These days, I regularly pour my unfiltered thoughts and life experiences out on the page (and the Internet). But for a long time, the drive to be perceived as perfect ruled my life. I feared judgment, and that fear was a cage that prevented me from expressing my authentic self.
Releasing fear and perfectionism to embrace my messy, true self has been a tough journey, but the longer I’m on it, the more purposeful and passionate my life is.
Here are the steps I took to start letting go of my limitations.
1. I learned to value courage more than applause.
When you value the chutzpah it takes to put your soul into the world more than outside approval, things start changing. How honest and real you are becomes the litmus test of success, rather than the number of Likes.
For me, the frustration of not expressing myself became too much to bear. I saw other people my age achieving things I wanted to achieve, but fear stood in the way. My heart wanted to communicate through words, but I was too scared to even post a heartfelt caption on Instagram.
2. I started anonymously.
I finally gathered the courage to start posting, I dipped my toe into the Instagram pool without using my full name. At first, I would issue disclaimers like, “I don’t normally share my story like this, but ...”
It took time for me to own my story. Looking back, I realize now that an inner critic fueled by low self-esteem was telling me that nobody cared. Positive feedback soon boosted my confidence. I continued to value courage over applause, but the validation helped me see my words had power — just like I hoped, but was afraid to believe.
Eventually, I understood that these expressions have value because I have value. As I began to love myself, I learned to love what I created, even when it fell short of my high standards.
3. I loved myself enough to express myself.
When we let fear inhibit our self-expression, we’re actually telling ourselves, “Self, you don’t matter.” When we let fear win, it means we value the opinions of others more than our heart’s longing to be heard.
Another factor in perfectionism is thinking we need to be perfect to win others’ love and approval. But when we love ourselves completely, we know we’re loved regardless of the reaction to our creative work. When we’re connected to the wellspring of self-love, we don’t need outside approval.
4. I learned by doing.
I found myself through the process of expressing myself. If you never express yourself, the journey never starts. You’ll stay locked in a cage forever, jealous of everyone else’s freedom.
Many creatives imagine having a best-selling book or Grammy-winning album. You will not get there overnight, and those accolades may never materialize. But that’s not the point.
Achieving excellence and fulfilling your own individual purpose requires trial and error, resilience in failure. Accept that. Be fearless, but humble. Love yourself through the process, and always keep learning.