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You will never be ready, and it will never be perfect.
That’s why you stopped trying, right? You’re waiting for the perfect moment (that will never come) or for a magical feeling that you’re “ready” to do something.
So I’ll say it again:
You will never be ready, and it will never be perfect.
Like you, I’m a perfectionist. Or, rather, a recovering perfectionist.
The hesitation and anxiety over pressing the “publish” button on my Fanfiction stories.
What if no one reads it? What if I get mean reviews? What if it’s not perfect?
No matter how many times I’ve read and re-read it, I’ll find something to fix after it’s been published.
There’s the acute worry that I’ll feel agonizing embarrassment when I see an error after production.
Because if I saw it, someone else did too, right?
What do they think of me now?
But oh, this is so dangerous, and so limiting.
You think, if it’s not perfect, it’s not worth it. It’s not worth trying something new if you’re going to suck at it. It’s not worth asking that question during a meeting because everyone’s going to think you’re stupid. It’s not worth making a plan because something’s going to screw it up eventually.
It’s perfectionism. And it’s also a mindset.
Fixed Mindset VS Growth Mindset
A fixed mindset, to be specific. A fixed mindset is the belief that you were born with all your talents and skills, and that none of them can be changed, improved, enhanced, or added to. It also is the belief that learning new things is too hard, and not worth it.
After all, not trying is a type of perfection. A perfect record, to be exact, of not failing at anything because you’ve never tried.
Perfectionism and the fixed mindset are intertwined as tightly as British people and tea. You’d be hard-pressed to find one without the other.
For example, I started my blog, Inspired Forward, in January of 2017. I wrote three articles, nervously hit publish on them, and tried to write number four.
I felt restricted to the topic I’d chosen, worried about what people would think if they read it, and stopped trying to put work into it.
My blog languished for a year without any new posts. I had given up on it because I knew it was not perfect, and I didn’t think I could get any better. So I didn’t even try.
I had fixed mindset, bad.
Unfortunately, the fixed mindset is often established in childhood.
Did you grow up with your parents praising all your good grades and telling you how smart you are?
My dad helped me with my math homework for years, but only to check my answers. I finally had to stop asking him for help in high school because I knew, subconsciously, that his help wasn’t helping.
It lulled me into a sense of security that I’d always have his knowledge to fall back on. During the years I received his help, I became upset if he wasn’t available to check my work–and I didn’t want to feel the pain of a bad grade just because he hadn’t been there.
I wasn’t willing to fail.
My parents always told me I was smart. Smarter than my sister, smarter than the other kids, smart enough to skip a grade in math while still in elementary.
It taught me that “smarts” are genetic. Inherent. Something I didn’t have to work at. I had the fixed mindset.
Because I learned that I was “smart” as a kid, I never learned the study habits that would’ve let me retain higher-level math. As such, Being good at math in elementary and high school didn’t translate into college.
I finished school and received my degree in mechanical engineering without remembering anything about statistics, linear algebra, or differential equations–all required classes that I passed with a B or higher.
At that point, it really put it into perspective that something wasn’t right.
Praise for our “smarts” makes us feel good, but does nothing to push us into learning more.
Praise for effort and hard work, though, does. Carol Dweck, Ph.D, discovered in her research on mindset that children who are praised for their hard work and effort on assignments or tasks are more likely to try harder later, even if they experience failure or setbacks.
Kids who get the standard “Oh! You’re so smart!” bask in that praise but don’t do anything else to further their learning.
And why should they? They’re smart already. No need to keep learning if they already know it all.
It starts in childhood.
I’m not and won’t ever be a parent.
So I can only imagine how I’d raise kids after learning about all this mindset and perfectionism stuff. It’s easy to judge others for how they do things especially if we think we know better.
Praise hard work and effort, not inherent intelligence.
It’s easy to say, but is it easy in practice?
Even when the cost of that is perfectionism, fixed mindset, and stagnant adult years, for a lot of people it’s not going to be easy.
If you’re a perfectionist now, with a fixed mindset, the path to the growth mindset requires the desire and belief that you can change.
After sitting dead for a year, I picked up on my blog again. It didn’t happen by accident–I wound up hearing about something called the Work At Home School and drank the kool-aid of side hustle possibilities.
And with a ready-made website and niche that I still felt passionate about, I had a way to start again.
It was the kick in the pants I needed to break out of my fixed mindset and believe that I could ship imperfect things and nobody would care as much as I did.
And it worked.
To this day I’ve never been more consistent about anything–not even my fanfiction writing. The belief that I can improve, that I can learn new things, and that nobody is going to be as invested in my future as I am–that’s the best antidote I’ve ever encountered for perfectionism.
Stop Being Afraid of Never Being Perfect
Your first small win can be this realization:
No one cares as much as you do.
It doesn’t have to be perfect–because it never will be.
You don’t have to be ready–because you’ll never be “ready.”
And it’s all right to hit publish on something with imperfections–because no one cares about it as much as you do.