Why Your Work Never Feels Good Enough

All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.
–Ira Glass

If you are a creative, someone prone to perfectionism and driving yourself slightly mad, then you are rarely, if ever, pleased with your work.

Never Good Enough
Photo credit: Flick (Creative Commons)

It always feels incomplete, unfinished, and never quite good enough. And that’s okay. Heck, it’s even normal. But I have to tell you: You’re being too hard on yourself.

If you’re new, or maybe not so new, to the creative process, then frustration is most likely a constant companion. When you’re just getting started, whether you make videos or write stories or design websites, you are regularly battling the voices of self-doubt.

They tell you that you have no business doing this, that you should stop before you embarrass yourself. And those voices are wrong.

The reason behind your insecurity

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 your art is never finished.

But when you’re beginning as a creative, 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. But there are a few things you can do to work through this feeling and still get the job done.

Here are three actions to take when your work doesn’t match your expectations:

Give yourself grace

Failure is a gift. It’s your ally. In this season of life, in which you are less famous than you may be some day, be grateful for the opportunity to fail without millions tuning in.

Take advantage of anonymity. Try things you wouldn’t dare do if you had a stadium full of fans (and critics).

And don’t forget to 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. It’s called “practice” for a reason. See it for what it is, and embrace this time of not-good-enough to get better.

Create, anyway

You’re not creative because of the accolades you get. You’re creative because you love to create. So do what you love, what you were made to do, and try to do it well.

But whatever you do, don’t wait. Don’t hold your work back from the world. If you keep shipping, if you keep creating and sharing what you’ve made, it will get better. I promise.

Stop beating yourself up

Be kind to yourself. Stop tearing yourself a new one every time you listen to that 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. Please stop it. This feeling of never feeling good enough is common. 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 this: your feeling of dissatisfaction may, in fact, be a gift, if you can see it that way and learn to manage it.

How do you deal with this feeling of being not good enough? Share in the comments.

180 thoughts on “Why Your Work Never Feels Good Enough

  1. Well, I’m a bit late to the reply party, but this article came at a great time for me.

    Genuinely thank you.

  2. Thanks for this tip I’m working on a poetry book and a novel right now felt what you wrote about

  3. I’m not a writer or trying to be one but, I try to create art forms and have been having a lot of problems dealing with my perfectionism and seeing others working in the same medium do so much better than I. It’s a bit of comfort knowing I’m not alone and that what I’m feeling is normal, although it doesn’t make it better. You given me some good points to look back at and hopefully someday soon I can at least put the hate of my own work in the background and move forward more smoothly. Thank you

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