I Want to Punch Perfection in the Face

I Want to Punch Perfection in the Face

I don’t usually talk about punching things. I’m usually a gentle writer and thinker, but perfection pisses me off. It gets in the way of the best experiences, great creative work, potential relationships and self-improvement. Perfection reminds us that we are not good enough and that we will never do enough, have enough or be loved for exactly who we are. Knowing that, I am sure you understand why I want to punch perfection in the face.

When I think about the artists that never share their work because they can’t get it just right, the mothers that never ask for help because they don’t want anyone to know that they don’t have it all figured out and the couples that never meet because one person didn’t have the perfect introduction, I go crazy. Perfection can be paralyzing for some and a minor inconvenience for others, but unless we all agree to punch perfection in the face, we will miss out on so much.

7 Ways to Punch Perfection in the Face

  • Look forward to pleasing the right people instead of all the people. It’s not your job to make everyone happy. Your ideas, words, and actions in life or work will never please everyone. Shift your expectations and intentions and revel in the beauty of offering something that makes one person smile.
  • Ask for help. You can’t do it all and if you really want to enjoy life, you don’t want to do it all. Offer your advice and skills to others, and lean back for support where you need it most. Hire professionals. Call friends. Email experts. You are not alone.
  • Stop Comparing. Your life experience is as unique as your definition of success. When you can truly stop comparing, you can figure out what that definition is. You can take time to ask important questions like “What really makes me happy?” “What will I contribute to the world?” “What is enough for me?”
  • Do less. My dad always told me never to order pizza at a seafood restaurant or seafood at a pizza place. Specialize in one thing or a few things instead of trying to be good at everything.
  • Support imperfection. Hold the constructive criticism and be gentler with the people around you. Celebrate the best qualities in your loved ones and identify what’s most important. We are the toughest on the people we love the most. They deserve better.
  • Give yourself permission to fall apart. We admire composure and work to hold it all together all the time.  If you need to lay down and cry, throw a temper tantrum or write about punching things, do it. Embrace your human nature to rise and fall and fail and get back up.
  • Do it anyway. You are not perfect. Your work isn’t perfect. Your life isn’t perfect. So what? Go on … jump in.

When I asked some of my friends how they punch perfection in the face, here is what they had to say …

Paul Jarvis, Author of Everything I Know
What I learned through 16 years of web designing and 3 years of writing is that perfectionism and launching run in opposite directions. You can’t have both and I want one more than the other.

Rob Young, Consultant and Founder of The Hundred Dollar Club
I tend to find perfection only becomes a problem when I’m debating whether something is good enough to launch to the public or it’s intended audience, so that’s my focus. To help me punch it in the face, I remind myself:1% of anything, is better than 100% of nothing – you have to put something out there before you can get any return on it. If you’re waiting for perfection, then the very desire to do the best you can is preventing you from getting any results at all.

Brooke Berman, Playwright and Author of No Place Like Home: A Memoir in 39 Apartments
I don’t believe in perfection! Honestly. And I’m easier on myself as a writer than I am as a mom or a human. I believe in imperfect work — I believe in sending things out for feedback as soon as they’re finished. I err on the side of “hasty.” But then, as a playwright, I’m lucky because whatever I write will go through a development process — feedback from actors, from theaters; I’ll get to hear it aloud and refine and rewrite until production. But in general, I think a piece of writing can be imperfect for a time. I wish I could find the same grace in other areas of my life.

Andy Chirch, Consultant turning dreaming into doing at Prolificate
I finally punched perfection in the face – or broke out of ‘perfection prison’ and actually did it. I left an unsatisfying job, started a consulting business and am writing the book I’ve always known I could. For years this idea had languished in my mind, on bits of paper, and journal entries on my laptop because it wasn’t “perfect” yet. Now that I’ve let go of the need for it to be perfect, it’s no longer an idea. It is reality. Instead of working on someone else’s dream, I get to make my own and it feels amazing.

Tammy Strobel, from Rowdy Kittens and Author of You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap)
This is such a difficult question because it’s a constant struggle for me. If I don’t strive for perfection I feel like I’m not trying hard enough. In our workaholic culture the term “good enough” has a connotation for ineffectiveness. For example, I’ve been working on a blog post for the last few weeks on car ownership. It isn’t done yet because I keep trying to make the essay perfect and that isn’t helping. To combat perfection I give myself deadlines. I will publish my post this week, whether it’s perfect or not. Giving myself deadlines helps curb my perfectionist tendency.

While I was thinking about punching perfection in the face, I was brainstorming titles for this post like “Perils of perfection and how to embrace your beautiful flaws” and “When perfection is paralyzing”. They were perfect titles on perfection. Then I remembered I wasn’t perfect and called it exactly what it is.

I am so grateful that I am not perfect. The opposite of perfection is not flawed or broken. The opposite of perfection is freedom; massive, crazy, unbelievable freedom.


  1. says

    I love how you stated it so clearly. Perfectionism is about fear. I used to strive for perfection and, of course, fall short every time. When I decided to start my own tutoring business, I just had to tell myself, My services will not be for everyone. People will quit. But, like Rob Young mentions above, you can’t be successful if you put out 100% of nothing.

