Perfection Paralysis

 Many people strive to be perfect. Social norms push people to have this belief that we are less than if everything isn't perfect. Trying to reach perfection can be paralyzing, and most of the time, we do nothing.

Do you know what perfection paralysis is?

A defense mechanism. It protects you from being seen as less than or not seen as entirely perfect. Feelings are complex, and perfectionism paralysis could be similar to the fear of rejection. Don't expect to win the first prize trophy the first time you do something. Practice doesn't make you perfect. Practice makes you better. Better than you were the first day you started. The work you produce the first year you are an instructional designer will probably be a little embarrassing the fifth year in your career (keep a copy to compare). This is called growth, and it's the best part of life.

Perfectionism paralysis comes in many forms for instructional designers:

  1. Primarily the Inability to start
  2. Fear of putting your work out there for feedback
  3. Stagnation
  4. Stress and anxiety because perfection is unattainable

As a child, you were probably told to do your best, and over time many people take that simple guidance and transform it to the need to be perfect. I have seen new instructional designers get stuck on the need to be perfect the first time they never take action, which prevents them from doing anything to work towards their goal or work behind the scenes to make it perfect for its debut. They finally have reached their level of perfection they are comfortable sharing, and guess what..... there is always feedback. The person feels deflated because it wasn't perfect. Perfect is an unattainable goal, so be SMART.

Instructional design is an iterative process; there is no perfect. Whether you are new to the field, been in the field for 5, 10, or 15 years, there is no such thing as perfect. Do your best at the time, and your work skill will only get better.

Comparison is the thief of joy. Comparing your work to the work others can prevent you from even starting, but you will not get better if you never try.

So here are some tips for overcoming perfectionism paralysis:

  1. Work toward the best for now rather than perfection
  2. Take small actionable steps
  3. Do not over analyze
  4. Celebrate the feedback that helps you get better
  5. Seek mentorship
  6. Set a deadline

'A goal without a plan is just a wish.' (Antoine De Saint-Exupery)

I know it is easier said than done, but this is coming from a recovering perfectionist who realized the most important thing is to get the work started to get feedback to become better.

 

Written by: Tabatha Dragonberry

Connect with Tabatha on LinkedIn.

Tabatha is an EdTech entrepreneur, instructional designer, content writer, and educator dedicated to developing interactive and engaging learning ecosystems. She has a passion for gamification, learning experience design, and the integration of social learning to improve learner engagement and knowledge retention. Also, she is a respiratory therapist who hosts The Vent Room podcast providing a little inspiration to respiratory therapists.

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