Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Bane of My Existence...

Photo courtesy of Clarita at

We all have pet peeves, things that get on our nerves. Some of them REALLY get on our nerves and make us walk that line that says we want to hurt someone if they don't knock off whatever they're doing.

But those aren't what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about the thing that has done more to hold me back, stifle me, discourage me, and just royally kick me in the teeth when I'm already down and out. What is that one thing?


That need to do everything absolutely PERFECT the first time. To have everything perfectly laid out, perfectly in line, perfectly organized, perfectly done the moment we walk away.

For those who haven't struggled with it, you may think "What's the big deal? It just makes you want to do your best." If only it were so simple. And so innocuous.

If I believed I could succeed, I'd jump in with both feet, generally with unreasonably high goals and expectations (i.e. perfection). Sometimes I'd actually succeed, despite myself. Often, however, I'd end up flat on my face in failure, and wondering why. Of course, this self-defeating cycle only fed the flip side of the coin. If I didn't believe wholeheartedly that I would be absolutely perfect at something, I wouldn't even try. Why bother? It'd be better to spend my time and energy on something I at least believed I could succeed at.

The more I set myself up and failed, the more I learned what I COULDN'T do. Rather counterproductive and self-destructive.

Then I met Flylady. Other clutter-bugs likely know who I'm talking about. She taught me something very valuable. Whatever I do, it doesn't have to be perfect.

I know, amazingly simple concept, but that was mind-blowing for me. You mean, I don't have to do everything perfectly? Wow.... That opened the door to changing the way I look at my whole life. I don't have to be the perfect housekeeper, wife, daughter, friend. None of us is capable of perfection anyway.  (I can hear some inner perfectionists screaming in protest, but they're wrong.) We can only do the best we can in keeping the house clean and ready for company.

And our "best" changes daily depending on schedules, responsibilities, health issues, unexpected issues, and a host of other things. My best today may not be my best tomorrow. I may be able to do even better tomorrow, but then again maybe not. And that's okay.

You may wonder what in the world a housekeeping aid like Flylady has to do with writing. Well, I'll tell you. She teaches us to do something every day and not worry about perfection. That translates right into my writing. So what if what I write today is total garbage? I can come back and fix it later. That's called editing, and all writers have to do it to some degree or another. It's extremely rare that a first draft of anything gets published. So, write, write, write. It doesn't have to be perfect. Just write, and do it consistently, whether in small amounts or big ones. And I no longer worry about whether it's publish ready in the first draft (which it never was anyway). Wrapping my head around this simple perfectionism-busting concept has freed my writing in ways you can only imagine and I never dreamed.

So what about you? Are you allowing perfectionism to hold you back? If so, take a lesson from Flylady! Send perfectionism packing!

Perfectionism is not your friend or ally. It's your worst critic, your worst enemy, and a great deceiver. Put it in its place!

Or is there a different bane on your existence other than perfectionism that's holding you back, lying to you about yourself, and keeping you down? Or worse, kicking you when you're already down?

Oh, and by the way, my house still isn't perfect and never will be, but you know what? That's okay.


  1. I have read the Flylady's book some time ago and it was inspiring--though I continued to struggle with perfection.

    Perfection is a problem. It's one of the reasons I have an "all or nothing" personality. If I can't throw myself at something 200%, I flame out and set it aside. This pattern repeats itself in my life over and over, including with my writing.

    But I wanted to share a breakthrough I had this past weekend on the creative front. In addition to writing novels, there are other creative things I've always wanted to do--learn to play banjo, draw, paint. But as perfectionistic as I am about writing, I am even WORSE when it comes to visual arts.

    There are times I would get out a sketch pad and try to draw something, only to toss it aside in absolute frustration with myself because it looked like something a 2 year old would scrawl out. But I would defeat myself before I even gave it a good effort.

    Last weekend, I borrowed a video by Betty Edwards based on her book "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain". One of the first exercises she has you do before you even get any instruction, is sit down for an hour and draw your self portrait without critiquing it or using any technique.

    I didn't opt to draw myself, but I did opt to try and draw the face of an actor I've always adored. You know what? I actually used the whole hour assigned for the exercise and when I was done, I actually had a human looking face (if I were to show the drawing to someone they would undoubtedly NOT recognize the actor, but at least *I* can see a little of that actor in the drawing.).

    I cannot tell you what a confidence boost that was for me. I love drawing, but have never been any good at it, especially with regard to human figures.

    But for that hour, I put aside my self-sabotaging perfectionist behaviors, threw myself in the moment, and came out with a drawing that has encouraged me to continue and learn.

    I'm presently in a burn-out phase with my writing, but I hope the emotional high from that one hour drawing will feed into my writing when I get back to it.

  2. Anonymous is me, Brenda (BK Jackson). It wouldn't post my comment under Google. 8-)

    1. Isn't it amazing how that perfectionism sabotages us? I've lost track of all the areas of my life it has affected over the years. And it's a hard habit to break! I'm glad you've found a release from it in the form of drawing, Brenda. That's fabulous! Keep hammering away at it, girl.