to move me forward in life in 2020.

Was there another way to derive a lesson from JC’s advice? What holds someone back from doing something consistently to begin with?

My mind started wandering…and I landed on an issue that I know me and many of my creative peers are guilty of:

Perfectionism.

Everyone’s reason for why they have perfectionism issues is different, but likely, it stems back to childhood (that’s what’s responsible for everything about our adult selves, right?)

For me personally, childhood was a time when ‘perfection’ was simply what was; I was gifted with a quick mind, so getting 100% on tests was the norm for young SK. Hearing phrases like “perfect score” and “it’s perfect” were associate with happy feelings – positive reinforcement.

I didn’t have the strict parent experience where I was told a ‘B’ wasn’t good enough; instead, all I knew were As, and all my brain observed was that the people I loved seemed happy when I was scoring perfectly. Doing well turned a seemingly stressful moment into a happy one. My ‘perfection’ was a superpower, I thought: I could turn what was once a sad day into a happy day for someone I loved, as long as I was perfect.

Perfection had become a part of my identity.

But…as any perfectionist can tell you, this trait is more of a curse than a blessing; when anything is perceived as less than perfect, you spend an excess amount of time on it and it in turn creates anxiety, as measuring the ‘perfection’ of most things in the real world can’t be done objectively (like a multiplication or spelling test.)

INNER VOICE: Would straying away from perfectionism, or willingly accepting less than perfect, challenge an aspect of your identity?

SK: Hmmm…well if it’s not good enough, then I’m not perfect, or rather, not my best self.

INNER VOICE: Is that true?

SK: I mean, it’s all relative, I guess?

INNER VOICE: So how do you change this? Could you learn to be okay with less than perfect?

SK: I mean. What does perfection even mean?

INNER VOICE: There can never be a perfect answer.

SK: So then what is good enough?

INNER VOICE: Whatever is.

SK: What?

INNER VOICE: Whatever exists, whatever you do, in that moment, is good enough. Because that is what exists. It has to be viewed as perfect, because it’s all there is.

SK: But what if it’s not good enough?

INNER VOICE: Who decides what is or isn’t good enough? Who makes that judgment?

SK: [pause] Um. Me?

INNER VOICE: So can’t you believe that whatever you make in that moment is good enough? And isn’t good enough…perfect?

And with that thought, my mind was suddenly blown. I just discovered a way to overcome perfectionism.

LESSON:

While conventional wisdom would suggest the only way to get over perfectionism was to learn to be okay with less than perfect… what if there’s another way?

What if it’s actually about believing that whatever exists or whatever you’re creating or whatever you attempt IS actually perfect? (Also, this mentality has a more positive spin to it. As a perfectionist, it’s hard for me accept less than perfect. I’d rather just li—, I mean, redefine what perfect means.)

Example: Say you want to begin a regular workout regimen. Your mind might say a perfect workout is an hour of cardio. But if you think can only do 30 minutes, you might stop yourself from it altogether. Or put it off for another day. But if perfection is whatever gets done that day, then isn’t every workout, whether it’s 15 minutes or 45 minutes, the perfect work out? This is a fascinating mind trick.

And if everything you do, as long as you do it to your best of your abilities, is perfect, then you’ll always be progressing. Perfectionism, or rather, the fear of not being good enough, won’t hold you back. Because it IS good enough. It’s perfect.

And once you truly believe that, only then can you take JC from *NSYNC’s advice.

When you believe everything you do is perfect, and approach your project or task with a love mentality instead, then that fear of imperfection won’t stop you from doing something consistently – whether it’s learning an instrument or embarking on a workout regimen (or saving your beloved Instacurity youtube channel.)

So when JC said you gotta be consistent, maybe he was really saying “you have to be satisfied with good enough.”

And as we discovered today, good enough is perfect.

Recommended Listening: *NSYNC It’s Gonna Be Me

You’ve got no choice, babe
But to move on, and you know….
In the end, ya know it’s gonna be me

(I just imagine the next time I’m in perfectionist mode, whatever I’m working on will “sing” this song to me and I’ll remember I need to move on and that this 3rd or 4th version of the email or blog or video edit is gonna be…it. Ha. Too much of a stretch? Enjoy. I’ll see you guys next week. – 💜SK)

P.S. Thank you JC, for helping me discover a way to find perfection in everything, and happy belated birthday. And thank you cousin for going up to him that night and telling him to talk to me. And thank you high school friend for living in New Orleans and inviting us to visit. And thank you Life for always unfolding magically and offering up these memorable encounters (even if it takes 6 years to derive the lesson. Better late than never.)

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ICYMI…PREVIOUS BLOG POST: No Promises: Be Realistic With Yourself

START THE JOURNEY FROM BLOG #1: Am I Too Scared To Start Things?

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Email Samia Khan directly!

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