I’m a failure.

I have a problem.  My problem is that I’m a perfectionist.  I have tons of things I’d like to do – stories (and blog posts!) I’d like to write, creative projects I’d like to launch, people I’d like to collaborate with – but more often than not, I find myself in a holding pattern, unable to start anything for fear that I won’t get it right.

I’ve heard this called ‘paralysis analysis,’ which basically means being so wrapped up in thinking about doing something – what to do, how to do it, when to do it – that you become paralyzed to act and never take the first step to actually do something.

In my case, I think (O.K., I know), that the root of this paralysis is fear.  Fear that whatever I do, it won’t be good enough.  Fear that because whatever I do or create will somehow be seen as an extension of me, that if I can’t get it absolutely perfect, I’ll be judged a failure.  Stupid, illogical and irrational, but there it is.

Take this blog, for example.  I’ve been a writer my whole life, and for many years I’ve wanted to launch a blog.  But the irony is, the more I learned about blogging, the less inclined I became to write my own.  All of a sudden, I became trapped by all the things I needed to do before I could start writing.  I needed a custom header, I needed to become a Photoshop whiz so I could create fabulous photos, I needed a corresponding Twitter account, etc., etc.

Well, I don’t have any of those things, but one day I finally just said screw it.  I’m going to pick a WordPress theme (thank you, Matthew Buchanan, Esquire is lovely) and start writing, and I’ll just have to fix things as I go. And this blog is quickly becoming my experiment in learning how to be O.K. with being a work in progress.

It’s not easy to let go of perfectionism.  It’s a disease.  And with creative projects in particular –which are most of the things I’ve been putting off – it’s particularly tough because they’re so uniquely personal that it feels even more vulnerable to put something out in the world that doesn’t feel ready or finished.

But (deep breath time) what’s the worst that can happen?  So, I open myself up to criticism.  It’s tough to hear, but it can only make me better, right?  So, I tried to do something and it totally sucked.  Oh well.  I failed.  Suck it up and try again.  Fail again.  Fail better.

So let me be the first to shout it from the rooftops:  I’m a failure!  I’m going to try many things and they’re not going to work out.  I’m going to fail, and I’m going to fail a lot.  But I would rather be a failure most of the time, and do something great once in a while, then be mediocre always and never venture outside of my comfort zone by taking a creative risk.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?  In the oft-quoted words of Goethe, ‘Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.’ So let’s begin.

Until next time, friends.

7 thoughts on “I’m a failure.

  1. It seems to me that it’s really just a matter of the vernacular and point of view.

    You’re not procrastination,- you’re planning.
    Thomas Edison said: “Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.”

    And, you say you’re afraid; afraid of what? Criticism. There are a few different ways to look at that. You can go with the classic, “what other people think of me is none of my business”. Or, you can use criticism (read input, suggestion, interpretation) as a stepping stone to the next level of your work. Emerson said: He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear.

    Of course, you’ve chosen one of the most difficult vocations. Hemingway’s description was: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” So, there it is; it boils down to how you say it and how you look at it. You are in no way a failure. You are a working writer. And doing a damn good job. Now go to the computer and bring a box of Band-Aids. And, remember, anyone who doesn’t like your work is stupid and their mothers dress them funny.

  2. The best way to blog is to just go. It not only gives you the freedom to get started but also to never finish. I have learned how to re-design and enhance my blog with HTML and have done it over and over again. I don’t expect a year from now it will resemble anything it looks like today. That’s why I love doing it. It will never be finished. It will never be right. It’s just my own personal playground!

  3. I came across this article today and found it interesting. I had the same problem about a month ago and it was a pretty good stepping stone for myself. Here’s what I wrote.

    Perfectionism

    I must have rewritten the previous blog at least fifty times. Each version was just not good enough. I wrote and rewrote until there was almost nothing left. This perfectionism is sheer torture. I wish I could produce something and say this is good enough and just move on and do something else. That’s not the way life has been for me.

    Where did my perfectionism originate? I’d hate to blame my upbringing for my perfectionist behavior but I really didn’t receive enough praise as a child. I remember being criticized for having horrible writing when I was taking calligraphy lessons. I said never again and gave it up on the spot. I have had a fear of trying new things since that time and when I did take on new challenges, my biggest critic was myself.

    Not only was I critical of myself, I was also critical of others. When I’m writing I hear the voices of the people that I had criticized. I can even visualize their faces telling me how everything I do is wrong, so when I’m writing I write and rewrite and in the end, there’s almost nothing remaining. The changes I made are rarely necessary either.

    I met up with my support group this morning and we talked about perfectionism in our lives and here is what I came up with as a solution

    1. I have decided that from now as I write, I will try to only move forward. If I do go back it will be add details. I’ll practice writing this way for awhile to see how it goes. It’s either this or getting back into the same loop of perfection I was in before.

    2. I will stop criticizing others and do my best to give more praise. I am a firm believer in you get what you give.

    3. I will work on building support groups where members practice the art of giving praise. If members are there to challenge or criticize, I will choose to not be a part of that circle. Critical behavior is counter productive, especially to perfectionists.

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