The Fantasy of Perfection

Let’s talk about perfectionism.

I’ve always worn the badge of perfectionist proudly, thinking of it as a testament to my attention to detail and strong work ethic. Until recently, I didn’t understand that there was anything wrong with that, or that it may actually be holding me back creatively. 

It was reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown that I realized it may be time to shift my mindset. This past year of transition with the Bicyclette brand has been filled with revelations such as this.

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s book on creativity, Big Magic, she says:

“The most evil trick about perfectionism, though, is that it disguises itself as a virtue…I think perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat, pretending to be elegant when actually it’s just terrified.”

When I started to examine this idea in the context of my own journey, I saw how relevant it was. I often experience anxiety when I start a new creative project, and the bigger the project or the more unknown the territory is, the more intense the anxiety. That often leads to procrastination, or even worse, abandoning an idea altogether. 

If I have any thread of fear about a project - that I'm in over my head, that I might not be able to execute my vision, that I don't have the right tools, that someone else can probably do it better than me, then I become adept at making excuses, at dreaming up all the reasons why it can't or shouldn’t happen. 

Because there’s one little thought that continues to run through my head: What if I fail?

This was the reality of my past year. I was in unknown territory after closing the boutique. What I thought had been my big dream and what I had spent so long building was no longer, and all of a sudden I was adrift, without intention or purpose. And I was terrified to start something new, because what if I “failed” again? 

I yearned for a clear path of what to do next, I wanted to be able to identify what the next iteration of Bicyclette was so that I knew how to move forward. I had this idea that whatever was next for the brand, I wanted it to be wrapped up in a pretty, “perfect” package, and I wanted it to happen immediately. I wanted to be able to announce that yes, the boutique had closed, but now I was doing this new and equally amazing thing over here. But because I didn’t know what that was, it kept me from doing anything at all. I just became frustrated with myself, and fell into a downward spiral inside my own head, which is not an ideal situation for sparking creativity. 

So instead, I made an effort to shift my thinking.

Instead of perfection, what if I focused on nurturing exploration, experimentation, and play? What if I paid attention to what I loved to do? To when I was the happiest? To the moments brought me the most joy?

I started taking on projects without any clear path of where they would lead or how they would fit into my next business model. I said yes to opportunities that felt outside of my comfort zone and learned to love the challenge. I styled shoots and wrote blog posts just because I wanted to. I paid attention to what I felt passionate about and what got me excited. 

And it worked. 

Once I gave myself free reign to play and to create without any particular agenda, I began to enjoy the process instead of fearing it. It became less about striving for perfection. 

I still get a little anxious every time I have a photo shoot or new project in front of me. It's the pressure, it's the pursuit of creativity, of bringing my vision to life. But it’s a challenge I’ve grown to value and embrace.

And in a way, that's also one of the reasons why I decided to launch the styled photo packs with the reintroduction of the newsletter. Practice. Playing. Setting aside an afternoon every month that allows me to try out ideas and see where they lead, without having to abide by certain project specs or deliver to a client. It challenges me as a creative.

I was scared when I launched the new website. I’m nervous about sending out this newsletter. And half a year ago, I likely would have come up with an excuse about it not being good enough, or about not being strong enough as a writer. Because when you get right down to it, perfectionism is motivated by the fear of what people will think. Instead, I’ve opted to put something out there before it’s perfect. Because at least it’s out there. And as a bonus, I get to invite you on this journey and to gather feedback along the way, to make it even better, to build that community.

So here’s my question to you: Does any part of this resonate with you? 

I think in our quest for perfection, we often forget to enjoy the process. But what if you gave yourself permission to play? What if you just did that thing you’ve been wanting to do, whatever it is, without waiting for the “perfect” time, or the “perfect” circumstances?

That’s my challenge to you - just try it.

Those of you who are on my newsletter list will recognize this post from Tuesday's letter. I've been going back and forth on whether or not I'm going to post the newsletters on the blog as well, so I figured for this first week, I'd share it on both and see how that feels. And as always, I appreciate your feedback, so feel free to leave a comment, message me on social media, or send me an email and let me know your thoughts. And since this may be the only newsletter that is posted here, I'd recommend signing up for the newsletter if you like this kind of content and don't want to miss next week's letter. Plus - free styled stock photos!