My Blog, My Perfectionism, and Me: A New Direction

Transitions are weird.

I think I’ve said that before, but honestly, I can’t say it enough, especially right now. With everything that is going on in the world at the moment, my energy and emotions are, as my sister Stefanie would say, whack. Like, all sorts of whack.

It’s not that the coronavirus and quarantine and shelter-in-place are a lot on top of moving to a new city (although that is true) – it’s that we are collectively on ‘pause’ in life right now, which means, for me, that I am on ‘pause’ in my transition. I am suspended in the weirdness and uncertainty and fogginess that accompany life transitions. Let’s face it, as much as we would love to simply step over the line from one thing to the next, it doesn’t quite work like that; there is always a watery, wobbly bridge of hazy fog that we more or less fumble through, with no idea what might be directly in front of us, as we make our way from the closing chapter to the newly opened one. I find it highly uncomfortable as I juggle the emotional soup that seems to slosh around my body constantly during these periods – I tend to prefer to leave the transition zone as soon as divinely possible.

So imagine swimming in that transitional haze and then the entire world pauses. Stops. Halts all forward movement. Some of you might be experiencing something similar.

I’m living an extended transition, and I will tell you, it’s not exactly a walk in the park (literally and figuratively – I am feeling so stressed out by people and their projective reactions that I haven’t been to Central Park in weeks, which, if you’ve been following my posts, is my favorite place). I’m stuck in the transition, but I’m settling into this temporary stuckness. And as I feel a little more settled, I find myself looking at this blog baby I have created and pondering how best to take care of it moving forward. It’s time to evaluate my efforts thus far, and there are certain things that have been nagging at me to consider changing.

I started this blog and website during my transition – literally, in between my move from San Francisco to New York City. It was simultaneously the worst time to start anything and the perfect time to start something. It was the worst time because my world was swirling around me and I was never sure how far I was from the ground; it was the perfect time because while my world was swirling around me, my emotions were swirling within me, and much closer to the surface at that. Transitions make my energy vulnerable, so my experiences were rich with emotions that were stronger than usual and somewhat easier to access.

This has been all well and good, but this loosey-goosey approach to writing posts isn’t supporting me as a writer and a storyteller of my experiences and emotions. Something has been bothering me about the way I’m structuring my blog right now, but I had put off looking critically at it for several weeks.

But why?, you might wonder. Why would I put off adjusting the course of my blog if it’s only going to make it better?

The answer hit me pretty hard in the face within the past few days as I have started a new business venture. I have decided to try my hand at direct sales and became an independent stylist with Color Street, a dry nail polish beauty brand that I have been using for months and absolutely love. For the past three days, I have thrown all of my energy and focus into creating my Facebook group and getting myself acquainted with the business and inviting friends and family to support me – all the while, feeling extremely overwhelmed and anxious (and excited, of course, because I love this product and can’t wait to really get the wheels rolling for myself in this business).

My emotions are much closer to the surface, making it fairly easy to notice my high anxiety: I have been lying in bed wide awake until 3:00 in the morning, I hear the judgmental voice of the Inner Critic telling me that I need to know who is going to be interested in the product before I invite them (because that’s logical, right?), I watch as if disembodied while my brain zeroes in on getting everything done before actually starting my business or putting myself out there. My anxiety pushes me to perfectionism, but I have to remind myself that I’m just starting this – I don’t have to be (and I’m not going to be) perfect at it.

Then, my brain made the connection to my blog – I was afraid to look at my blog and admit imperfection, even to myself.

I’m kind of a funny person, you see. I will always be the first to admit that I’m a human being who is imperfect and makes mistakes – but I hate putting out work that is less than perfect. I have this overwhelming pressure pulsating through my body, driving me to do everything in my power to get it right the first time; otherwise, my Inner Critic tells me that I will face embarrassment, shame, and humiliation. If I want to succeed, I have to ‘succeed’ from the very beginning, or my endeavors won’t go anywhere. It’s a pressure that projects my Inner Critic onto everyone else, running under the assumption that they are going to judge me just as harshly as I judge myself. If I go over my work again and again with a fine-tooth comb, then I can catch mistakes before others do and avoid criticism, judgment, and lack of success. And this isn’t even true! There will always be people who don’t like my work and will find things to criticize, even if it does live up to my standard of ‘perfect’.

But when I think about my Inner Critic versus both the support and constructive criticism I have received from others, there is no evidence to support the assumption that everyone is trying to judge me and tear me down like my own mind does; in fact, if anyone ever did tear into my work the way my Critic does, I’d write it off as their own shit that has nothing to do with me.

At the end of the day, my logical mind has great wisdom for me, which I know and fully believe: nothing is right on the first try, people are forgiving (especially those who love me), mistakes are part of learning, and it’s okay to change directions with things in life.

But my fear of failure, of shame, of lack of control, push past those nuggets of wisdom and into the ring of perfectionism. My Inner Critic would rather succeed on the first try and keep going, or decide at the first sign of ‘imperfection’ that this is a horrible endeavor and not worth my effort anymore. It wants to abandon projects that don’t live up to its standards in hopes that we will all forget that I tried it and save me from the shame that will come with failure.

But the best things in our lives take work! They take trial and error; they take failure upon failure until we arrive that the ‘right’ outcome for us. Yes, some endeavors are worth abandoning for our own health and well-being, but those things that are placed deep within our hearts are not going to be easy, but they’re worth sticking with.

This blog is one of those things. I am a writer; I want to see my blog thrive and touch lives and inspire my readers! And that’s going to take a constant series of trials and adjustments – that’s just how it is. That doesn’t mean that there’s anything I should be ashamed of or that my blog is ‘bad’; it simply means that I have gotten through my first few months and can see ways to improve it just a little. I’m allowed to make it work to suit my needs as a writer, because when I can alter the course of my projects to best take care of myself as the artist, then I am able to give you, my reader, the best of me and my work.

You may not notice these changes, but whether you notice them or not, they will make a world of difference to me and the quality of work I am able to write and share with you all. I am beyond grateful for your love and support, and it is through reminding myself that I have this tremendous support that I am able to find grace and forgiveness within myself. I am finding the courage to look at my work and ask how it might be improved while reminding myself with love and kindness that it’s okay that it’s not perfect. It’s also okay to feel scared and uncertain, but I continue to find the bravery in me to push through it.

I work on my perfectionism day by day – I don’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to, either. I want to see all of us thrive and succeed! Perfectionism has no part in that. Find your courage, find your grit, and don’t be afraid to mess up. Just get up and try again.

I believe in you!

With love and gratitude,

Kate




(Cover image photo credit: Tim Mossholder from Unsplash)

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