Breaking the bonds of perfectionism

Those who read my blog regularly know that I recently started my own photography business, and just last week I had my first client (who, by the way, was thrilled with the pictures!) But what you don’t know is that about a month ago, I almost gave it all up.  I was feeling incredibly discouraged regarding my abilities and it seemed like I’d never “get it right.”  Like many firstborns, I tend to have a strong leaning toward perfectionism. And like many perfectionists, I’ve always had the tendency to give up if I couldn’t do things perfectly. It’s not that I didn’t know it would take time to learn something, it’s that if it took too long and I didn’t feel like I was learning it fast enough, I wanted to quit. This is what happened that day when I wanted give up. I was discouraged, upset, and ready to throw in the towel (if you’re not a perfectionist, you wont understand why I’d want to quit so soon. If you are, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.) I was tired of trying (for all of two months) and not getting it “right.” And I hated that I couldn’t compare with what others could do (never mind the fact that I was trying to compare with people who are the best in the business and have been doing this for years and years!)

Photography isn’t the only place where this type of perfectionism has reared it’s ugly head. Until somewhat recently, I hated trying new things in the kitchen. When I did try something new, I made everyone around me miserable because of my need to follow each recipe EXACTLY. By that I mean that a teaspoon of salt must be leveled before poured in the mix, a “medium” egg should not be used if the recipe calls for a “large” egg, and something that is supposed to cook at 350 cannot go into the oven with something cooking at 400. (In truth, I still do this to some extent, but thanks to the sage words of my mother-in-law [“you’re not getting graded on it!”], I’m getting better.)

The thing about trying to be perfect is that it often keeps us from even trying. Just the other day, a friend and I were talking about how she hasn’t tried to sew anything for about five years because the first outfits she made were so difficult for her. How sad that we give up something we might really enjoy simply because we couldn’t “get it right” the first time!

That day, when I was feeling so discouraged, I asked my husband to pray for me regarding my desire to give up. I knew that by giving in to my frustration I would only be hurting myself. The truth is that I love taking pictures and I needed to give myself permission to make mistakes. Just before my first paid photo shoot, I read something that impacted me greatly. You can read the entire article Here, but for now, I’ll quote the words that gave me so much hope that day when I was dreading my upcoming shoot. She writes:

“The next morning I told JD I quit photography. Honest. Hand to heaven. I quit and swore to never return. Because, really, I messed up THAT badly. Then JD reminded me that this was supposed to happen. I was supposed to fail. And learn. And cry. Because that’s what the process of building a business is all about.”

These words have given me the confidence to move forward, no matter the results. I refuse to be a slave to my own desire for perfection. I refuse to stop doing something I love just because I might do it badly. The only way to learn is to keep trying, right? After all, I’m not being graded on it!

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9 Responses to Breaking the bonds of perfectionism

  1. Mrs. Parunak says:

    So true! I’m a firstborn, too, and I can really relate! I’ve been struggling with gardening perfectionism right now as I put my garden in. I have to keep reminding myself that my little “olive plants” are more important than my vegetables. I can’t let perfectionism get in the way of being flexible, and joyful, and loving with my children. And I can’t let a few trampled pea plants or a few radishes picked too early make me want to give up until my empty nest years.

    • Rina says:

      Mrs. P, I like your idea to put Proverbs 17:1 up on your kitchen wall. That’s a great reminder.
      Rachel, that’s a great point about perfectionism being another form of pride!
      Quinn, I don’t know how to sew zippers, either! :)
      Karin, thank you for your encouragement.
      Sarah, I think two perfectionists in a marriage is only a bad thing if they both expect each other to be perfect! ;)

  2. Karin says:

    Good for you for not giving in. Asking your husband to pray was probably one of the best things you could have done because you know who was really the one hoping you’d quit ~ the Devil himself. I understand about being a perfectionist. I’m trying to remember that God does not require perfection~just our best efforts.
    Continued success in your photography and God Bless!

  3. Quinn says:

    So what you’re telling me is that I should try to learn to sew zippers again? ;D

    Great post – thanks a million from one recovering perfectionist to another.

  4. Rachel says:

    I struggle with perfectionism, too. It can be so frustrating and it invades every area of my life. I has caused me to quit a lot of different things. A friend of mine and I were talking about it and she asked me, what are you trying to prove with your perfectionism? I realized that it’s all about being “good enough.” Which, of course, I never can be. We had this massive revelation that perfectionism is really about pride. It has really helped me to look at many things in a very different light. Thanks for blogging about this. I might have to, too!

  5. Sarah D. says:

    Both my husband, Danny, and I are firstborns (I read somewhere that that is a bad combination!). Danny is much more of a perfectionist, though, than I am. I think he has enough perfectionist for both of us! =) Anyway, I understand completely where you are coming from. Thank you for this post! =)

  6. Elena says:

    I’m so glad you didn’t give up photography, Rina, and I hope sincerely that this activity gives you strenght in other areas where you may feel insecure.
    You are in my thoughts and prayers, although I’m still a disaster at it.

    • Rina says:

      Elena, you’re not a disaster! You’re accomplishing something each time you take your prayers to God, whether you “feel” it or not. I appreciate your prayers on my behalf more than I can say.

  7. Jerri says:

    Rina, this is a great post and reminder to me not to be a slave to perfectionism. That is totally an area that I struggle with!

    By the way, I have a blog award for you over at Jerri’s Journey!