Musings on imperfection and professionalism

I shared on social media recently that I was feeling really tired, exhausted from a busy few months. That maybe I hadn’t got the mix of work quite right, that I needed some time to rest and replenish.

Then I spoke with a colleague about it. She said she admired how I share openly about the different parts of myself.

I thanked her for that reflection and shared that I feel like I have to be honest about the hard stuff, because being in integrity with my feelings is how I want my work to be. And asking for help and support, that’s a big ongoing life challenge for me, an area of growth, so it feels like good practice to ask sometimes.

I shared with her that I sometimes worry it’s ‘not professional’ but then I think ‘f*^k it, that’s just the truth of who I am’. People who are scared to see the dark, who want ‘perfect’ and who want a coach that seems to have no problems ever – they are not my people.

I try to bring self awareness and compassion to my strong feelings. I try to process them and tend to them before I share them publicly. I am aware that my journal / therapist/ mentor/ coach/ friends are where the raw feelings get processed and made sense of. I never do that with my clients. I always check in first that it’s not raw and ‘in the moment’ and that there is some sense of it the sharing being for the greater good and not just for myself before I hit publish.

She said ‘maybe we need a new version of what professional is’.

I agree.

Does anything resonate for you about this? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Going after our dreams: Forget perfect

When we have a long held dream it can be tempting to aim super high. We can visualise the BEST concert, the MOST AWESOME workshop, the BEST SELLING BOOK. This vision can be enticing, exhilarating, and frankly terrifying.

It can paralyse us with fear because we can imagine all the things that might go wrong along the way, and the pain we might feel when that moment comes if it’s NOT that raging success we dream of.

Instead try ‘beginner’ level.

Imagine your first one being full of mistakes and maybe not quite as bright and shiny as you would like AND THAT BEING OK.

Imagine the ONLY objective is to actually give it a go, and celebrate your learning and courage along the way.

If this still feels terrifying, try writing a long list of all the wonderful things you might get out of doing even a small and slightly shabby concert, or running a averagely attended workshop where you forget a few things and do an OK job, or writing a book that barely sells at all.

ALL the things you will learn
ALL the connections you might still make
ALL the experience you will gather up
ALL the personal growth and insights you might have
ALL the old fears you might step away from
ALL the old self beliefs you might gently challenge
ALL the new ideas and inspiration you might get

Feel worth it now?

Even a beginner level effort teaches us so much. In fact we often can’t get to excellence without doing ‘kind of average’ first (many times over).

Do average.
Do beginner.
Do practice.
Do ‘this is just a pilot’.

Perfect is not the only option.
Perfect is not the only reason something is worth doing.
Perfect is not our obligation.
Perfect is not your responsibility.
Perfect is a changeable, subjective flip flopping notion that exists just to tie you in knots.

What is your responsibility is to bring those great ideas into the world, and express yourself, to give it a go.

Courage, self criticism and stretching ourselves

I want to reflect on my recent experience of having a podcast interview, and share these with you in case they help you to ‘step up’ and get out of your comfort zone.

Recently I was guest on the Recovering Perfectionist podcast and spoke with Claire Barton about being a scanner and not being tied to just one career, hobby or focus in our lives. I love Claire’s work, I’ve enjoyed working with her, and she is a great source of info on business systems. To be honest I’m a bit of a fan, I find her down to earth and warm manner really delightful.

We had a great chat and then earlier this week it was published both as an iTunes audio podcast and also as a YouTube video, so I listened again to remind myself of what we covered.

Just like any creative endeavour there can be mixed feelings about the ‘end product’. For example I notice that the sound is a bit iffy my end at the start of the interview (internet connectivity issues). I don’t look right into the camera because I’m looking at her face on my screen, so I look a bit shy and distracted, always looking slightly away. As I watch I cringe a bit about random things to do with how I move my hands so much, or that I’m wearing foundation when I normally don’t so my skin looks strange to me.

These are fairly normal ‘oh no look I did a bad job’ kinds of observations that come up from fear of making a fool of ourselves, fear of appearing incompetent, fear of being rejected or ridiculed. As a recovering perfectionist myself I have an eagle eye for my own flaws and am great at spotting them.

