I used to be a newspaper reporter, and making mistakes never turned out well. Perfectionism was an asset on the job.
There was the time I was reporting a court case and wrote, “He had a gun.” He didn’t.
Once my editor penned a headline about “divers” searching for gas instead of “drivers.”
I’m sure there were many others. Sometimes we chuckled, other times we got in trouble, but the fact was — mistakes weren’t good and making too many of them could cost your job.
As a lifelong perfectionist, this was no problem and I generally thrived under the high expectations.
Despite the high stakes, a really powerful tension existed that forced me to move forward no matter how much I bit my nails while trying to decipher handwritten notes as the clock ticked on. That tension was deadlines.
At some point, I had to turn my story in. Many inches of white space in the next day’s paper just wasn’t an option. In the words of Steve Jobs, we were forced to ship.
Needing to get stuff done quickly was a powerful lesson that has served me well. Today, I’ve figured out a way to move through the perfectionism that used to bog me down. Mostly, I promise things to people and create firm deadlines that force me to move forward despite the fear.
That’s why, when a flurry of Facebook ads appeared on my news feed asking, “Has 2016 passed by and you’re still not any closer to your dreams?,” I stopped in a moment of proud awe.
I’ve been so busy making magic, creating three beautiful courses that have changed people’s lives, that I forgot how I used to stall in perfectionism and not get anything done.
I’m still hard on myself — haven’t cracked that nut yet — but reading that, I took a big breath and deeply thanked myself for taking big risks over the past 12 months.
How have things gone for you this year? Download the Life Review worksheet packet to be guided through a step-by-step evaluation.
How I overcame perfectionism
We learn in action, and the process of taking action every day has eroded this self-sabotaging mindset, helping me to feel much more peace and believe more deeply in myself.
When stuck in perfectionism, you look at every mistake as evidence that you’re not good enough. But that mindset will never get you closer to your dreams.
This is the clincher: Fearing that your work isn’t good enough is actually the fear that you’re not good enough.
You can’t overcome the thought in thought. Instead take action. Growth and confidence come from sitting with the discomfort of acting before you’re ready. The fear never goes away. Don’t keep waiting. Start now.
(This is another way sitting with your feelings makes you powerful. Learning how to sit with discomfort transforms your life in every single way.)
Over the past 12 months, I’ve made some important shifts, both inside and out, to overcome perfectionism and wanted to share them with you today.
1. Mistakes aren’t bad.
That’s right — thinking mistakes are bad is a limiting belief. Even though in the newsroom too many of them could get you fired, most mistakes aren’t that big of a deal. They mean you’re learning.
Over the weekend, I watched a great interview with Lewis Howes and the founder of Spanx, Sara Blakely.
When Blakely was a little girl, her father asked the kids at the dinner table about the failures they experienced. He congratulated the kids for failing because it meant they were trying.
This mindset takes a little effort to fully absorb. The key is to take action. When you do make a mistake, find some sort of affirmation that you actually believe to make you feel better.
A few things I tell myself are:
- Done is better than perfect.
- I’m grateful for my gifts; I value my contributions.
- I won’t remember this in a month.
The first couple of times I sent out blogs or course content with a spelling error, I felt really bad about it. But then I noticed that people I admire were doing the same and they have big teams backing them up.
Ultimately, I realized that taking massive, consistent action towards your dreams serves more people than taking small, inconsistent action because you’re obsessed with perfection.
2. Trust what comes out.
This has been a big one. The fun and difficult part about the creative process is that there is no right or wrong.
This mantra came to me while I was sitting with an uncomfortable question: Did I say the right thing? Should I have written something else?
The answer arose from deep within: Trust what comes out.
This means that there is no perfect, no ultimate right or wrong, but only my unique expression at this point in time. It will never be this way again.
Trusting what comes out is really about trusting ourselves. If you don’t trust yourself, you won’t trust your work.
The good news is that as you practice trusting your work, you’ll start to trust yourself.
Confidence comes from failing and persevering anyway. Knowing you’re good enough comes from starting before you believe you are.
3. You have to start to get good.
The killer about perfectionism is that we want to start great. But you have to start to get great.
We have to go through the pain of hating what comes out to ultimately trust what comes out. This is partially society’s fault because people only show finished products and not shoddy first drafts.
When the voice of perfectionism pipes in and tells you you’re not good enough, connect to your ultimate vision. See your dream in your mind and let the vision of who you want to be inspire you through the discomfort of craving excellence but feeling like you fall short.
The vision in your mind is what you’re capable of. It’s not an unattainable dream, but a vision of what’s possible if you keep going.
Dig deep and act as if you believe in yourself until you really do.
Going through the process is part of the process. It’s not only the final product that matters, but who you become along the way. Embrace mistakes and imperfection. Know that this is your journey toward greatness.
What is your big dream for 2017? Share in the comments on the blog. Let’s inspire each other!
Lots of love,
Suzanne Heyn is a spirituality teacher and online course creator. Her life-changing online course experiences and popular blog help people heal their hearts and love who they are. With an online community of more than 20,000 people, Suzanne is known for her practical, authentic take on spirituality that creates space for deep healing and heartfelt connection.
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