I’ve written twice specifically about perfectionism before, referenced it many more times, had it creep into multiple blog posts in various other guises, and failed to write anything at all on account of it more than I can count, so I guess you could say it’s something of a defining feature of mine.
For a while, the way it prevented me starting anything brought a strange touch of the meta to everything I put out online; I couldn’t help but be constantly self-referential, writing about wanting to write things and posting about my struggles to produce things good enough to post.
Realising this, I deliberately tried avoid the subject; every time I brought it up I fell into using its effect on my blogging as an example of the effect it was having on me, but although it’s a natural thing to do, I’m actually not hugely keen on blogging about blogging or instagramming about instagramming, so I stopped bringing it up altogether.
Side note: there are some exceptions to this, of course. If someone is really an expert, that’s great and clearly useful to their audience, and anything to do with the blogging or social media world in relation to our cultural landscape is also almost certainly going to have me clicking to read immediately. What I mostly mean, however, is just that I would prefer to hear what people have to say about life, love, their latest vintage find or their favourite ever trip.
Anyway; myself, moaning about the fact that I can’t keep up with writing blog posts because I’m scared they’re going to be rubbish and in my mind being rubbish at something is a cardinal sin? That’s boring, particularly when you have already covered it in great detail (hey, what can I say – I like long form).
And so I made a conscious effort to stop. The only effect this has had is that I’m still barely posting, and even less so now that I’m not treating the internet to my gratuitous whinging about my personality faults.
So recently when two thoughts presented themselves to me, I revisited the self-imposed ban on talking about perfectionism. The first of those thoughts was that the feedback I got from those posts, the lovely messages and the discussions I had with people who felt similarly paralysed by the thought of not being anything short of wonderful were some of my favourites from all of my time on the internet.
And the second was that writing it out is and has always been one of the greatest therapies, and despite the fact that in lots of ways it does become self-indulgent waffle, tapping it out onto digital pages at least meant that I was tapping out something.
When I wrote about perfectionism, and self doubt, and all those feelings that stop us from doing what we really want to be doing, as I put that part of me out into the world, I harboured it less within myself, and the next week I would be able to turn myself to writing about or doing other things with a freer mind.
So here we go – let’s talk about my relationship with perfectionism some more, the 2019 edition. Verdict: it’s definitely still here.
It still presents itself frequently as procrastination; putting things off for ever-expanding periods of time because the idea that the end result might not meet my own impossible standards means it’s easier just not to start. I have, however, made great strides with this at work; not in the sense that I don’t feel all of the related feelings of dread and stress and the temptation to avoid important tasks, but in the sense that I can more often than not talk myself round, and those feelings rarely have an effect on my day to day work life as much as they did.
Conversely in many other areas of life I seem to have let the procrastination side of it run riot. If I thought I was struggling with writing when I first broached the subject of perfectionism, I have no idea what I would think of myself now. To counter this I introduced my monthly catch up posts, which have had the desired effect of removing pressure to say something ~important~, and fashion and travel posts aren’t too stressful an undertaking. Those think pieces, though, everything I was so sure I had to say? Yet to materialise, as you may have noticed – but alive, albeit still in their infancy and stowed away in various folders.
Hopefully they will surface at some point.
And other ambitions of mine, beyond my day job and this space? It will take a fair bit of perfectionism fighting to get close making any progress on them, but I guess that’s where I’m hoping to head.
It’s one of my intentions for the rest of this year; to apply the thoughts that have helped me push through the temptation to just not try to the things that currently I’m just not trying on.
Another is to ward off my habit of dwelling on situations I deem myself to have ‘performed’ less than perfectly in. I can think, off the top of my head, of at least 3 incidents recently where I’ve made a tiny mistake, and subsequently gotten tunnel vision, shoving all other thoughts aside in favour of focusing only on that one thing for days afterwards and holding on to the thought for weeks or even months.
I’m still thinking about one stupid thing I said to one person nearly a year ago and whether someone thought the way I held a baby 4 months ago (just not clarify, not like by its ankles or anything) wasn’t quite right.
What I have made progress on – and perhaps this is related to the times I’ve also managed to avoid perfectionists’ procrastination – is my former tendency to regard everything as either A) perfect and wonderful, a standard I could never reach or B) utterly terrible, the only other option and therefore the thing that everything I did was.
There are now things I’ve done, that I’ve published, submitted or delivered that I think were good. Not perfect, or brilliant, or what I wanted them to be, but not therefore immediately horrible. Just good, or okay (or, of course, sometimes bad too), but for someone whose primary fear was not being perfect, that feels like taking a step in the right direction.
Let’s see how I get on with taking a few more shall we?
What I’m wearing
Skirt – New Look | Boots – Dorothy Perkins | Bag – Zara | Top – H&M | Necklace – C/O Lisa Angel
Photography: Sarah Ellen Photography