However, as I watch I am also pleasantly reminded of the genuine connection we shared that day and the interesting topics we discussed. I am pleased when the audio sorts itself out and works again. I like my earrings. I feel proud of myself for stretching my experience and saying yes to a recorded video, when in the past my interviews for radio or online have all been just audio.

So on this day of being aware of something new and of myself, being in the public domain, I gently hold these mixed feelings. I know that I have learnt things by doing this, the sky didn’t fall in, and the world is still turning. I know that I will feel more confident the next one I do. I am aware and pleased that the inner voice of celebration and encouragement is louder than the inner voice of criticism. I know that these mixed feelings about our creative endeavours are part of the ride, and I’m glad I continue to get outside my comfort zones so I have fresh reminders of how that feels, and can walk alongside my clients who are doing it too.

I encourage my clients to start before they know every single little thing, as it’s in the doing that we actually learn. I am on the same path of exploration as they are, as we all are, and today I celebrate our small and big acts of courage.

scanner podcast

Links
iTunes Podcast – bit.ly/TheRecoveringPerfectionist
Podcast episode – Episode #30 – https://www.clairebarton.com.au/podcast-feed/30
YouTube video episode –https://youtu.be/e1-nNslnkBo

 

It’s OK (really)

It’s ok to not have a plan
It’s ok to not feel good enough sometimes
It’s ok to need support and encouragement
It’s ok to struggle with your ego
It’s ok to feel jealousy and envy
It’s ok to not know what you want or to want everything
It’s ok to feel like everyone else has it figured out except you
It’s ok to feel hopeless
It’s ok to be tired, or lacking motivation
It’s ok to be anxious, frightened or scared
It’s ok to be uptight or a control freak
It’s ok to be chaotic or a slob
It’s ok to be driven and ambitious
Sure it’s not necessarily comfortable, or glamorous, but we really don’t need to despair about our worth as a human being if we find ourselves facing our hard to face stuff.
Everyone has stuff to deal with.
It’s ok to love ourselves even if we aren’t perfect.
Let’s practice accepting ourselves with kindness.
Let’s practice noticing our feelings and behaviours with curiosity not judgement.

Reader question: Getting started is hard – what do I do?

I am interested in lots of things but can’t seem to work on any of them long enough to make much progress. I think the reason I do so much thinking instead of doing is because I am a perfectionist and a planner, I hate starting ANYTHING until I have fully researched and planned down to the last detail, and got it all ready. I am like this with everything in life, like I can’t do anything until and unless all the things necessary are prepared.

Working on identifying and making sense of what fears lay beneath our drive to perfectionism can be useful. For a lot of us who dance with perfectionism it can be fear of criticism, often stemming from childhood, when we were small and vulnerable and being criticised by someone harsh felt life threatening. For others being ‘perfect’ (/ good/ high achieving/ ‘good)’ was our way to get approval/ love / attention that was otherwise missing.

I like to draw an image of the inner critic and give it speech bubbles and see what comes out of its mouth. Is it a scary monster? Is it an anxious bean counter and pendant? What does it tell me about myself and my work? What is it scared of?

Sometimes I also draw myself as a small child next to the voice of criticism, offering back some words from another perspective. I find this is a good way to see more clearly what the critic fears most, and to counter the messages of the critic, and find compassion for myself.

Another approach is to reduce the risk of the task at hand so the task feels less scary. How can we reduce the fear? How can we lower the ‘stakes’ – so that it is ‘practice’ or ‘an exercise’ rather than an ‘outcome’? Can we allow our inner child out to play making a big messy rough draft? Sometimes I start projects that I’m super scared of by scribbling notes on a daggy old scrap of paper, or I write hard things in notes on my phone while standing in queue for a coffee. For me, reducing the feeling of ‘significance’ frees me up to get started, because I know I’m not expecting some grand result.

Another way to reduce risk is to involve other (friendly) people. Can someone else  join in on the project so it doesn’t all sit on our shoulders to complete it? Can we enlist a support team, a cheer squad, a mentor, a coach or guide?

