The Perfectionism Problem – Revisited

Just shy of three years ago, I wrote a blog post about the problem with perfectionism, and how to (gently) let go of it in order to let your creativity thrive. You’d think after three years of applying my own lessons, I wouldn’t need to be writing another post on the same subject, but here I am. The problem, it seems, is not as easy to defeat as I thought it would be.

As I continue to grapple with perfectionism and come up with new strategies to make “good enough” my new “done”, I thought I’d revisit my advice from before, share what worked and what didn’t, and provide some new advice I’ve picked up over the course of the past few years. 

Decide to Decide

What Worked:

Learning to be more decisive by practicing quick decision-making in all aspects of your life and trusting your gut feelings. For example, making your decision about what you want at your local coffee shop before you make it to the counter. This definitely helped me get better about making smaller decisions more quickly.

What Didn’t Work:

That strategy still doesn’t work for me on bigger decisions like “should I apply for this job” or “how do I ask about a promotion” or “do I approach that cute guy and ask for his number”. I will definitely get caught up in panic mode about my own worth and back down. 

My New Advice: 

Try The Five Second Rule to help make gut decision-making and everyday courage a bigger part of your life. Mel Robbins’ simple tip (which she invented to try and get herself out of bed on time in the morning), has been very helpful in getting me to trust my gut and make decisions—even big ones—much quicker. Just count down, 5-4-3-2-1, and make your decision. Then make a move to accomplish the task. It’s that simple!

Stick to Your Commitments

What Worked: 

Honestly, I want to say some part of my advice from the last post worked, really didn’t. So I’m just going to move straight on to what didn’t work. 

What Didn’t Work:

Everything. Sticking to my own deadlines is really hard. I’m not only a perfectionist but a procrastinator. I set a deadline and when it comes too close and I haven’t even started yet, my argument would becomes “well...I make my own deadlines so I can just push it back a day”. Which starts as a day, then become two days, three days, a week, a month, and so on.

My New Advice: 

Make yourself so busy that you have no choice but to accomplish your projects as they come up and/or when you set time out for them. I find making a paper to-do list helps immensely with this, as you can keep track of things you need to take care of as you think of them, then schedule them in accordingly.

Know Your Limits

What Worked: 

Saying “no” to projects, timelines, or commitments that aren’t do-able. Protecting the integrity of your work and your health is so critical in this time where clients, managers, and friends alike expect constant and round-the-clock updates on your work. Learning your limits and when to say “no” helps you stay sane and make sure that you are performing at your best.

What Didn’t Work: 

There are some situations where saying “no” isn’t an option, especially if you aren’t your own boss or you’re working within a timeline someone else created. In that situation, how do you handle unrealistic expectations? How do you still deliver quality work?

My New Advice:

Say “no” when you can and manage expectations when you can’t. If you work for yourself, negotiate dates based on clients and/or programs you already have on your calendar. If you work for someone else, communicate your current tasks to negotiate and prioritize work and ensure that you complete the most important tasks on time. In my experience, communicating the (reasonable) timeline for when I can expect to get something done has gone over very well with my managers.

“Good Enough” is the New “Done”

If you cringed when reading that, don’t worry – I do too, though less than I did when I last wrote an article on this topic. It’s still challenging to share something before I feel like it’s ready, but I’m not letting it stop me from putting myself out in the world and improving on the form later.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past three years, it’s that practice is the only way to get better at doing something. So if you’ve got a big idea or dream, 5-4-3-2-1, and just start working on it. Even if the steps you take are small, even if it’s something as simple as putting up a blog post, get started. Someone, somewhere, will appreciate your work. Don’t hold yourself back!

Do you have any tricks you use to just “get it done”? Share with me in the comments!

How I Stay Positive in Trying Times

About a month ago, I woke up to some really loud banging coming from outside my apartment.

It was 7:30 AM and some workers were outside making the stairs next to our apartment accessibility-friendly, which apparently involved dismantling the step grips with a crowbar and a power-sander. After going to sleep late the previous night because of road work outside my apartment, this was…less than ideal.

But that morning, instead of being annoyed that my routine was disrupted, I decided to make a change and took myself out to get my morning coffee and work instead.

What a difference that change in attitude made! I found a parking spot at the cafe immediately. I got all of my work done in one of my favorite not-home offices, and I came back to my apartment ready to tackle an interview and a work day at the mall. I truly felt refreshed and happy that day. Even crazy customers at work couldn’t keep me down.

In today’s trying times, it can be easy to let negativity overwhelm you. But I’ve found that a positive mindset can make day-to-day life more bearable and the bigger problems more manageable. Here are some of the methods I’ve learned to help build a more positive mindset:

Positive Mentality

“Positive mind, positive life”. How many times have you heard that catchphrase? If your answer is a lot (like mine is), there’s a reason why. It works! Choosing to have a positive outlook on things, even when things feel challenging does miracles for improving your quality of life.

Whether it’s something simple like my example from the intro to this post or tackling a bigger problem like the health of our environment, there is almost always a way to create a positive mentality. In my example, I decided to find a way to make my day better instead of letting one problem ruin my day. For bigger problems, your impact and decision to make a change can influence others to do the same, thereby creating a much bigger change.

