Perfectionism is self-abuse. As a recovering perfectionist, I speak from experience.
My perfectionism is serving a purpose, not to be seen.
This is why, up until today, I couldn't hit publish. Up until today, I allowed perfectionism to strangle my creativity.
This refusal to put my writing "out there," to hit publish, comes from a place of fear, fear of being vulnerable. Afraid to reveal my flaws; the flaws in my personality or the flaws in my grammar, and the punch of discomfort criticism brings to the surface for a recovering perfectionist.
Fear of being vulnerable
We struggle with perfectionism in areas where we feel most vulnerable to shame.
For me, this shows up in my work. If I'm perfect, I can avoid judgment and minimize criticism and ridicule. It is a shield we wear, hoping to protect us from getting hurt when in truth, it keeps us from being seen.
If you want to be a creative, especially a writer, you need to be seen. A writer needs to be read, and to be read; you need to share.
Some days when I feel particularly vulnerable to criticism, I have difficulty reading even the positive comments on my work. The negative ones make me want to pull a blanket over my head and eat a pint of Haagen Dazs, preferably Belgian Chocolate. However, the negative comments are easier to believe.
The fear of failure keeps us from our true selves.
I'm fooling myself into thinking if I don't share my writing or anything creative I put my heart and soul into, I can't get hurt. But what perfectionism is doing is keeping me from my authentic self. I'm deluding myself into thinking that if I don't try, then I can't fail.
Not trying is failing, failing to become who I am, who I'm meant to be, failing to stretch and grow in my work.
The real failure is allowing the uncomfortable feelings of not being good enough, rob me of the opportunity for growth and the possibility of becoming a better writer.
This is what perfectionism looks like; it scares you out of doing because nothing is ever perfect. There isn't a perfect blog post. (Do not read Brené Brown right now because her writing is flawless and disproves my entire point).
Being perfect is not the goal. If that is your goal, you may as well do nothing because it's never going to be perfect.
As Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston and best-selling author says,
"When you are trying to be perfect at everything, perfectionism is driving, and shame is riding shotgun, and fear is the annoying backseat driver."
The cure for perfectionism: Do your best
Today, I stop striving for something that doesn't exist.
Sometimes I get overwhelmed. I don't trust my talent, or I feel like I could be doing more, producing more, writing more. When my mind reels with this chatter, I stop and say to myself, "stop worrying, just do your best," immediately my mind calms, and the negative chatter stops.
Your best will change depending on what life throws at you. When you have a sick child at home or when you're sick, your best will differ from your best when you are healthy and your family is healthy.
Allow for your best to be different at different times.
• Let go of past mistakes and judgments about how you handled the past. It is gone. There is nothing you can about the past. Let it go and focus on new habits to make the future promising.
• Learn to say NO. Say NO to those things you don't want to do. Say NO to the non-essentials in your life, those tasks that aren't adding value, but rob you of your energy. Say YES to those tasks that fill your life with gratitude, joy, and value.
• Be present when you are doing the things you love.
Instead of striving for perfectionism, I strive for being the best version of myself I can be, and in my writing, the best I can do at that time.
Healthy striving is internally focused, "I want to be the best I can be" vs. perfectionism, "What will people think?" Doing the best you can at that time is authentic; it means you are showing up.
It is a choice you make every day, to show up and let yourself be seen. Making a choice to hit publish on my work is allowing myself to be seen.
Let it go
Try getting out from under the security blanket of perfectionism that isn't really keeping you safe but keeping you small and unable to realize your talent and potential. Hiding under it means succumbing to the fear that people will see you for who you are, and you won't be good enough. You are good enough. Living in fear is not a place of growth; it will keep you stagnant.
Not sharing my work is a crisis of confidence brought on by shame, and shame slams you with two reoccurring thoughts; "You are not good enough" and "Who do you think you are?"
The relentless tape in my head playing on repeat goes something like, "Who do you think you are putting your writing into the world? There are far better writers than you."
You have to ignore the tape, or push pause, or stop it and play another song. You can't do anything brave, like sharing your creativity, with the straightjacket of perfectionism and the "what will people think" thought lurking behind everything you do or every choice you make.
I know this post isn't perfect, but I'm not allowing perfectionism to be in the driver's seat anymore. It is a starting point for better writing. To hold myself accountable and kick perfectionism to the curb, I'm starting a 30-day challenge to publicly share my writing once a day, for 30 days straight, even when my posts aren't perfect.
Today I hit publish because I no longer want the story of my life to be determined by shame and fear. I'm putting down perfectionism, it's not working for me, and instead, I'll strive for doing my best and allow myself to be seen.
What has perfectionism stopped you from doing because you thought you had to be perfect? Do it anyway. Strive for "doing" and not perfectionism. It doesn't exist.