Jeff Finley

Let's Talk About Perfectionism - Finley Fridays #18

Published 2 months ago • 5 min read

Hey Reader,

Today I want to talk about perfectionism. As I write this, I'm already noticing it rear its ugly head as I delete and rewrite this intro. Let's just get into it.

I had another productive week creatively. Meaning I got a lot done that I wanted to get done. Not that productivity is the goal, but I accomplished what I set out to do. That feels good.

I added two more BOXOMYLK albums to my Bandcamp page. Bringing the total to nine full albums. This isn't new music, it's old stuff from 2000-2005, but it's been sitting on my hard drive for nearly 20 years and I never put it out until now.

And we recorded the sixth episode of We Should Be Working on Monday and posted episode four to the feeds. Win!

This looks a lot like what I shared last week. That's the point. The key here is the consistency and routine. It helps build momentum that makes it easier to keep doing the thing.

Another thing I noticed is that I reduced how much I'm consuming other people's content. I made a conscious effort to be in "my world" and focus on my own creations. This helps alleviate perfectionism because I feel quite satisfied with myself for my own sake. I don't need the approval of others as much.

I also wondered how was I so prolific back then?

How did I make hundreds of songs, even though they're kinda "shitty" by modern music standards? A few reasons...

  1. I was still new, I was allowed to suck.
  2. It was a hobby, no serious expectations.
  3. Smaller, local social circle of friends to share with.
  4. I wasn't trying to appeal to music taste-makers.
  5. DIY punk and folk shows. If they could do it, why can't I?

It was also a distraction from my actual work. Heh, we should be working amirite?

I've written before about how I struggle with perfectionism, but I won't go into too much detail here. It's just that I can get hyper-fixated on smoothing out any and all imperfections in myself and my work.

15 Tips for Dealing with Perfectionism:

Perfectionism can be so frustrating and debilitating. Here are some strategies for how I deal with it:

Focus on showing up, not the results. Try not to get hyper-fixated on the results. Make your finish line just showing up and doing the thing.

Lower the bar. Stop comparing yourself to the best of the best. Surround yourself with people on your level, not at some far end of the spectrum. Sure, you can admire the work of the greats, but stop comparing your work to theirs. If that's all you see, you'll never feel like your work is good enough.

Allow for mistakes. It's okay to mess up. It's okay to release something to the public that is unfinished or has a bug. It's okay to have a typo. It's okay to leave more to be desired. It's okay to admit you were wrong and changed your mind. You don't have to have it all figured out right now.

Shitty is Pretty. This is a scan of an old magazine article talking about overproducing and over-polishing your work. Listening back to my old tunes, so much of it was shitty. If I made any of this today, I probably wouldn't release it because I'd think it's too "cringe" or whatever. Especially ones where I sing. But listening back now, I'm like, dang I'm glad I made all this. If I ironed-out all imperfections, it would lose some of the charm.

Stop focusing on your deficiencies. Seriously. If you look in the mirror and see imperfections, just tell yourself "That's my personality!" Try focusing on the feeling of acceptance and allowing things to be just as they are. It's uncomfortable to sit with "perceived" imperfection. This is related to OCD and skin picking behaviors which I also deal with.

Have a routine. It reduces thinking and analysis. Your muscle memory and momentum from previous attempts starts to work in your favor.

Just start? Easy. Finishing? Hard! I can get started on any creative project, but getting it to a point where I'm satisfied enough to release it, that's another problem. Music producer ill.Gates speaks a lot about learning how to finish projects.

Give yourself a timer. Just give yourself an hour and try to finish something in that time. This helps prevent overthinking and over polishing.

Deadlines help. It gives you structure so you can procrastinate as much as you want and then cram at the end if that's your style. But it prevents you from endlessly tinkering and finessing. It's never gonna be perfect.

Done is better than perfect. Release it. Post it. Share it. Now you can start on another cool idea.

Appreciate your own point of view. If you find yourself consuming and trusting other people's opinions more than your own I recommend you take a break. Try practicing being in your own point of view for awhile. After you watch a movie, decide what YOU think about it before you go reading what they say on Reddit.

There's always the next thing. In sports, there's always the next shot. The next game. The next season. When you lose, you're told to grieve or mourn the loss, then flush it and move on. Get ready for the next opponent. In art, there's always the next project. I would tell my old band mates when they were hyper focused on minor details in a song we were working on, that it was just ONE song out of hundreds would eventually write. It doesn't mean much.

Work with other people. When you aren't solely focused on yourself, you can get a lot of additional satisfaction from helping your collaborators when they're stuck. Or letting them help you. This makes the entire process more meaningful instead of just the output.

Reduce your identification with the work. It can be easy to over-identify with your work as a representation of you. Therefore criticism often feels like a personal attack. Especially if you have been praised for your work in the past or wounded from criticism.

Reduce your focus to you and your local environment. Sometimes if we spend too much time on the internet, immersed in other people's content, we can feel ungrounded and out of touch with what's real. It helps to pull back and focus on our local environment and the people in our physical reality. Judge yourself for how well you are showing up in your physical 3D life instead of living up to some ideal.

I'll leave you with this PDF from Pete Walker. Pete's one of my favorite authors who writes about perfectionism and dealing with a strong inner critic. I recommend all his books.

“Perfectionism also prevents us from letting in the love of others, no matter how abundant and genuine it is. When we are preoccupied with our deficiencies, we are often untouched by the nurturance others offer us. How tragic that so many of us are convinced we only deserve to be loved when we are happy or excelling.”

Have a good weekend ✌️


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Jeff Finley

Personal Growth for Creators

I'm an artist, designer, music producer, author, and mystic with a passion for truth and personal growth. I like to share what I'm working on and working through each week, highlighting my creative pursuits and providing tips, tools, and resources for fellow creators.

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