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Cover image for Let's Talk About Perfectionism

Let's Talk About Perfectionism

alexlsalt profile image Alex Morton Updated on ・2 min read

This post was originally published on September 1, 2020 on my blog.

The thing about perfectionism - in coding, or really anything - is that it doesn't leave any room for creativity, spontaneity, or messy inspiration. Instead, it stifles all of these wonderful things.

Essentially, it creates a lot of unnecessary pressure when really we should be wanting to enjoy the juiciness of a tough problem or simply the sharp ambiguity of not knowing how to do something as we take step after step to figure it out and gradually close the gap between what we know and what we don't.

If I really stop to think about it, my favorite moments are when I figure something out that's been puzzling me for some time.

But when that feeling of wanting something to be perfect (even before I start in on it) stops me in my tracks because 'I don't know how to do it, so I'm not even going to try' - that inevitable future moment of discovery dissolves into nothing.

I don't know. It just feels like we've been brought up to be afraid to make mistakes, but I've always said that mistakes, especially in coding and learning something new, are the fast track to cementing any lesson in and ultimately getting there faster.

If you catch yourself wanting something to be perfect, take a step back and an objective look at what you have on your hands. If you were looking at this for the first time, what would you think of it? Is it good enough? Good. Ship it and move on the next thing.


P.S. Did you know I have a podcast with new episodes each Wednesday? Go listen right over here >>

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shadowphoenix profile image
Rose

I think it's the mindset behind the "type" of perfectionism you have that ultimately decides whether it works with you or against you.

Personally, I have the type where I want to discover if there is a better solution out there than then the one I made. For example, I still vividly remember working on a school project in C# working with all sorts of lists. I don't remember the context exactly, but I do recall that I felt like there was something better out there. That is how I discovered the Dictionary Class (or Maps in Java) that significantly increased the performance of my software.

You could argue that the example above is related to curiousity, but I'd beg to differ. Still, I think if you put the perfectionism to good use, it could work to your advantage, rather than disadvantage. :)

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alexlsalt profile image
Alex Morton Author

This is a good point, Rose! The type of perfectionism I'm talking about here is not even starting something because we don't know how to do it and we're already down on ourselves simply because we don't know. But that's precisely backwards when the only way we'll learn is by doing, making mistakes, and ultimately correcting the mistakes!

Another type of disabling perfectionism I've both experienced and encountered is the type that prevents us from shipping and showcasing our projects (i.e. not being good enough or "perfect" and so we're hesitant to share what we've created).

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shadowphoenix profile image
Rose

I must admit, I've experienced these types of perfectionism as well. That is where I put the mindset to use.

The type of perfectionism I'm talking about here is not even starting something because we don't know how to do it and we're already down on ourselves simply because we don't know. But that's precisely backwards when the only way we'll learn is by doing, making mistakes, and ultimately correcting the mistakes!

This is where I would utilise the mindset the most. Like you're saying, you know that the only way to learn is to go out and do it, make the mistakes, and get back up again. Whenever I feel this perfectionism coming up, I usually take a step back. I'll figure out what I have to learn and try to find the step before the learning curve, something that I do know and where I do feel confident. Then, I'll try to implement that before step and use the momentum of confidence to pull myself over the perfectionism obstacle.

Another type of disabling perfectionism I've both experienced and encountered is the type that prevents us from shipping and showcasing our projects (i.e. not being good enough or "perfect" and so we're hesitant to share what we've created).

The Dutch in me makes me very pragmatic in this perfectionism regard: Just don't give a flippo. I am proud of what I build knowing what I've gone through to make it happen. I totally understand that it's not as easy as that for others, and I suppose it takes trial and error to harden up for it. Looking for positive communities like here at Dev certainly helps boost confidence. Furthermore, any criticism I face, I try to rephrase what's been said into constructive feedback. Criticism won't help you forward, but constructive feedback does. ^^