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The struggle of perfectionism, and how to rise above it

“Perfectionism may look good in his shiny shoes, but he’s a little bit of an a**hole and no one invites him to their pool parties.” – Ze Frank

Procrastination in the form of side projects

I signed up for this assignment and then immediately gave it back. Because I want it to be excellent. I want everything I do to be good, but especially words that I have to put on paper. Where people can read them. It’s all part of a thing I call Hermione syndrome, and it almost ruined my work life.

I have several college degrees. At every graduation, I looked around at my job options and decided I’d rather stay safe in my academic ivory tower. Eventually I found myself a doctoral candidate on the road to professorship. But I was deeply unhappy. I was writing fiction when I should have been writing my dissertation. I started a small press, a monthly literary event, and a zine all in my “spare” time.

Taking a page out of the entrepreneurs’ book

While I was working remotely, I joined a co-working space and, for the first time, was surrounded by people whose work life was very different than mine. Entrepreneurship requires being comfortable with a certain amount of risk. And suddenly I was surrounded with a disproportionate amount of career risk-takers. I found this mystifying but also inspiring.

Taking risks means being comfortable with being imperfect. It’s showing a lot of rough draft work. It’s something, basically, that I’ve avoided my entire life.

Symptoms of Hermione syndrome include reading the entire textbook before showing up for class. I have never been comfortable deciding to do something and then figuring it out as I go. And that’s exactly what you do when you make changes, start businesses, and pursue passions.

Taking the leap

The economy and the work industry is changing rapidly. And, though they’re given a bad rap, the millennial generation has made pursuing your passion a big part of career path in a way that sets them apart from their parents and grandparents. I looked around at the inspired weirdos in my office and decided I wanted some of that too. I could no longer justify staying in a job that was so far from where my passions were.

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So I took a leap, broke up with grad school, and started writing for a living. It’s required a lot of risk, a lot of letting people look at imperfect work, and a lot of imposter syndrome. But it’s also been incredibly rewarding. I’ve learned a lot by admitting that I don’t know how to do something perfectly.

Finding inspiration from imperfection

Rough draft work invites learning, collaboration, and strengthens relationships in a way that perfectionism doesn’t.

After all: “Sucking at something is the first step to being sort of good at something.” –Jake the Dog

So don’t be too comfortable with your work, life, or relationships. Push things a little farther. Try something new. Ask for help. Seek inspiration. Hermione gets a lot of things done, but sometimes you have to channel your inner Harry Potter too. And the next time you’re worried about showing somebody something you really care about, something you know is not perfect, remember:

“Perfectionism may look good in his shiny shoes, but he’s a little bit of an a**hole and no one invites him to their pool parties”Ze Frank

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Felix is a writer, online-dating consultant, professor, and BBQ enthusiast. She lives in Austin with two warrior-princess-ninja-superheros and some other wild animals. You can read more of her musings, emo poetry, and weird fiction on her website.

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