So you wake up one day and decide you want to take on a new hobby or project. Excitedly, you decide that you're going to learn to rock climb or finally write that novel you've been meaning to start since graduating from college. Sound familiar?
Then what happens? Maybe you go and check out a pile of books at the library, read a few blogs, buy any necessary equipment, and boom — you’re set for success, right?
Well, until you give your new hobby a try. A few tries even. On paper, you've gone through the motions, but things don’t seem to be going quite how you’d like ... which is to say that things didn't go perfectly. So you throw in the towel and walk away.
Have you been there? If so, don't fret. Because we've all been there. And I promise you this: you can get past your perfectionism.
I know because I learned the hard way. For years, I felt that in order to be interested in whatever it was I was doing or making, I needed to feel in full control. I needed to be "perfect" (whatever that even means).
But after a lot of self-examination, I’ve worked past my perfectionist tendencies to find my sweet spot. In this new place, I actually live in the present moment, and make myself available to learning experiences — even if there are occasional mistakes along the way. These days I’m creating helpful, important work that I’m proud of, even if it has the occasional typo or misplaced “Ummmm.”
Here are the two, essential realizations I had in order to get here.
1. “It’s not about me.”
I’ve been a working actress for years (like, you’ve seen me in police dramas on your TV). So when I stated my coaching business, I thought it'd be a great idea to make videos for my new work. If I could work on a movie, my at-home, made-with-my-phone videos should be perfect every time, right?
Wrong. And when my videos weren’t "perfect," I nearly threw in the towel on my videos and my whole business plan. I would spend days and days (literally) filming and refilming my videos so that every hair was in place and every word was perfectly enunciated. When I thought about why, I realized it was because I wanted people to think I was perfect.
Each day, I wasted my time and energy by prohibiting myself from appreciating my work and living in the present. I was attempting to polish my already-helpful videos toward some kind of robot-like state of perfection that was completely beside the point of what I was trying to offer my clients.
Of course, it’s important that you’re proud of the words and actions that you release into the world. But before you give up on something or do a fifteenth round of edits, really connect with your why. Are you dawdling because you honestly believe your product could be better? Or because you don't like your sweater? If it's the second option, you may be distracting yourself from something deeper — fear of failure, fear of what it may feel like to actually succeed ... the list goes on, and it usually has to do with some limiting belief about yourself.
So stop yourself in the path of self-sabotage, because that's ironically what perfectionism really is. Remember that your work benefits people, and that they are much less critical of you than you yourself are. Others want your help and wisdom and they probably don’t care if there’s one minor typo in 65 pages of text.
2. “Nobody likes perfection anyway.”
Perfection is many things: boring, intimidating, unsustainable, and, well, not real.
Don't believe me? Try this: Think about someone you love. Then think about a quality they have, even if it's something tiny, that you love, something that makes them special. Maybe it's their raucous laugh, their frizzy-curly hair, their need to put hot sauce on everything they eat. These are their less-than-perfections.
Sure, laughing loudly is not the same thing as handing a typo-ridden résumé to a future employer. And I'm not suggesting we all give up on trying to improve ourselves. But I am saying that learning to accept your flaws makes you relatable. We all like people we can relate to.
Remember: it's OK to show your readers, viewers, and customers that you’re a real, live human. In fact, it's advisable.