Hi friends, Wendy here! Welcome to the #perfectionistproblems interview series. My mission with The Gratefulist is to help creatives let go of their perfectionism and embrace their perfectly imperfect selves.
I’ve personally learned so much from other people's perfectionist stories and that’s why I’m sharing these stories in a weekly interview series on the blog, in the hope of helping you deal with your perfectionism. Reading about personal experiences is a powerful thing and I believe there’s so much you can learn from these stories and insights.
Today, I’m very grateful to share Stacy Firth from stacyfirth.com ‘s perfectionist story. Over to you Stacy!
In what way does perfectionism show up in your life?
Perfectionism keeps me from getting started. I think to myself “I’m not ready”, but that thought actually stems from being afraid I’m not ready to do it perfectly. I’m self-employed, and as a content strategist and writer, I know so many things I *should* be doing, and I use all the shoulds as roadblocks.
In my personal life, I limit myself with thoughts like “I’m not the type of person who [insert thing I actually want to do here]”. I find myself blaming the restrictions in my life (motherhood looms large in that category) for why I can’t do certain things. Boil it all down, and it’s perfectionism.
It also shows up as comparison. In business, I become absolutely certain that everyone else is smarter, better, savvier, prettier, funnier, more outgoing, more likeable, more dedicated and more worthy than me. As a mom, I convince myself that I’m alone in my struggles in balancing motherhood, housework, marriage and friendship. I find my flaws and hold them up as reasons why I can’t ever be the version of me I want to be.
Why do you think perfectionism is such a dream killer?
Perfectionism is really about fear. And the fears are insidious. They’re teeny little thoughts scattered throughout the day but they keep you from progressing. I think what’s at the end of perfectionism for a lot of people, including me, is “What if I’m not good enough?”, “What if this fails?”, “What if I fail?”. And somehow it becomes safer to NOT take the risk, but to hold dreams close and visit them from time to time and use them as a place to hang your “somedays”.
Truthfully, there’s no way to go for it without risking something. There’s no way to go through life without making some mistakes and failing in big and small ways.
Look at any successful person, and they have stories of how often or hard they failed. The difference is they didn’t let it stop them from starting, and they didn’t let it stop them from moving forward. They went for the dream, flaws and all.
How does perfectionism affect your soul and success, both in work and life?
I find perfectionism so draining. My soul can’t be as joyful as it deserves to be if I’m dragging myself down in doubt, hesitation and comparison. I can’t achieve the success that I dream of if I spend weeks, months, or years wallowing in the reasons why not. That’s not the kind of person I want to be.
What does embracing imperfection mean to you?
Once I realized that I wasn’t actually trying to be perfect, I was using perfectionism to avoid risk and failure and the spotlight, it became a lot easier to manage. Because, again, I don’t want to be the kind of person who hides her light from the world. I don’t want to be the wallflower who won’t dance because she’s afraid she’s less Lady Gaga and more Elaine from Seinfeld.
When I actually think about it, I realize that I don’t care if I’m the best. I just care that I follow my heart and I try. I care that I live a full and honest and vibrant and love-filled life. And I care that I model that for my children.
When I look at it that way, perfectionism is such a ridiculous waste of my limited and precious time.
So I try to give myself grace. I recognize that what I really want is not to be perfect or “better” than anyone else, but simply to be a better version of myself. That’s noble, and I actually love that about myself.
What’s the single most important thing about perfectionism that’s holding you back?
The fact that it’s so sneaky. I don’t always notice perfectionism is creeping in until it’s been going on for a while-- like when realize I’ve been delaying the start of a project or putting off pursuing an idea.
By then, I have a ball of negative thoughts in my head that I need to unwind. I’d like to be able to catch the thoughts as they happen so they don’t have the chance to mess with my positivity and momentum.
Tips and tricks about dealing with perfectionism? Share them!
I love listening to the 'How I Built This' podcast - each episode focuses on the story of a successful business, but what I love most about it is the fact that every story has a low point. Everyone faced a failure or roadblock that could have stopped them but didn’t. Everyone has overcome something to get to where they are. That encourages me so much. And (I’m not just sucking up, this is true!) I love reading your blog, Wendy. It gives me a new perspective on perfection and tools to manage perfection throughout my work and life.
I also try to get curious about how I feel - with no judgment. My wonderful coach, Jennifer Tosner, has really taught me to face everything head on. So when I find myself in perfection mode, I recognize it as fear and ask myself what I’m afraid of and what it would be like if that thing I’m fearing actually happened. And I just keep asking myself “And then what? And then what?”.
It can be really difficult but what ends up happening every time is I either realize that there is actually nothing to be afraid of in the first place, or that what I’m afraid of is something I would be able to deal with. For example, let’s say I’m afraid to submit an article for publication because I’m afraid it’s not perfect. Well, what would happen if it wasn’t perfect? Maybe it would get published, but people wouldn’t like it. And what would happen if I wrote something people didn’t like? Nothing, really. I don’t expect that everyone will like my writing style, or what I have to say. And I respectfully don’t care. So when I actually analyze that bit of perfectionism, I realize it’s not worth the energy, and I can let it go.
Share a favorite quote or mantra that you use to remind yourself that who you are and what you do is good enough?
There’s a children’s song by The Laurie Berkner Band called 'I’m Not Perfect'. My daughter loves Laurie Berkner so we listen to her all the time, and one day this song just stood out to me in a different way. The lyrics are really simple and again, it’s meant for children(!), but I sing it out loud when I need remind myself (and my kids!) that I’m not perfect, that no one is perfect, and that it’s totally ok. It’s like the theme song to life and motherhood at this stage of my life.
Also, I am a huge fan of Danielle Laporte - her Goals with Soul helped me dig into what I really want. When I focus on those things, perfectionism no longer has a place. I also love her Truthbomb card deck. Hanging at my desk is a card that says “Absolutely everything is progress”. It reminds me that I am growing, learning and accomplishing every day. It all adds up. I’m evolving, and that’s a beautiful thing.
Who is this perfectly imperfect, soul-connected creative?
Stacy Firth is a writer and content strategist who helps mompreneurs create powerful online content. For years she’s been writing stories in her head. She finally decided to start writing them down, and has been published on ScaryMommy and Mamalode.
Wendy, again! Phew, that was SO powerful! Thank you, Stacy, for sharing your story so courageously. Make sure to show Stacy some love in any of the places linked above.
Are you inspired by Stacy's story and ready to let go of your perfectionism? Make sure to download my FREE perfectionism-busting workbook. Just click the button below!