Perfection is the end not the beginning
I venture that the most important part to any blog would be the actual posts. Too bad I haven’t been writing many. How typically INFP of me.
Considering that INFPs like things open-ended, it’s a bit ironic that we have this tendency towards perfectionism. I want everything to be just right before I dive in, whether it’s finding the perfect time to begin or making sure everything is exactly right before I continue further. Isn’t perfection the end and not the starting point?
Getting things just right meant tweaking the visual design, coming up with a catchy tagline and finding useful WordPress plugins. All of this busy work is meant to give a good first impression so people will read my blog. I guess I should probably write something, huh.
Wanting things to be perfect is why I either don’t start things or I put aside projects. It’s my defense mechanism against failure. I feel that if all my conditions are met whatever endeavor I undertake will have a higher chance of success. The assumption is that perfect conditions exist in some permanent state. What was perfect timing that I missed yesterday might not be good now. Waiting for optimal conditions to cycle around again is just my fear of failing.
When things aren’t perfect, I relegate things to INFP Limbo. At first I get all excited about something and midway through I lose interest and eventually put the project into the limbo of I’ll-finish-it-later. For INFPs, good enough isn’t good enough. INFPs have a certain vision and when my endeavors don’t live up to my expectations, projects fall by the wayside. My biggest excuse is “I’ll finish this project when I have enough to time to do it right.”
However, more time doesn’t automatically equate to better results. Improvements occur only if I’m spending time on the right things. Spending more time with design is nice, but it’s not going to make me a better blogger. My blog is shiny now, but the words don’t work like I intended. I know what I want to say, but I’m not saying it quite right so I don’t end up saying anything at all. I do busy work as if not writing is going to make me a better writer.
Eventually, I remind myself of lessons learned. Five years ago, my wife and I agonized over when to adopt our first daughter. Our excuses were, we didn’t have all the money, our home wasn’t suitable for a child, we were too busy and the list went on. Finally, we realized there would never be a perfect time so we trudged though all the paperwork and turned it in. What we got almost a year later was our daughter.
Often I just have to start and force myself to carry through even though end result might not be what I imagined. Sometimes, it’s better.
Jun 9, 2009
I would dare to say that perfection does not exist at all. It is just some random make up expectation that has no basis in reality at all. But for some reason it ends up being an excuse for not getting things done, and a general source of headaches and heartaches. I’d say trash the whole idea of perfect… it’s not an end result… it’s not even real.
John W Reply:
October 31st, 2016 at 9:29 am
Yep. It’s subjective and one’s perception of it depends on one’s current level of experience, ability and judgement. Almost impossible to catch up with.
Jun 15, 2009
Well, I understand what your definition of perfectionism is.
This is my third attempt at writing a comment. (I usually give up after two.) When I am putting something out there in the world it comes from me. I put myself into everything that I do. I know that I’m not perfect, but I want what I produce to be as close to perfect as I am capable of making it. I identified with you when you said:
” The assumption is that perfect conditions exist in some permanent state. What was perfect timing that I missed yesterday might not be good now. Waiting for optimal conditions to cycle around again is just my fear of failing.”
I frequently think, “Damn, I should have gotten that done yesterday. That was the perfect time to do it.” and then a week goes by before I even attempt to do anything on that project. I also feel that it is a failure defense. It’s as though, “Well, I didn’t really work too much on that… so it’s fine that it didn’t get finished. My heart was never really involved in that anyway.”
Okay, I’ve dove pretty far in now and I’m going to ‘submit comment’ and hope that I don’t sound like a complete idiot.
s’more please. 🙂
Aug 12, 2009
I came across your blog after taking a MBTI test, and just wanted to say that I love your thoughtful posts. Please keep writing! it’s such a comfort to hear about someone else’s experiences with the same tendencies.
Jan 14, 2010
yep, i do the same thing. i want it all to be perfect, because risk is just too scary. i like the last thought too… most of the time, the result is not nearly as bad as i thought it’d be, and sometimes it’s better than i thought!
January 15th, 2010 at 12:55 am
I have to keep reminding of the John Lennon quote, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
As INFPs, we make a lot of plans and forget to live.
Feb 22, 2010
God, this is why I’ve always had trouble finishing and turning in assignments at school :/
Aug 22, 2010
I found that “How to do it best” and “Where to start” or “How to start” are things that keep paralyzing me… no. It drives me crazy AND paralyzes me.
And I end up doing NOTHING at all.
