Putting Perfectionism Aside: Tips for Getting Out of Your Own Way

published Jan 25, 2016
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(Image credit: Alexis Buryk)

Anyone else struggle with perfectionism? I don’t mean the kind of healthy, internal drive that makes you do your best at the things you work at. I’m talking about the kind of paralyzing fear that if you don’t get something just right you’ll have to throw the whole thing out. The exhausting search for an outcome that isn’t always possible to attain. Perfectionism can get in the way of enjoying your job, but it can also get in the way of enjoying home. Here’s help on how to get out of the perfectionism mindset.

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Read this quote from Elizabeth Gilbert‘s book about creative living “Big Magic” and see if it reminds you of someone (like maybe your perfection-loving self):

“Perfectionism stops people from completing their work, yes—but even worse, it often stops people from beginning their work. Perfectionists often decide in advance that the end product is never going to be satisfactory, so they don’t even bother trying to be creative in the first place.” —Elizabeth Gilbert

If you’re a perfectionist (or even sometimes just have perfectionist tendencies), the thing you might doing that’s getting in the way of decorating a home you really love — one that inspires you, helps you relax and motivates everyday — could be this:

→ You might be worrying about how imperfect the outcome could be that you’re giving up on an idea or project before you even let your creativity start flowing.

No, your decor ideas might not always come out perfect. Or your DIY projects. Your brilliant wall paint color idea? It could be a disaster.

It’s true that there are a lot of things that could go wrong when you scheme and dream of crazy/bold/interesting/novel/trendy decor ideas.

But you know what? You could surprise yourself, too. The point is: Don’t rob yourself of the opportunity of delight and beauty by letting the worry that a project could let your expectations down.

(Image credit: Bethany Nauert)

Some tips for battling perfectionism so you don’t stop yourself from beginning:

If your perfectionism is getting in the way of you getting started with decorating authentically (or maybe even just enjoying anything you do), see if any of these tips below help you get out of your own fabulous way.

Take your expectations down a notch

Perhaps one of the easiest ways of fighting against unreasonable expectations of the outcome of a decorating or DIY project is simply to not have them. Difficult, I know. But take that dream idea or inspiration, give your current skills a realistic inventory and aim your expectations a little bit above what you think you can pull and way below a magazine spread.

Get reality checks from trusted friends

If you seem unable to get your perfection-colored glasses off before, during, or after undertaking a bold decor chance, bring a trusted friend into the process to get you a healthy dose of reality. No, you shouldn’t always depend on the validation of others, but occasionally some gentle support can help a perfectionist through their constant self-critical wanderings.

Live with it awhile before you decide it’s awful

The moments after stepping back after completing a decor or DIY idea are vital. Let yourself get swept up in gut-check grief session — a knee-jerk reaction that it’s not perfect or exactly how you envisioned it, and you could be subconsciously telling yourself to never try anything again. Reserve the harsh judgments after you’ve lived with your decor or project idea for a little bit. You’ll be able to observe it more objectively and not let your inital reactions of its imperfection startle you (in fact you might even find you like the imperfect aspects of it).