If you are a true creative — someone prone to perfectionism — then you are rarely pleased with your work. It always feels incomplete, unfinished. Never quite good enough. You are constantly disappointed. And that’s okay. It’s normal.
But I have to tell you: You are being too hard on yourself.
If you are new to the creative process — vocationally, I mean — then you are most likely feeling frustrated… all the time.
When you’re just getting started — whether you make videos or write stories or design websites — you battle the voices of self-doubt that tell you that you have no business doing this, that you should stop before you embarrass yourself.
Those voices are WRONG.
So why do you do this?
Because you are a creative. And quite frankly, you can’t help it.
In your mind, you see the project in its ideal form. It’s what the Greeks referred to as the “essences.” In some ways, you will never achieve that level of perfection you see in your mind. On paper (or on film or whatever), it will always seem like something’s missing.
And that’s because art is never finished. It’s the nature of the creative process.
But when you’re beginning as a creative professional, there is something else at play. There’s a reason you have that nagging, “never good enough” feeling about your work.
It’s because it’s true.
The problem is this feeling can lead to despair. Which can tempt you to quit. And that’s the one you thing can not do. (Regardless of how much you think your work sucks.)
There is no magic formula for overcoming this feeling of not good enough. In fact, it’s worth celebrating. It means you probably have good taste. There are three actions to take when your work doesn’t match your expectations:
1. Give yourself grace
Give yourself room to fail. Failure is a gift. It’s your ally.
In this season — in which you are less famous than you will one day be — be grateful for the opportunity to fail without a million people watching you. Take advantage of it. Try things that you wouldn’t dare do if you had a stadium full of fans.
And give yourself lots of grace. Forgive yourself when you create something horrendous (because you might). Laugh at yourself. This is all part of the process. In some cultures, this is called “practice.” See it for what it is, and embrace it.
2. Create anyway
You’re not a creative, because of the accolades you get for your work. At least, I hope not.
You’re a creative, because you love to create.
So do what you love, what you were made to do.
You will get better. I promise.
3. Stop beating yourself up
Be kind to yourself.
Stop tearing yourself a new one every time you listen to your demo. Stop beating yourself up in front of an audience before you speak. Stop apologizing at the beginning of every blog post.
We didn’t pay (our money, time or attention) to hear your self-effacing remarks. They aren’t causing us to admire you or even pity you. They just make us want to leave.
Let’s name this. It isn’t humility; it’s low self-esteem. And it’s unattractive. Stop it.
This feeling of never feeling like your work is good enough is common. In fact, I’m not sure that it ever fully goes away. But as a creative, you have to learn how to deal with it, or it will destroy you.
At the same time, realize that not everyone feels this way. Not everyone is like you. Consider that this feeling of dissatisfaction may, in fact, be a gift — if you can learn to manage it well.
Take a moment to watch this video that inspired this post:
How do you deal with this feeling of being not good enough? Share in the comments.
*Photo credit: Flickr (Creative Commons)