Raise your hand if you ever felt a spark to do something only to have it killed by fear and perfectionism. Yeh, been there done that! Perfectionism is a real killer, especially when we try to do something from the heart – whether that be writing a book, launching a business, or simply trying out a new hobby we’ve always been curious about. While the initial spark usually feels just right, it often happens that fear sets in quickly and stops us in our tracks. Suddenly, what could have taken us into a new exciting direction becomes a lingering, and sometimes haunting question: What if I had just gone for it?
When Perfectionism Gets In The Way
As human beings, we often become terrified to embrace openly what we know to be true instinctively. Our inner dialogue plays a big role in this, generally causing havoc in two different ways: either our inner critic discredits us until he or she has successfully talked us out of something (“I am too [unqualified/young/old/…] to do this”). Or he/she relentlessly drives us to “perfect” whatever we set out to do until we are seemingly safe from criticism, judgment, and ultimately pain (spoiler alert: we never are).
While perfectionism is still often seen as a virtue in our society, it actually has little to do with a kind of healthy striving. At its core, it is about our fear of rejection which we hope to avoid through “perfecting” something. When in the grip of perfectionism, we become externally focused, not internally, and are more concerned with how others perceive us rather than how we perceive ourselves. At best, perfectionism puts us through a grueling and painful process that ultimately produces great results; at its worst, though, it keeps us from ever taking a serious look at our inner treasures, let alone taking steps towards realising them. This is beyond unfortunate. For bringing out into the world what lies within us is what we are all meant to do. It is how we create joy, connection, and meaning – both for ourselves as well as the people around us.
Reminders for the Inner Perfectionist
So, what to do? While for each of us perfectionism develops and manifests in a different way, I’d like to share with you a few general reminders that may help you get out of your next perfectionist-loop.
Don’t overthink it: I know it is easier said than done but it is so true. Often we think that whatever we set out to do has to be original, important, and world-saving. But if that’s what we believe, chances are our work will never see the light of day because it will have been crushed by the weight of our expectations long before that. Do whatever you enjoy and let your level of enjoyment be your compass. That alone will make it worthwhile. And chances are that if you enjoy it, others will, too.
We all kinda suck at first: Sorry to be so blunt, but it’s just a matter of fact that we usually suck when we start out doing something new. In today’s world of carefully curated content, it is easy to forget that we usually only get to see the final product of something, not the messy process behind it. Remind yourself that it is about progress, not perfection.
Fear and discomfort are part of it: Experiencing fear and discomfort when creating something that comes from the heart is part of the process. It usually means that the thing we are trying to do is important to us. The problem is not that we have those feelings, but that we don’t know how to deal with them. As hard as it can be, it is not our job to get rid of the discomfort, but to normalise it. Whilst much easier said than done, a good starting point is to remind ourselves that those uncomfortable feelings come from a place of protection and are not the enemy (more on this in another post). Try to be as compassionate as possible towards yourself. You are doing your best and simply going for it is already amazing in itself. Acknowledge this and celebrate your small wins!
Unplug and get still: Sometimes the external and internal noise can be overwhelming. As a result, we may lose contact to our creative source that gave us the spark to begin with. Know that none of your desires – big or small – are random. If you were able to see or feel them as an idea within you, you also have everything you need to bring them to life. Meditation can be a wonderful way to get back in touch with oneself, but ultimately there are many ways for you to unplug and consciously connect to that initial creative spark within you. Make sure to schedule time for it!
Find something that inspires you: We all sometimes need that extra spark to get us out of a low energy or negative self-talk loop. This can be a quote, a book, a podcast episode, a picture, or just a friend acting as our biggest cheerleader – basically anything will do that sends a jolt through our body and brings us back in alignment with our heart’s desires. Whatever it is, make sure it is accessible to you when you need it.
Trusting Our Heart
Earlier this year my friend Judith and I launched a website called Being & Doing, where we explore the connection between spiritual/personal development and collective progress. It is a passion project born out of an inspiring evening two years ago and serves us as a creative space for sharing ideas and personal stories. However, as excited I had been about creating the site, I noticed that I became increasingly anxious and self-conscious about the topics I wanted to write about. Ultimately I didn’t even know what to write about anymore.
Then one day, I came across a quote right as I was feeling trapped inside my own head. At the time I was listening to the audiobook version of “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert, where, among other things, she talks about the process of writing, including what to write about. Her conclusion?
Write what causes a revolution in your heart
When she said this, I just felt it. It was a reminder to me that it didn’t matter if my writing was “good” or “bad”. Hell, not even whether people enjoyed it or not, or whether it was “important” in any way. The only question I really had to ask myself was: do I enjoy it? Does it feel right to me? The answer was yes.So, I’d like to leave you with this:
Create and express what causes a revolution in your heart.
Just do it. Even if you suck at it – because as long as you love it, it will be enough.