Perfectionism is paralyzing you. Here’s what you can do about it
The only way to achieve your goals is through imperfection.

I’ve been a perfectionist my entire life. Whether it’s taking five hours to complete a 200-word essay or rewriting an opinion article six times to make sure it’s exactly how I want it to be (this one’s my sixth attempt), I’ve always been haunted by the spectre of perfectionism. To me, a piece of work isn’t worth anything if it’s not perfect—if that’s even possible. But I’m slowly learning that the pedestal of perfectionism isn’t worth striving for. 

This is because perfectionism is paralyzing. Perfectionism drains the enthusiasm out of me, causing me to procrastinate whatever task I need to get done. It makes me want to cozy up in my comfort zone and not risk looking into the face of failure. But with a full course load and multiple deadlines to meet each week, I know that perfectionism won’t get me very far. Thankfully, I’ve learned a few tips to combat perfectionism. Here are some that have helped me:

Be a Failure

Mike Tyson said it best: “In order to be a master, you have to be a fool at first.” If you want to achieve certain ambitions, accepting failure and criticism is an inevitable part of the process. The saying, “Mistakes are the best way to learn” is popular for good reason. The way I see it, a mistake is like a good friend. It nudges you toward the right direction and reminds you of how not to do things. 

For me, one of the most difficult parts about making mistakes is the thought of the judgement I might receive. But I remember this: the people who actually care about me will only give me genuine, heartfelt advice. They want to see me grow and improve and won’t criticize me for failing.

Jump in the Pool

Guy Allen, my Finance and Writing professor, once told me, “The best way to get an assignment done is to just jump in the pool and start swimming.” 

This means that the best way to finish that essay you’ve been procrastinating doing for the past week is to just do it. No hesitation allowed. Even if you don’t have a perfectly formed idea of how to approach it, just start writing. Think of it as a brain-dump: whatever comes to mind, write it down, even if it makes no sense. You can edit it later. 

This technique has helped me minimize perfectionism and procrastination by helping me avoid overthinking unnecessary details. Not only do I save hours of my time with this technique, but I also produce a much stronger, more genuine piece of work. 

Silence the Inner Critic

I compare myself to other writers a lot. I read their work and wonder where they get all their creative and unique ideas from. Like the fear of failure, comparison drains the motivation out of me and prevents me from writing anything at all—because what’s the point if I won’t sound as good as them? 

But I’ve learned that sometimes it takes another pair of eyes to point out the true quality of your work. I discovered this during an office hours meeting with Professor Allen. I came to him to get advice on a recent assignment I’d turned in. I was disheartened at how bad it was—or so I thought. 

“This is a good piece of writing,” Professor Allen surprised me by saying. “It just needs some minor improvements.”

I had thought it was a low-quality piece of writing. I never expected someone else to actually praise it.

“I guess I just underestimate myself,” I said. 

“I agree,” he said. 

It turns out that the biggest critic of myself is actually me. I tend to create imaginary barriers in my mind, which hinder me from giving value to my work. These barriers must be demolished if I want to grow as a writer. The only other option is stagnancy.  

So, I’ll tell you this: your work isn’t as bad as you think it is. There might be other people who dream of having your ideas and abilities.

These are some tips that have helped me as a perfectionist. Although I’m still not where I want to be, I’ve definitely improved with practice. If you’re a perfectionist like me, I hope you realize that you can only achieve your goals through imperfection. 

Staff Writer (Volume 50) — Maryam is a third-year student completing a double major in English and Professional Writing & Communication. She started her journey with The Medium in 2022, where she’s written articles for News, Opinion, Features, and Sports. In her spare time, Maryam enjoys painting, cooking, and finding creative ways to educate people about world issues that matter to her.


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