Recently my mom called me to tell me there was a major typo in one of my blog posts. (Mom, if your reading this, thanks for the help with editing!). This normally would be a nightmare for anyone who relates to the term perfectionism. And trust me, I have and at times, still do, understand a little about perfectionism.
Now, I’ll be the first person to tell you that my spelling hasn’t been quite the same since the invention of spell check, but this oversight was one that I shouldn’t have missed and could have been prevented. But when I got the call, despite the fact that the post had been up for weeks, I just laughed.
My laughter was welcomed and it was genuine (which I was glad for). Instead of feeling embarrassed or upset, I actually felt grateful for being able to realize that I was having the moment I knew would come. My work was imperfect, and I was okay with that.
I had found myself in the moment of being face to face with imperfection, and the world wasn’t coming to an end. In fact, everything was fine. It was…perfectly imperfect. Take that – perfectionism!
When I first started thinking about going into business for myself, I would often become paralyzed with inaction due to a sneaky form of perfectionism: Perfectionist Procrastination. I would tell myself that I wasn’t ready to market my business or go talk to people because my website wasn’t complete, or my business cards weren’t designed perfectly yet.
Everything would have to be perfect before I was willing to go out and DO SOMETHING. I lived, as many of us do, with a nasty case of perfectionism. The thing is, I was busy creating the details of a business, mulling over the finite, and I wasn’t actually out there doing what I do best which is talking to people and making connections.
Then time came for creating a blog. I feared being out in cyber space; there was this immense fear of my words being subject to criticism or analysis that I couldn’t defend. It took me a long time before I actually began to type, and if I’m being honest, a lot of editing before my typed words ended up where you are reading them now.
One piece of advice that most helped me in this cycle of Perfectionism Procrastination was “Do it Imperfect.” That’s right. I had a business coach who actually encouraged what she called “imperfect action.” The more the better.
The basic message in this simple, yet shockingly effective statement is with everything you do, just do it and put it out there, knowing that there are probably flaws in your work. Sounds scary right? You bet!
This advice is not encouraging apathy – if there is a way to edit and look over your work, of course it is encouraged. There is a difference between editing and obsessing to the point of paralysis, however, and it’s the latter outcome of perfectionism we are trying to avoid.
But here’s the deal. Once you think about it, everybody starts out as a beginner. There is not one person who starts something as an expert.
So why are we all so caught up in perfectionism? Do we really think the fact that we don’t know everything is some huge secret no one knows about? (Except it’s true for all of us!)
What I like to call “The When/Then Syndrome” shows up in all kinds of sneaky ways.
Maybe you hold onto the belief that you can’t really go out and enjoy yourself until you lose weight.
Perhaps you are waiting until you get that great job or partner before you relax and enjoy your life.
In what way has the “When/Then” syndrome stopped you from just being present in your life? (When/then being that you are waiting for ________________, and then you will _________________, e.g. I’m waiting until I lose 15 pounds and then I will reach out to old friends who I have been avoiding.)
One major take away here is that if we give ourselves permission to start as we all start, as a beginner, then we can begin to move forward and learn by doing. If we allow for “imperfect” action (as if we really have a choice in the matter!) then we can see it all as just part of the process.
We can go take that dance class we wanted to take and laugh at having two left feet. We can start that new exercise class knowing full well that we are not going to have a clue as to how to “zumba” or “step” and yet enjoy the moment regardless. We can start the couch-to-5K program that everyone is talking about even if we probably look a little like Phoebe from friends when we run. Either way we will cross that finish line.
What are you putting off doing until “everything is perfect”?
What if you just did it now – flaws and all?
This blog post may never have been written if I were caught up on being perfect. But I wanted to share this with you, so I did it anyway.
(By the way, if you notice any spelling errors, don’t email me.)