I could get an incredible amount of things but instead I literally waste days… weeks…. months…. trying to figure out the best way to do things.
Like right now, I have to pack up because we’re moving…. and I just have no frikking idea of what to pack together and what to pack first, how to optimize space, reduce the number of boxes, what to pack together because it will go together in my new place…
I am getting nothing done because I have no idea how… so I am not motivated as I feel that I will waste a truckload amount of energy since things won’t be optimized…
Someone kill me.
August 22nd, 2010 at 9:13 pm
I also put things aside to avoid the very unpleasant feeling of craziness caused by total indecision.
I am a very very very strong P… it sucks I keep torturing myself 😐
Jun 7, 2011
Not pressuring you, Corin, but I’ve only recently discovered your blog and really look forward to new posts. And it may make it easier for me to respond if your posts aren’t perfectly crafted! (I relate, though….)
I find that my reaction to being unmotivated is more paralyzing than the lack of motivation itself.
My internal voices are all too ready to yell at me for it. (What is WRONG with you??? Everyone ELSE gets up, gets showered and dressed, and goes to a job every day! WHAT is your problem???)
To protect myself from spiraling downward, I usually dive into a search for an inspiring external solution–that is, a different life that is a better fit for me.
I really can’t even fool myself that the answer is out there in a new job, business for sale, real estate listing, course of study, etc. I sometimes get temporary relief from the anxiety through the search and sometimes I stumble on something of help (like your blog), but mostly the Utopian search is unproductive, and probably keeps me from finding better responses.
What I’m trying to move toward is to replace the internal screaming (“I’m not fit for life and life is not fit for me”) with understanding and loving words: “I understand–you’re feeling unmotivated, lost, and aimless today (or scared/overwhelmed–whatever). Really–that is okay. Just do a little something if you feel like it. Here now, I’ll set the timer and you can just do something–anything–for 15 minutes.”
When I am able to respond to my loss of motivation in that loving way, I get some immediate relief from the anxiety and am usually more productive than when I’m flipping out. And somehow what seemed absolutely unbearable just isn’t that big a deal. So I’m lost today–so what?!
Work in progress.
June 8th, 2011 at 12:48 am
Recently, I found this podcast that’s help me through what you’re going through now. It’s about finding your Creative Self-Expression.
Mar 14, 2012
I’m an INFP and have struggled with perfectionism for years. It really hindered me throughout university and at my first job post-graduation. However, learning when to recognise that I was holding myself to impossible standards has been very freeing and allowed me to enjoy my life a lot more. I always try to remember Leonard Cohen’s lyrics from his song Anthem: ‘Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in’
Mar 18, 2012
I am feeling the same way. It is really holding me back on my school work. It drives me INSANE that i start off with plenty of motivation, but that motivation is directed at planning, and then after all the planning, i lose interest/focus and it gets pushed aside. Then, whatever schoolwork I put off, eventually comes back to me and I think to myself “I could have done a better job if I started ______.” which leads to self deprication, depression, feeling lost, and without hope. I have no idea how to fix this. Like the other poster mentioned, I search for ideas, google for answers, switch career choices, etc etc; as if it’s something external but I know that it is an internal battle. I just don’t know how to go about it. It’s easy to say “Just do it!” but even that doesn’t cut it sometimes. 🙁
Oct 31, 2016
At my present level of experience, ability and judgement: the standard of ‘perfect’ is up around… there. That point. That level. So I try for that, and am either pleasantly surprised or disappointed.
But even if I hit ‘pretty good’, and I surprise myself by achieving a higher standard it doesn’t happily end there.
As we get better at what we do, the bar raises. We raise it even without knowing it. Something I did a year ago that I thought was a new high in terms of quality, now might not look so good, because I’m at a different level now and expecting more.
Sometimes I really envy the more mediocre of the hobbyist Sunday Painters, who happily slosh away, “expressing themselves” unaware of how poor their work actually is. They’ll happily keep working away at the same level, never developing the critical faculties sufficiently to perceive the difference between their work and that of good artists.
As a side-note, Leonardo DaVinci was a chronic procrastinator. He produced relatively little artwork in his lifetime partly due to procrastination and partly due to scattered interests. An impatient Pope asked one of his people if Da Vinci had commenced his painting commission, and if nit, why not? He was told that Da Vinci was still trying to formulate a new varnish he would apply to the finished picture–before actually painting anything. “What kind of an artist is this Da Vinci, that he thinks of the end before thie beginning?”