    Many thanks for the reminders, Courtney. I totally loved picturing you punching perfection in the face!

  2. says

    A Tweet I once published…

    Joseph Ratliff ‏@JosephRatliff 2 Sep

    If you’re always striving for perfection you’re NOT good at taking the next step.

    Great post Courtney.

  3. says

    My writing has always been hindered by perfectionism. I will punch perfection in the face by committing to writing every day – and keeping what I write instead of throwing it away or deleting it – and releasing it into the world, flawed and beautiful.

  4. says

    It makes me sad to think how much perfectionism has cost me over the years. I’ve lost a lot of time agonizing over perfection. I’m punching extra hard for all the wasted time and lost opportunities.
    Thanks Courtney!

  5. says

    Great post Courtney :)

    Fortunately, I have never had to punch perfection in the face, but I have had to give it a few “bitch-slaps” every now and then (pardon my language)!

    I would never be mistaken for someone who strives for perfection, far from it actually, but I have settled for good enough and sometimes even great (when it comes to my guitar teaching and playing) and that’s all I ask of myself.

    I loved your definition of the opposite of perfection. It was, if I could boldly say…perfect! :)

    Take care and all the best.


  6. Jo@simplybeingmum says

    The idea of perfection is subjective and therefore unattainable. Or more succinctly put – perfection doesn’t exist anywhere other than in our mind. And as we know our mind has a habit of playing tricks on us, the pursuit of perfection can successfully delay us getting something done or stop it completely. Why it does that is still a mystery to me – its self-sabotage. In fact in reading this comment back I know it’s far from perfect…and it’s tempting to delete it. But in order to throw a punch I’ll hit submit.

  7. says

    I love this post. LOVE it. One of my mantras comes from Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo…he says he is “committed to exuberant imperfection”. I share that commitment!

  8. says

    Oh, thank you for this! I struggle with perfectionism in certain areas so much. And some of the creative work I have done over the years fueled that by its very nature, the products needing to be competitive for their owners, which means the “fear of not being good enough” was constant. I want to get back into that work some now, but know I need to have a better mindset to tolerate the pressure and just dig in and get to work doing my personal best and trust that it will be good enough for the right people. It’s not easy, though! Perfectionism often leads to procrastination for me, which is another monster I need to punch!

  9. says

    Love this post and the mix of ideas from different contributors. To punch perfectionism in the face I remember that I have to be willing to make a bad painting (or whatever) in order to make a good one. I tell myself that perfection is the enemy of done. I try to bring myself back to a beginners mind. and when all else fails I go for a walk to reset. sometimes all I need is a bit of time away from what ever I am working on. Not easy to do because sometimes it takes me a bit to realize that perfectionism has taken a seat at my table and I am listening to it. Thanks for the great post.

  10. says

    Do you know the clay pot experiment? Reminds me of your post :-)

    A few years ago on a college campus, a ceramics professor decided to try an experiment on one of his classes. At the start of the semester he divided the class into two groups and explained that each group would be graded differently.

    Group 1 would be graded on the total number of pots they could create throughout the semester, with a minor importance given to quality.

    Group 2 would be graded on just one pot. They had all semester to work on just one pot so they better make it impressive.

    At the end of the semester, the students all turned in their work for grading. To the professor’s amusement, the 5 highest quality pots all came from the group who was focused on quantity over quality. In fact, most of the pots from Group 2 were terrible. They just looked like over-worked lumps of hollowed out clay.

  11. Natalie says

    I was always planning and executing the “perfect” kids birthday party. I would make everything myself and decorate the house and colour co-ordinate everything and my cake would have to be “perfect” too. We had all sorts of creative and fun themes: fairy, prince and princesses, teddy bear’s picnic, cooking party, kids disco etc..etc..It was so tiring, and most of the time the kids didn’t appreciate all my hard work. So this year for my 9 year old’s birthday, there was no party but we took a small group of her friends ten pin bowling and you know what? We punched perfection in the face! We had such a great time, stress free and lots of laughs. A much better way to go!

  12. Tania says

    Thanks, Courtney. I love this post! I always enjoy your words but I really love this one. Part of that is the imperfect powerful feeling in the “punch” title. You feel strongly and you let us know. That’s very cool, in a warm way. I’ll come back to reading this one again and again.

    I’ve recently started an imperfect blog. It’s utterly terrifying but much more enlivening than not doing it. I’m learning that I don’t need to work and rework my posts. They don’t turn out better with the overwork. Better with the cracks and the lifeforce in them.

    Thanks again for this gutsy beautiful post.

  13. says

    Showing my imperfection…I was going to mention the thing I’ve heard about the Amish making mistakes on purpose since only God is perfect. But I went to look up the details and discovered it’s a myth!

  14. Shawn says

    I call myself a reformed perfectionist. I often say my fourth child cured me! I am happier leaving the dishes in the sink and spending time with the people with the people who matter most to me. I prefer to dig in my garden than cleaning my house. Of course, I organize and declutter, but I have learned to be happy even when things don’t meet my perfectionism tendencies. I have heard that we spend time and money pleasing those who truly don’t care. Please yourself then you can please those who matter. People before things.