Something to try: Creating positive experiences for yourself. If you catch yourself focusing on a failure or something negative, find an activity you can do over the course of your day to reward yourself. My favorite bad day treat is taking myself to my favorite local coffee shop and doing some reading. Find what feels good for you and incorporate is as needed.

Gratitude Journaling

If, like me, you struggle with wanting things you don’t have, gratitude journaling is a great practice to try. It might sound a little cheesy in theory, but in practice can be absolutely life-changing. Imagine kicking the “grass is greener” mentality to the curb, making what you have enough. Doesn’t that sound amazing?

Make gratitude a bigger part of your life by adding gratitude journaling into your daily routine. Take time at the beginning or end of every day to document things you’re grateful for. Things you’re grateful for can range from a roof over your head down to a nice compliment you got from a boss or a coworker. You can even write down a joke that made you laugh. Everything that made you smile can count as something you’re grateful for.

Something to try: Write down 3-5 things you’re grateful for every day for a month. It shouldn’t take you more than 5 minutes a day. This small push to find things that make you smile every day will not only boost your creativity, but also boost your positive mentality.

Paying it Forward

My favorite way to stay positive is actually through helping others. There’s nothing that puts a smile on my face faster than knowing that I made someone else’s day by doing something nice. Sometimes this looks like buying someone else’s coffee when I get my own. Other times it just means complimenting someone’s outfit.

The little things we do to share goodness with others have bigger impacts than we might realize at the time. You never know when someone was having a really bad day and you genuinely asking how their day is going might help. Paying it forward is a great, selfless way to not only improve your own mood, but someone else’s.

Something to try: Listen to the Good News Podcast. This podcast shares examples of good news every two days, including ways that people give back (both big and small). Plus, it covers the stories in 10 minutes or less every day! It’s a manageable way to inspire good actions and remind you of good things going on in the world.

What are some of the ways you stay positive in your everyday life? Share with me in the comments!

Why I'm Kicking My Inner Critic to the Curb

A few weeks ago, I watched an episode of Jane the Virgin (I was desperately trying to catch up so I could watch the final season). In the episode, Jane is trying to start her second book, but struggles against her inner critic (and writer’s block) trying to come up with a story concept, and struggling when nothing feels right.

As I watched the episode, I realized something: Jane and I were having the same problem. She and I were both struggling to get back in the groove after professional failures. Jane had a failed book under her belt, I have a failed venture into entrepreneurship and a recent layoff.

But where Jane pushed to get through it, I…wasn’t. And I hadn’t tried for a while. My struggle with my inner critic, imposter syndrome, or whatever you want to call it had taken over my life. I hadn’t put hands to keyboard to write a blog post in two years. So I decided to take a page out of Jane’s book and figure out how to get around it.

The Inner Critic

In the show, Jane’s internal struggles manifest as a comically exaggerated version of herself. Her inner critic, for example, looks like a stereotypical librarian, complete with cat-eye glasses, fitted cardigans, and a snobby attitude about pretty much every decision Jane makes. The show uses this as a plot device to show Jane’s innermost thoughts while she struggles with and overcomes her insecurities about her writing.

So why couldn’t I use the same method to figure out what was driving my inner critic?

I started with what my inner critic looks like which, for the record, is immaculate. “Effortlessly” stylish in the ways of Madewell from five years ago, impeccably done hair, and the sort of job that lets her actually maintain a nice manicure. I’m sure she drives a Tesla just for the brand credo.

After I put a face to the name, I started to flesh out my inner critic’s attitude. And as I was doing that, I realized something: my inner critic is a brat. She’s critical (obviously), but not in any way that’s even remotely constructive. She demands improvements with no suggestions on what said improvements should be. Or, worse yet, she just tells me I’m doing it wrong.

My inner critic is like every bad boss I’ve ever had rolled up into one terrible, terrifying headspace tyrant. The worst part is that I can’t walk away from her at the end of the work day, because she comes from my own insecurities.

But, if her power comes from my own self-criticism, than I can take away her power just as easily.

What’s Blogging Got to Do with It

If you weren’t singing the Tina Turner classic “What’s Love Got to Do With It” when you read that section title, well…you’re welcome. But I digress.

Identifying where my inner critic came from and why my mentality about her wasn’t working was a great first step in tackling my bigger problem. But now comes the question of how to make a change and move forward.

I confess: it took me six weeks to write this blog post. I threw up every single excuse my inner critic fed me, but I finally pushed them all aside and just did the dang thing. And that’s the only way that we all can get past our own insecurities.

Vincent Van Gogh once said, “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced”. So what am I doing to silence my inner critic and kick her to the curb? For starters, I’ve committed to getting up early and doing morning pages to start my day. I’ve successfully done that for almost a month. But my biggest commitment is to publish a post here every two weeks.

Today’s the first day of a big change in my life, and I hope it inspires you to kick your inner critic to the curb and join me on the path to just doing the dang thing. How do you imagine your inner critic? What are some ways you’ve learned to get around your negative self talk? Let me know in the comments!