Perfectionism and The Epic Failure Meltdown

Hello, it’s been a while since I’ve written something here as I’ve been busy writing other things.  Today I would like to ask for help from people who might be struggling with learning because of an oddly specific problem. I have found that people who consider themselves “perfectionists” seem to have  trouble learning because of how they view the creative process. The problem is, I am pretty much the opposite of a perfectionist, so I have no idea what it’s like to feel this way.  I’d like your help understanding your experience with failure as a perfectionist.

As far as I can tell people who view themselves as perfectionists seem to give up very quickly. At the first sign of any errors or mistakes they have an incredibly negative reaction and either give up or get angry. I’m not exactly sure why but I believe it’s because they feel that the way you create something of high quality is to never make an error. But, this is completely different from how I actually make almost anything. For me creating something is kind of like a tight rope walk balancing on the edge of disaster. If I make a mistake I just assume that I have fallen off the rope and need to try again, or I have to correct and continue.

In an effort to understand how some of my students see the creative process I’ve started looking at how they tend to fail.  Or, more accurately how they seem to react negatively to small failures. I actually don’t think that you can really fail in programming or other creative activities, because you simply just keep doing them until you get better at dealing with potential disasters.

But I see many beginning programmers have what I call the “epic failure meltdown” at the first sign of any mistakes.  I would like to find out how this feels and any insights as to why this might be happening.

After some research on this I believe that part of the problem is a misunderstanding by perfectionists regarding how something is created.  They simply don’t understand the creative process. But I would love for people to reply in the comments on this blog post, and tell me how does it feel, as a perfectionist, to make a mistake. It’d also be helpful if you can explain why you think you are a perfectionist and whether that helps you make anything perfect.

I’d also really appreciate it if you have any insights as to how someone else might get past this negative reaction to failure. If you have coping strategies or a way of viewing things that have helped you then please let me know.

The end result of this research will be a blog post and a few videos aimed at people who misunderstand the creative process and take “failure” the wrong way. This won’t be specifically aimed at programming but just generally at people who create things and give up too early.

Finally, if you aren’t comfortable posting here publicly, you can email me your experiences at and I’ll keep what you say private.

Thank you for your time.

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I'm the author of The Hard Way series.