Can we support ourselves like we would support a friend? Pretending that we are just imagining hypothetically what we tell someone else in that situation can be helpful. ‘What advice would you give someone else who was just setting out to do (whatever you are trying to do)?’ Or try saying ‘if I WAS going to write a book/ change jobs/ learn an instrument/ go travelling, hypothetically, what would the steps be? What support or resources might I need?’ It’s easier to let the ideas flow when fear is not constricting the answers.

Can you create boundaries that help you focus intensely and get over the hurdle of getting started? A writing challenge, drawing a picture a day, setting the timer and working on it for an intense initial 5 minutes (‘pomodoro’ style), sometimes these kinds of challenges help us push through and get started, move despite the voices of fear.

A servant to your to do list?

Are you a slave to your To Do list? Do you feel like you’re only allowed to relax once everything is done and your list is empty?

Do you feel guilty if you do something just for yourself? Do you worry that self care is selfish or horribly indulgent?

Where did these feelings come from? Did you grow up in an environment where only your achievements were valued? Did you grow up in an environment where the adults were tired, unwell or unavailable, leaving you with a strong sense of responsibility to help get things done? Maybe the people around you also struggled with self-care and you feel guilty any time you were found to be loafing around while they were working hard.

You may know all of that but what are you going to do about it?

Creating new attitudes towards self care is not easy. But it’s important work.

Self-care can be about the basics like making sure we are clothed and fed, kept warm and safe. For some people even the basics are something they have to learn themselves as adults.

Self-care can also be about allowing play. Time spent doing what we feel like without a deadline, without an output, without a gold star at the end.

Self-care can be about tending to our bodies, noticing when they are tired, allowing them to rest and allowing them to move joyfully.

Self-care can be about what we don’t do as well as what we do. About setting boundaries. About saying no about not having to be all things to all people. It can be about learning to tolerate the discomfort that comes when we can’t alleviate the pain of others. Self-care can be about gently reappraising our role of rescuer, doer, saver, get things done-er.

Self-care can be about stepping into the role of kindness giver to our bodies, of noticing and being in physical form.

Self-care can be about allowing the frivolous. Tapping into our senses. Doing things purely for delight, that is, our delight, our own delight, not delighting others. Self-care is an inward orientation, and listening to the quiet voice of need as well as whim and whimsy.

Self care is unlearning hardness, deafness to our bodies, unlearning critical appraisal of our leisure, unlearning callousness, unlearning the need to be permanently productive, unlearning a commitment to constant movement and striving.

A learning of gentleness. A learning of kind trusting and well wishing. A learning of allowing in the soft small and beautiful. A learning of unclenching.

Ultimately self-care is a learning of the self. Beginning to see ourselves in the centre of our lives beginning to chart the topographical contours of what we love what we like what we need and what keeps us well.

Forgiving ourselves

I think forgiving ourselves is at the core of moving on, moving forward and getting unstuck! The quote below speaks to me so beautifully of that.

“How do I actually learn best? How do I change? How do I grow? Is it through that kind of belittling myself and berating myself and humiliating myself? Or is it through something else, some other quality like self-compassion and recognizing the pain or unskillfulness of something I’ve done or said and having the energy to actually move on?
So where does that energy come from? It comes from not being stuck. And how do we get unstuck? In fact, it’s from forgiving ourselves and realizing, yeah, it happened. It was wrong. I’m gonna go on now in a different way ‘cause I’m capable of that. I am capable of change.” – Sharon Salzberg

This week I am practicing forgiving myself for all the times I feel tired or just ‘meh’ rather than 110% fabulous.
I’m forgiving myself for the paperwork that isn’t done, all the work ‘leads’ or possibilities I let linger and didn’t bring into fruition, and all the ways I don’t live up to some shiny imaginary super-entrepreneur vision I sometimes yearn to be. I also forgive myself for indulging in buying into the idea that there IS some shiny entrepreneur cookie cutter role I need to step into.
I am forgiving myself for not having it all figured out or having the ‘perfect’ clockwork business that somehow runs itself while I sip almond lattes and have international holidays.

I accept myself as learner, beginner, as well as expert, as bumbler and fumbler, as making-it-up-as-I-go-along. I accept myself as sometimes slob, sometimes stressed and overworked, sometimes exhausted, sometimes hermit, sometimes attention seeker, as sometimes succumbing to fears.

I forgive myself for all these shades of vivid human.

