I was thinking the other day about the pressure we put on ourselves to be perfect. It was triggered by 2 friends who are taking on new voluntary roles. The first was apologising in advance for possibly messing up. I don't think anyone who knows him thinks he'll mess up, but that was quite a big concern of his. I then was thinking, in contrast, of another friend who reminds us that she is still learning her role and will not be perfect yet. And then she does the best that she can. I used to be a perfectionist. I hold my hands up to this. I'd be proud of the quality of my work. I'd love to hear compliments about it. However, the flip-side was that I'd take ages to get anything finished and I'd often procrastinate if I wasn't sure it would be perfect enough, so sometimes the task wouldn't get done at all. And I'd carry around this ever growing list of things to do, which put extra stress on me. Now I'm not advocating that we don't do our best, but our best will vary according to not only our ability, but also our current level of experience, how we're feeling that day, and what other pressures we have going on in our lives. There are times when perfection is relevant - if you are a surgeon or operating dangerous machinery, for example. However how I design my business cards really isn't one of them; it's more like a journey, each version can be a little bit different as I evolve my ideas and experience. It's also good to think of where we'd be if, as babies, we didn't risk failure in learning to walk and talk. How would it be if we looked at the baby next to us who was more developed in these skills and decided it wasn't worth us bothering as we couldn't do it right now. It seems a ridiculous notion, but many people do exactly this as adults. So, don't let the fear of perceived failure, put extra pressure on you, or stop you doing something. Be honest with people as to your experience and do the best you can.
How many of us put things off, which we know would be better if they were done now. I know I have to put my hand up for that one. For all those who scroll down to read the previous blog post, you'll see it was in August. So for just over 2 months, I've procrastinated writing a new post. I can come up with a thousand excuses; some of them sound very reasonable, some sound just plain ridiculous (even to me). The truth is that I've procrastinated. I've diverted myself onto other things because I haven't wanted to write. I've wasted time because I haven't wanted to write. I've even been ill for a little while, which gave me an excuse not to write. But the truth of the matter is that there has been fear preventing me from writing. Not the kind of easily identifiable fear. I don't expect a big monster to come and eat me if I tap keys on my laptop. No, this is the kind of hidden fear that lurks in the shadows and suggests that something bad might happen. It doesn't quantify what, because then I could rationalise it away. And it doesn't clearly explain to me what I'm frightened of; it persuades me I don't like writing, which is actually completely false, because I'm loving writing this. It persuades me that I don't know what to write, which is also false, because I didn't know what I was going to write before I started writing this post and yet the words have come. No, the truth is that I'm fearful of something deeper. Maybe it's fear of failure, maybe fear of success, maybe fear of opening up, maybe fear of making a mistake. Maybe a bit of all of those. The other important thing is that I'm completely normal. It's take me a long while to come to that realisation, but it's true. No matter how much I feel I'm alone with this, most people are fearful. Some people are fearful of standing up in front of people, whether it's doing a presentation of being in a show. Some people have a fear of making a phone call to someone they don't know. Some people are fearful of asking for help and support. Now, the thing with fear is that it can often come from events in our past. If we had a bad experience in a school play, we might fear being on stage now. However, sometimes the fear comes from doing something new, from stepping out of our comfort zone. If you've always labelled yourself as someone who doesn't make phone calls, it's going to take you a little while to become comfortable with it. I got into writing this blog over the spring and summer, but the longer I've left it unwritten, the harder it has been to reconnect with it. The first step is literally taking the first step. I've sat down at my laptop. I invite you to stand up on stage, even if it's alongside someone else. I invite you to pick up the phone and make one call on your list. I invite you to ask one person for some help, even if it's the tiniest thing. I invite you to take that first step and to realise that the monster doesn't actually come. And when you've done that, congratulate yourself and plan step 2. It's OK to feel fear while you're doing this. We don't have to clear all the fear before we take action. In fact, it is often not possible to do this. We often have to take action in order to clear the fear. So, I wish you courage to take the next step in to your power and I would love to hear how you get on.