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The Perils Of Perfectionism And Why You Need To Get Out Of Your Own Way

So, I’ve been meaning to start doing video blogs, or vlogs if you will, since I revamped the site and re-branded everything. When the new site launched in August last year the intention (I had very good intentions) was to have a vlog coming out each week and to really get going on my YouTube channel. That was a really big goal that I had and something that I really desperately wanted to do.

It just never happened.

But, here we are. New year, new start. For this first little video I wanted to talk to you about the reason that I got so stuck and didn’t get round to doing this until now. I’ve noticed it’s a problem that loads of people have and really it comes down to a matter of being a complete perfectionist. Today we’re going to be talking about perfectionism and why you really need to get out of your own way!

Seriously.

The Perils Of Perfectionism

I came to this little revelation in mid-December, and it came out of two conversations I had with clients. They were both on my Divine Blogging Design, which is my premium plan. On that plan I spend a lot of time touching base with clients regularly. One thing that I do is an annual review in which we sit down, or get on the phone, and we talk through all their business goals for the next year and how they want their content marketing to support those goals. We plan out what needs to happen and what topics we need to cover, there’s loads of stuff that goes into it.

They don’t always happen at New Year, because they’re every twelve months from when the client starts, but because a lot of people like starting new things in the New Year I have a few clients whose reviews come up at the end of December/beginning of January.

I had two conversations with two different clients and they both went exactly the same way… I can’t tell you their real names for confidentiality reasons, because I write for them, but we’ll call them Jack and Jill.

Jack…

Jack is a great guy, he’s a coach. I’ve written his blog for three years. He’s gone great guns making massive, massive progress. This time last year we had our review and went through his goals. One of them was a really big goal. I remember him talking about it, he was so excited, so passionate, so driven to do this thing. He was really raring to go. He wanted to start his own membership club on his site.

That was one of his goals 12 months ago.

We discussed it and he was like, “Oh yeah, I’ll need more content from you, I’ll need this, I’ll need that.” I was like, “Yep, sure, no problem.” Then, nothing.

Tumbleweed.

I didn’t mention it because I know him and when he needs me he’ll tell me, until then I just left him to it.

We do his review this year and we literally have, word for word, the same conversation we had last year…

“Yeah, I’m really excited, really excited, I’m starting a business club!”

I said, “Okay, but didn’t we have this conversation a year ago?”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I haven’t got it started yet, but it will be totally different this year, totally different.”

“Okay,” I said. “Just curious, what happened this year stopped it getting started?”

He just went quiet,  looked at me, and said, “Oh, I don’t know.”

Honestly, he didn’t know.

Jill…

About a week later I was having a very similar conversation with another client who was hell-bent on writing a book in 2016. That was her big goal we discussed a year ago, she wanted to write a book. During her review I asked, “How far have you got with it? How much have you written?”

She said, “Oh, I haven’t written anything yet.”

“Oh, okay,” I said (this is a very common response, writers really struggle to start!). “What’s getting in the way? Do you not have enough time? Are you unclear on what you want to write about?”

“No, no, no, it’s nothing that,” she said. “It’s just, every time I try to write something…I don’t like it.”

There this loaded pause on my end of the conversation and I said, “Yeah…that’s what happens when you write anything…ever.”

The Problem With Jack And Jill…

I spent quite a bit of time with each of them trying to figure out how they could avoid having another year of, what is essentially, procrastination on these two big goals. I wanted to get them moving. I realised that the same thing was holding both of them back.

They wanted these things to be perfect. They had this image in their head of exactly what they wanted.

Jack has a perfect plan of how his business club will be: who’ll be in it; what kind of content will be in it; it’ll have this function, that function, all these fancy giz-whizzes. His problem was that he kept saying, ” I can’t launch it yet, I haven’t got this. I can’t do it yet, I haven’t got that.”

“Right, okay,” I said. “But why can’t you start without all of that and slowly build it up?”

He looked at me like I’d gone stark raving mad and he said, “I hadn’t thought of that.”

It was astonishing, because it’s the sort of thing that I’d say if positions were reversed.

A very similar thing happened with Jill as we were discussing her book.

I said, “Why don’t you just keep writing even if you hate it? What’s making you actually stop writing?”

She said, “Oh, well, there’s no point…I can’t write.”

This is another common response! “Everybody can write,” I said. “What do you mean exactly? Do you feel what you’ve written is bad? Do you feel you’re not writing about the right thing?” I was really trying to pin it down.

“I just didn’t like the sentence that I wrote. I didn’t like the paragraph. I didn’t like the chapter, I didn’t like the tone, I didn’t like …” She kept listing all these things she hadn’t liked about various bits and pieces that she’d tried to start writing.

I had to drop a bit of a truth bomb on her.

This is what first drafts are for,” I said. “You write a draft that’s a piece of shit,” I’m not kidding, first drafts are always shit! “You write a piece of shit draft, you get it all out of your head, down on paper, and you look at it and say…

‘That’s absolute crap. I’m never showing that to anyone ever as long as I live. I just wasted 12 months of my life on this. I’m going to go and kill myself now.’

