The Fear of Imperfection

Don't let the fear of not doing something right hold you back. You ARE good enough!

“When perfectionism is driving, shame is riding shotgun, and fear is that annoying backseat driver.” — Brene Brown

Are you afraid of not being good enough?

You are suffering from Atelophobia, the fear of imperfection or not doing something right. Although the word may be new to you, I’ll bet the following alternate forms are painfully familiar:

  • Perfectionism

  • Impostor Syndrome

Most people think perfectionism is a drive to be your best, but it’s actually driven by the fear of failure. Your work is never good enough, so you keep it hidden... unpublished. Better that then to be exposed as an amateur or an outright fraud.

When you finally muster the courage to share your work, impostor syndrome rears its ugly head. Everyone else seems so much better. How can you even dare to compete?

Alas, there is no cure for Atelophobia. When it flares up in any form, remember the following powerful truths.

Everyone suffers from feelings of inadequacy. I suspect this condition developed as a drive for us to be better. A simple change in perception can recast that feeling of inadequacy to a desire for improvement.

Voltaire once wrote, the “best is the enemy of the good.” Reflect often on this old, Italian proverb. It can be the governor on your desire to achieve perfection.

Ideas and products need feedback to get better. The sooner the better. You are an audience of one and heavily biased in favor of or against your own work. Find people who can provide constructive criticism.

Continuous improvement is the path to great works. It weeds out the worst and refines the best. You do this yourself with every edit and adjustment. Magnify its effect by building in public among your friends and peers.

You ARE good enough. Take the wheel and prove it with every act.

Some people just deal with the fear of inadequacy, failure and being imperfect better than others. Developing confidence and pride in your work is like strengthening a muscle. The stronger it gets, the less Atelophobia affects you.

Treat dealing with Atelophobia as a skill. That means you need a lot of practice doing what is uncomfortable:

  • Create many crappy first drafts.

  • Put your work in front of others early and often.

  • Set a hard limit on how much tinkering and editing you do on unpublished work.

  • Continuously iterate on your published work.

Before long, releasing often and working in public will become second nature.