The paradox of perfectionism: the value of sucking

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Who this post is targeted for:

  • People suffering from analysis paralysis
  • People suffering from failure to launch
  • People who never do anything out of self-consciousness
  • People who never step outside their comfort zone

This post is an answer to the problem of perfectionism outlined in this article.

  1. Ironically, perfectionism can make you do a bad job.
  2. Ironically, to do a good job, become okay with sucking.
  3. EXERCISE: Try to intentionally suck.

Ironically, perfectionism can make you do a bad job.

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The problem of perfectionism can be summarized through the example of singing.

Imagine you’re an amateur singer about to go on stage for your first-ever performance. You’re really nervous. You want to sound good. You want people to like you. If you’re a perfectionist though, you can end up psyching yourself out so much wanting to sound good that your nerves get the best of you. Your voice cracks up, you can’t hold a note, you sing out of tune, you forget your words. You’re so nervous about doing good that you end up doing badly.

But… if you relax, stop caring too much about sounding good, and just have fun, ironically you’ll end up sounding better. Your airflow will be smoother, you’ll remember the words, you’ll stay more in tune. Or at the very least, you’ll bring so much enthusiasm and energy to your voice that it’ll make your bad singing endearing and enjoyable.

Ironically, to do a good job, become okay with sucking.

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Dropping your need to do a good job and just going for it requires you to come face to face with the possibility that you might suck. If you’re an amateur singer, you’re probably going to sound bad. But…

You need to be okay with sucking.

There are 2 good reasons why you need to be okay with sucking:

  1. Most likely you’re actually decent at whatever you’re doing.
    • But… if you’re too scared of sucking, you won’t try, and no one will see you do a decent job, or
  2. If you actually suck, you need to show your suckiness to get better.
    • If you don’t make your suckiness apparent to yourself, you won’t be able to correct course to improve yourself.

Or to put it more simply:

1. How can you know how good (or bad) you are until you try?

2. How can you learn from your mistakes if you don’t make mistakes?

Being okay with sucking is not always easy for a hardcore perfectionist. We have a public image to uphold. We want to look good, both in our own eyes and in the eyes of others. But it’s important to overcome this need to look good because very often it keeps you from trying at all.

In these cases, ironically, if you want to look and be good, it might be important for you to suck!

EXERCISE: Try to intentionally suck.

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The fastest way to accept your suckiness is to intentionally do a shit job. Make a game out of it. Look like a total idiot.

Ask yourself this question: what’s something you’re scared of doing because you’re worried about sucking?

Now go intentionally do a shit job. It’s the fastest way to come to terms with sucking, so you can start actually doing a good job.

 
 

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