My shadow, my depth, my multifaceted shining me-ness.

I forgive myself.

I try to make room for these aspects of me that I am less proud of, try to shimmy over to make room for them. I try not to judge them, or deny them, or point an angry finger at them.

How about you?


Are there shadow aspects of your personality that you struggle to see and feel OK about? 

Are you working on forgiving yourself for anything at the moment? 

Have you had a self-forgiveness win? 

 

 

 

 

What is your relationship with your creativity?

piggybackIs creativity a long lost friend you forget to ring until the day is over and you’re laying in bed and you think ‘tomorrow!’ with a pang of guilt?

Is creativity an acquaintance that you suspect doesn’t really like you much?

Is creativity an old lover you were once close to but now feel embarrassed to be around because you think they might not like you much anymore?

Is creativity like your best friend in childhood who you could play with every day and then cry and wheedle when the adults arrived to take them home because you weren’t done yet?

Is creativity a dirty little secret – someone you see briefly for a rush of passion but try not to remember when you’re back in ‘normal life’?

Is creativity the one you’ve seen in the distance across the room and feel a deep connection with but you’re too shy to go up and say hello?

Are you catch-up-only-sometimes-but-over-hours-of-delicious-chat-and-a-bottle-of-wine friends?

Is creativity a bit like a mythical creature – you’ve heard it talked about but never seen it up close with your own eyes?

Is creativity a dear friend you chat with weekly or daily?

Tell us below what your relationship is with your creativity at the moment!


If you want to make better friends with your creativity come along to my monthly Mixed Media Masterclasses in 2017, or consider joining my Women’s Creative wellbeing Group (face to face or online) in January.

Messy and OK

I want to talk about embracing our imperfections.

I have gone a long way from my early days in consulting where I thought I needed to ‘know’ everything and was terrified with not knowing the right things.

It felt like there was a vast and ever changing set of technical areas I was meant to be across, and for my highly creative, highly intuitive brain that doesn’t like memorising that was hard. Layer onto that anxiety and my inability to ask for help and I was a hot mess of fear on the inside while I continued to deliver more and more work at the standard I expected of myself. I frequently felt out of my depth and frequently worried that I was not ‘enough’.
Fast forward ten years and quite a bit of therapy later – and here I am running my own business in a completely different field. I have worked through and grown out of some of the old fears (thankfully) and life is far more peaceful now as a result. However I still notice a set of ‘shoulds’ emerging in my brain around work.

For example, I sometimes catch myself judging my messy desk and non linear way of working and thinking it is a ‘flaw’ – some deep character flaw that if I fixed would make my life better. I can feel anxious (not about the mess, I’m quite comfortable with a messy desk) at the thought that I am a messy person. There is some script that says ‘oh no! You’re not good enough like this. You need to change and be more tidy, predictable, ordered, and less exuberant’. And sometimes I believe this script and makes me feel despair. Because how am I meant to change this way that I am most comfortable in the world? And if I need to change this part of myself to be ‘successful’ what does that mean for my life?
So instead of running with these thoughts I notice the script and practice reminding myself that in fact I am fine as I am. I am happy as I am. I’ve achieved a lot as I am. I am intuitive and deeply connected with my energy levels, whims, opportunities and this is just as valid a way of working as being very orderly and linear.
I try to create more encouraging inner scripts that say things like ‘hey that’s ok, I have a super orderly mind, that’s why I can handle a bit of chaos on the outside’ or ‘oh well creative people are often messy’. I remind myself of my mentor Barbara Sher and how she says that you can be lazy and in a bad mood and still get what you want. That you can outsource the bits you suck at and focus on what you rock at. These gentle, encouraging messages help chip away at the old beliefs that I need to be ‘perfect’ (whatever that is) to be ok.
Do you have parts of yourself that you despair at and judge? Is there a more accepting way you could speak about them to make room for them?

 

Are you messy and OK like me? Or maybe super clean & tidy and OK?

Loud and OK?

A procrastinator and OK?

A bit of a control freak and OK?

A bit anxious and OK?

Kind of grotty and OK?

Forgetful and vague and OK?

Shy, a little bit awkward and OK?

Let’s celebrate all our OK-ness together!