the problem with quality over quantity for perfectionists

the sister YouTube video to this post

Dear Perfectionists,

Quality over quantity is a useful notion in some areas of our lives.

But how does it pose problems in other areas, such as work, school and creative pursuits? 

Let’s take just a paragraph to orient ourselves around the key elements of perfectionists: We are the people who procrastinate, spend too much time on one Thing, and don’t want to finish Things.

With that in mind, imagine telling us that the thing we are already spending too much time on needs to be “quality.” The fact that we have a task means our perfectionistic tendencies are activated. But now? They’re activated at full blast. Watch out.

Following “quality over quantity” creates problems for perfectionists with starting the thing, finishing the thing, and growing as a creative person.

#1. Starting the thing

As perfectionists we are procrastinators. We don’t want to start the Thing because our expectations are so high that we won’t live up to them and that’ll disappoint us and also it’ll be really time consuming to get it “right.” We’re scared. To us, “quality” is equivalent to out-of-this-world amazing, never before thought up, and world changing. Knowing that we have to make the Thing quality makes us not what to start it even more. We will let ourselves down in attempting such an unattainable goal.

#2. Finishing the thing

As perfectionists we like to have control. Having control over our Thing is…part of our thing. Once we get rid of the Thing — once we publish it or turn it in — it’s no longer in our control, oh no. To remedy this, we either keep working on it so it remains in our control OR we keep working on it so that when it’s out of our control, we have the greatest chance of getting the outcome we’d like.

#3. Personal and professional growth

One of the first books I read this year was Atomic Habits by James Clear. There was a study that Clear mentions that demonstrates the problem with quality of quantity particularly in creative pursuits (pursuits in which you are creating something). 

In the study, students were in a photography class. Half of the class’s exam grade was based on one single “perfect” photo. The other half of the class’s exam was based on turning in a great quantity of photos — 100 photos for an A.

It turned out that the group striving toward a higher quantity took the objectively better photos.

The thinking is that each time you take a photo, you learn something and will tend to get better and better with more repetitions.

Not doing or creating the thing will inhibit our growth and development and it’ll keep us in your perfectionistic cycle.

Possible Solutions?

#1. Think in abundance. We have lots to contribute and create!!! We are FULL of ideas even when it doesn’t feel that way.

#2. Let ourselves know that yes, maybe people have done a topic or the Thing, but no one’s done it our way. WE haven’t done it. We ARE the unique twist, the novel idea.

I hope this helped! As always, find me over on Instagram (@youseemnormal) for daily content, and we’ll talk next week on here.

P.S. in case we haven’t met…

you seem normal is a mental health medium run by 24-year-old communication professional (hello!) who… well, seems normal.  Turns out, my roommate is mental illness. Actually more like my unborn, and non-conceived baby. Because it’s like, inside of me. This is getting weird already. Topics of focus: self-awareness (we love it), mood, anger management, perfectionism, relationships & boundaries.

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