Ugh. The P word.

Perfectionism is the death of progress. There is a time for incubation and quiet creation. And then there is a time to put it out in the world and see if it flies. And in between the two is where the P word lurks.

"I just want it to be perfect."

How many times has that thought interrupted the birth of a project? How many times has that useless mantra prevented brilliant and inspired ideas from seeing the light of day? What does perfect even mean? You can't draw a picture of it. Or create an excel chart detailing it.

I think what we're really angling for is the point where we don't feel terrified to shove our babies—our ideas, creations, and singular endeavors—out in to the world. Maybe perfectionism is in search of that magical point in which we are certain that we won't be ridiculed or face failure.

But here's the thing: that point doesn't exist. You will be terrified. There is a chance of failure. But that fear and that chance of failure are insignificant in comparison to the mind-blowing, earth-moving joy that can come from sharing your gifts with the world, and the pride in yourself that comes from successful creation.

Creation is an act. And that completed act is a success. Whether or not a project or idea is well received, or profitable, or any other milestone has nothing to do with it's success. Interrupting that act is a disservice to everything that moves you. And there is nothing perfectionism loves to do more than throw a great big pile of nails in front of your creative vehicle.

What if perfection were something that you already had, instead of something you were trying to reach? If you truly believed that you were already perfect, what would you do? What would you create? What would you allow the world to see of yourself?

Take action that supports the perfection you already contain. You'll know when you find it. The alarm bells will sound in your heart and your mind. You'll find yourself waking up and thinking about it. You'll be dying to share it with the world. And once that feeling comes, run with it. Put it out there.

I'll admit that I'm terrified even as I write these words. Terrified of the moment that I'll publish them, and they'll be exposed. I will be exposed. They may not be the very best words ever written. That I can't know. But what I do know is that they will help someone. Maybe even change someone's life. I believe that if I put it out there, someone will have a bit more courage than they did before to put their own creation out into the world. I don't have to be the best, and neither do you. You just have to be your best.

Give Yourself Permission to Be Something Other Than the Best

I remember very clearly the moment that I received my first B+ in grade school. I nearly blew a tiny gasket. I had proudly and desperately collected my straight A's up until this point. My very identity hinged on it. If I wasn't the best, then what was I?

I survived that B+, but it would take me another 17 years to shut down the voice that told me if I couldn't be the best, it wasn't worth doing. Even as I began practicing Buddhist meditation, there was still a mental whisper in the back of my mind telling me "You've got to be the best!" The best...Buddhist? Meditator? It made about as much sense as when I was in kindergarten and wanted to be the best napper. What perpetuated this illness was the fact that our teacher was rewarding the "best nappers" with medallions made of construction paper, featuring a decorative sticker, neatly laminated. Oh how I wanted those medallions. The neurotic napper with the most medallions would garner the distinction of being the Indian Chief in the Thanksgiving assembly. I held my breath during nap time, not daring to move, certainly not daring to actually nap. "Nap" was a term used loosely for this event. It was more like enforced heads down time. Visions of myself in that glorious construction paper headdress held me firm in my mission.

History tells us that I did become the Indian Chief in that assembly. I don't remember much about it. I'm sure I must have been exhausted from all that fake napping. I do remember having a sinking feeling of, "This is it?" I wish that feeling would have blossomed way back then into the understanding that being the best is overrated. Especially when it's being the best by other people's standards.

Here's a revised approach: find what you're passionate about, and then do your best. Let inspiration guide you.

"Just because I'm not a concert pianist, doesn't mean I don't deserve to play the piano if it makes me happy," says one wise woman and client of mine. "Why do we give ourselves so many useless structures? For me it's really about trying to approach everything from that child like place of 'Is this fun and is this inspiring? And does this feel good to me?'"

Giving yourself permission to be less than the best is giving yourself permission to know joy. It is giving yourself permission to truly know yourself and what makes you want to live. To understand the heart of who you are. I can think of few greater wastes of this life than to never know how amazing you are. And amazing has nothing to do with perfect.

Author's Bio: 

Holly McKinley is a certified professional life coach and the founder of The Unconventional Women's Network, which provides community, support, services and inspiration for women who defy convention and live by their own rules. If you are a woman who breaks the mold and dares to live life by her own rules, we would love to have you join our tribe! Visit us at Come on in and stay awhile. Sign up for our free weekly newsletter. We're never boring, and we promise to put a smile on your face.