I am in the midst of setting up my business. In my (very naive, very optimistic) head, I thought I’d be able to get my website up-and-running in, you know, a day or two. Maybe three.
Try five days, and it’s still not done! I have had to revise my self-imposed launch date a bunch of times already.
I’m really happy with what I’ve done (and I can’t wait to show it to you when it’s finally ready!), but my brain is being… Well, kinda stupid.
You know that saying ‘shoot for the moon, and even if you miss, you’ll be amongst the stars’? Well, turns out, my mind’s natural instinct is not to admire the view of Alpha Centauri as I sail past. Instead, my mind likes to berate me for taking forever and not meeting self-imposed deadlines and just generally for not being good enough.
In the past, this perfectionism has meant that I struggled to get things done. ‘If I can’t do it perfectly, why the hell bother at all?’
Which is just the most ridiculous thing to think, it makes me laugh. And cringe. And sometimes cry out in frustration at myself.
As if it’s not better to have a shitty first draft done than nothing at all.
As if it’s not better to have a perfectly passable website than none at all.
As if it’s not better to bloody well better to start somewhere than never start at all!
As I wrote last week, This Time It’s All Going To Be Different.
In accordance with the manifesto I wrote, one tenet I am striving to apply is ‘I will aim to get things done, not get things perfect’. (Oh, and there’s a bunch of other stuff about being kind to myself and not getting frustrated when things take longer than expected and other such twaddle. But baby-freaking-steps! I’m just focusing on the ‘done, not perfect’ one for today!)
All this perfectionism ain’t doing us–me–any favours.
One of my favourite writers, Brene Brown, writes a lot about how perfectionism is the enemy to getting things done. And to feeling good about yourself. And to embracing vulnerability, being creative, and living a wholehearted life. (And that’s just for starters!)
‘Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving for excellence. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is a defensive move. It’s the belief that if we do things perfectly and look perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame. Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around, thinking it will protect us, when in fact it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from being seen.’
Furthermore, she says, perfectionism is about trying to earn approval: ‘most perfectionists grew up being praised for achievement and performance (grades, manners, rule following, people pleasing, appearance, sports). Somewhere along the way, they adopted this dangerous and debilitating belief system: “I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it. Please. Perform. Perfect.” Healthy striving is self-focused: How can I improve? Perfectionism is other-focused: What will they think? Perfectionism is a hustle.’
Oh how this is me.
As well as in the work/career context, the other area where I experience a whole lot of Perfection Paralysis is regarding health and wellness. And I don’t think I’m alone. How many times do things run through your head like ‘well if I can’t walk/ride/get to the gym for at least an hour, then it’s not worth it’. Or ‘there’s no point even trying this week, because I’ve got a wedding/event/cousin’s dog’s birthday on Friday night’. Or my personal favourite, ‘well if I’ve eaten four chocolate biscuits, I may as well eat the whole packet. And the rest of the day is ruined. Just eat whatever today, and I’ll start [trying to be perfect] again tomorrow.’
All of these destructive thought patterns stem from feeling the need to be perfect. They’ve got failure built-in to them, and they encourage procrastination. And boy, do they not serve us.
I love these words from Gretchen Rubin:
‘”Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.” (Cribbed from Voltaire.) A twenty-minute walk that I do is better than the four-mile run I don’t do. The imperfect book that gets published is better that the perfect book that never leaves my computer. The dinner party of take-out Chinese food is better than the elegant dinner I never host.’
So. Very. True.
So… As a recovering perfectionist and aspiring good-enough-ist, my new business and website are coming along nicely. Not perfectly, but good enough. Stuff is getting done, and that is the thing.