That’s how it works. That’s what you have to do. It’s a natural process when it comes to writing books. You just have to get through it. Once you get to the end of that first draft you have something to work with. You can read through it and say, ‘I like this but I don’t like that. This needs this. That needs something else. Get rid of this completely’.

That’s how it works.

You can’t expect your first draft to be perfect.

You just can’t.

If there is a writer in existence who can write a perfect first draft, I have never heard of them.

This was the problem holding both of them back from these whole goals and these really, really exciting dreams that they had. They wanted them to be perfect and they expected them to be perfect right away. They expected them to be perfect before they even started.

The Problem With ME…

It occurred to me as I was going through my own goals for 2016 that there was one really big one I hadn’t done. It kind of hit me on the head: vlogging.

“Damn it,” I said to myself. “I wanted to start a vlog and I haven’t. Why haven’t I?”

And I was coming out with exactly the same kinds of excuses I’d heard from Jack and Jill.

Every time I came to start I’d think, “Right, I’m just going to do it.”

Then I’d be like, “Oh no, I haven’t got the right tripod…. Oh, I don’t have enough lights… No, no, no, my hair needs to grow longer… I need to lose ten stone…”

All these things that I was absolutely convinced I had to have, or had to be, or had to know, before I could start vlogging. And in the end, all it is, is sitting down and talking to a camera.

If I waited for these things to happen I would never, ever, ever start.

My initial goal was to start vlogging in August. It’s now January. The only reason it didn’t happen in August was perfectionism – my stupid head telling me that I couldn’t record vlogs until I was thin, and pretty, and had the right camera, and had the right equipment and had, I don’t know, redecorated the house…maybe run a marathon? I’m not quite sure.

Why You Need To Get Out Of Your Own Way…

There are certain people whose vlogs I follow religiously. Marie Forleo, for example, I watch every week. Denise Duffield-Thomas, I absolutely love her. In my head I was like, “Yes. I want my vlog to be like their vlogs. I want my vlog to be like absolute shiny perfection.”

But you see, the thing with these people who I watch all the time is, if you go back to the beginning, right to the start when they started releasing videos, they weren’t all perfect and pretty and shiny when they started.

They dropped the camera. They were recording on their laptop and the picture was wonky. It wasn’t always in focus and the sound was awful.

There are people whose vlogs I covet, people I borderline idolise, and if you actually go back and look at the beginning you realise that they didn’t start like that.

Stop expecting it to be perfect right out of the gate.

It’s not going to be.

It doesn’t have to be.

Nobody expects it to be.

And really, the god’s honest truth is this: nobody cares.

I know, it’s shocking to say this out loud, isn’t it?

Nobody cares.

If you are not perfect, most people won’t even notice. The things you find the most worrying, the things that bother you the most, those things only exist in your head. They’re mind monsters, they’re these nasty little thoughts that creep in and make us feel awful. They really do. They’re not imaginary, they are real. They are real to you, but to the rest of the world they don’t even exist. The world doesn’t know about these awful little things that happen inside your head that tell you, “You can’t do this. You’re not ready yet. You’re not good enough.”

Fat Girls Can’t Vlog…

In my case, the big one, the huge mind monster I contend with daily, is and always will be my weight. It screeches at me daily, “You can’t record videos of yourself while you’re fat!”

You know what? You can!

Everybody has hangups. Everybody has things that undermine their confidence, make them feel they’re not really going to be able to do something properly. As if perhaps they don’t deserve to do it. Maybe they feel like they’re faking it, like they’re not really ‘one of those people’ that can vlog, ‘one of those people’ that can write a book, ‘one of those people that has a business club’.

It’s something that other people do. Successful people, pretty people, thin people, white people, black people, gay people, straight people… It doesn’t really matter what criteria you put on this. Whoever you are, you will have at least one major hangup which is stopping you from doing things, and you will have a million little tiny things that also stop you.

The Big Fat Lie…

The crux of the issue isn’t that you are overweight, inarticulate, can’t write a perfect first draft, or don’t have all the gadgets and gizmos.

It’s a lie!

Perfection is a lie.

Perfection is a lie we tell ourselves. In our heads we want things to be a certain way. And when we look at people we admire, we see them as perfect. But we only see the outside, we only see what they show us. We only see a very shallow part of the whole.

If you could crawled inside their heads, I guarantee you, you would find all these little mind monsters running around screaming at them saying very similar things.

When you’re striving for perfection, you’re in your own way. That’s all there is to it.

If you have a goal for this year, whatever it might be, think about it realistically, set yourself manageable, achievable goals, rather than shiny, pretty, never-going-to-get-there goals. When you set yourself perfect goals all you do is set yourself up for failure. And that’s bullshit, because you’re not a failure.

You’re just trying to do something that’s impossible.

I intended to release a weekly video for, every week without fail, since last August. It just never happened. The reason was that I was hell-bent on it being absolutely perfect, and there was no plausible way it was ever going to be.

Yet, here I sit.

Is it perfect? No.

(Seriously, check out the video – turns out there’s toothpaste on my top! I’m MORTIFIED, but somehow, the world didn’t end!)

Will it do? Yes!

To be perfectly honest, it’s not nearly as bad as it could have been! It could have been so much worse!

Let me know what your goals are. I would absolutely love to hear them!

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