How Perfectionism Keeps Trying To Ruin Me

I remember saying to my boyfriend and a couple of my friends how this blog was going to be an exercise in letting go of perfectionism and just being brutally honest and brutally myself. I remember that, and at least in the first few days I really believed it. The whole point would be not to censor myself too much or worry about writing the perfect blog post, yet here I am, worrying about writing the perfect blog post.

Of course I should keep in mind a sense of proper structure and readability, and of course I should at least think about the way I’m planning to set posts up, with a lead, a main body, and some form of conclusion. And now I’m sitting here, luckily finally writing something, feeling perfectionism’s ice cold fingers close in around my throat again. Perfectionism is something that has haunted me all my life, and will probably stay with me for a while too, but it’s also something that desperately needs to be eradicated.

‘Not good enough’ is an expression that either consciously or subconsciously drifts around my mind at least a couple of times a week. And now it’s presenting itself in the form of me thinking that if I’m not fully satisfied with a post, and I don’t have the feeling that it’s going to be a great post that’ll probably be appreciated a lot, that I shouldn’t publish it at all. I shouldn’t be publishing anything that is ‘not good enough’, and even if it doesn’t have to be perfect, it should at least be ‘good enough’, according to my brain.

The definition of where that line lies, however, is very vague. I wonder if something that is suboptimal but might still be appreciated will be good enough, or if something that contains a few errors is still good enough. I wonder if my post has to be impactful and thought-provoking, I wonder if it has to be so good that people first visiting my blog will think ‘gee, this is a blog I’d like to read more of’.

I notice that under all these thoughts, there’s a layer of profound pressure of performance. I have certain standards in my mind, and I fear that nobody will read this if it doesn’t live up to those standards. And if nobody reads this, I might as well jot it down on a piece of paper and shut down my blog.

I’ll admit that I’m not really in a very good place mentally at the moment anyway. I’m in therapy for my chronic fatigue syndrome, and I’ve recently had to shift my get-out-of-bed-time from 8am to 7am, after having had 8am as my steady alarm time for over half a year (yes, even in weekends. You’ll be amazed how much that offers you). I’ve been getting out of bed for over a week now feeling half-dead and at best just energetic enough to walk around the house without slumping to the floor. I basically yawn every 20-30 seconds at least, so much that it gets progressively harder to read the screen with all the yawn tears in my eyes.

Waking up every morning feeling like you almost haven’t slept at all, like someone brutally pulled you out of bed about three hours in, that just does stuff to your brain. It’s clear that optimism and positivity are apparently things that cost more energy than pessimism and negativity, otherwise people with a sleep deficiency wouldn’t be so cranky all the time.

I haven’t been able to get much in the way of productivity done these last few days, and many of the good habits I had started building up have slipped out of existence. Of course I’ll be able to pick them back up again, but the fact that I’ve basically not done much more than crocheting for hours on end with all kinds of interesting but non-productive YouTube videos on in the background, and that I’ve forgotten my ADHD meds for three days in a row now after months of faithful use in the morning, are telltale signs of me not doing so well. (It’s still early enough, let me just go and take my meds right now…)

So waking up every day feeling progressively more and more broken doesn’t really help, and getting nothing done doesn’t quite add to a sense of accomplishment either. Alright, yeah, I’ve crocheted a lot. I’ve come quite far with a soft, stretchy wrap I’m working on to sell later. But my back hurts from sitting so much, and there are so many things around the house that need to be done that the fear of something having slipped my notice and resulting in having to pay more money or other troubles is slowly but very noticeably creeping up on me.

And then there’s the writing of new posts for my blog. Something that you almost couldn’t tear me away from in those first days, days during which I spent far too much time troubleshooting and fixing issues with the SSL certificate or the mailing list, trying to figure out why my IP kept getting blocked. I’m supposed to be working on my own for 20 hours a week, and I’ve certainly done that, only not on things that are actually related to work. Which is fine, by the way, since the current objective is just trying to get myself up and running again and able again to get work done in a week and spend a significant amount of time being productive.

But now it’s like something is blocking me again, preventing me from writing more posts, even though I have about 50-60 subjects still lying around for me to write about (and yes, I’ve counted them in my notebook. It’s at least 50). Of course a big part of the problem is the lack of energy, but it’s my anxiety too. It’s my fear of failure, my fear of rejection, my fear of not being good enough. All of that while the very objective of this blog was to not only get over those fears, but let go of them too.

You see, I had a vision for this blog. Of course a large part of me hoped that it would catch on, and that I would gather a bunch of readers and open interesting discussions on the internet. But it had a very personal motive too: learning to let go of perfectionism, my need for acceptance, and my self-censorship.

Instead of letting myself be governed by how I want others to perceive me, this blog was meant to just be me, the way I am. Not thinking about ‘what would these and these people think about these posts?’, but just writing whatever the heck I wanted to write, throwing it out there, and being fine with whatever consequences popped up. Finally being free, and finally being myself in all my ugliness and glory, letting the chips fall where they may.

But perfectionism is incredibly persistent, pervasive, and pernicious. At first I just wrote what I wanted to write, editing it ever so slightly but mostly for readability. And then I heard that my post about Gandhi was a great one, and I think that’s where it started creeping back up on me.

We humans get such a hit out of approval that we’ll always seek more. The more recognition we get, the harder we’ll strive for it. It takes a very mature and well-rounded mind to receive more recognition and then decide, ‘well, apparently this is good enough, I’ll leave it there and not improve’.

The good thing is that, now that I’ve noticed it, I can work on letting go of it again. If perfectionism is keeping me from writing, I shouldn’t stop writing, I should stop being a perfectionist. I want to just accept it if I write a post that people find shitty and they leave my blog and never return. I want the experience to be gritty and real. I want myself to be gritty and real. And I want this blog to remain an exercise in letting go of all that pressure, and learning to finally let go and be free. As the amazing Caroline McHugh put it so eloquently in her fascinating TEDtalk (one of my favorites even, which you can find here): “You will never, ever be perception-less, but it’s important to be perception-free.”

Luckily I’ve already passed the point where I think of myself in the terms others use to describe me. I have my own opinion of myself, and the perception of others doesn’t change that opinion that much anymore. The only thing it does, it change the way I think others perceive me, but it hasn’t changed what I think of myself for a long while.

But maybe that’s what I’m afraid of: maybe I’m just afraid that others will perceive me in a way that doesn’t correspond with how I perceive myself. But you know what? Nobody will ever perceive me the way I perceive myself, and that’s fine.

So here I am, writing this blog post, not even sure if it’s free of errors, and ready to just sling it into the world and see what happens. Perfectionism will always try to keep creeping back up to me, but luckily I’ve also made a machete to cut it down with every time it rears it’s ugly, life-sucking head.

Perfectionism, you have no power here. I’ll take you head-on as often as necessary. I won’t allow you to block me from doing things that I love, I won’t allow you to instill fear of rejection in me, and I won’t allow you to ruin me again. That time is over. You may try, and you might gain some ground, but those are only battles. I’m winning this war.

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