by Emily Conrad
I killed a blog post today, and not in a good way.
I had a first draft written before 10 AM, but then the self-doubt kicked in. I talked the post through with someone and then tried to apply some ideas from our conversation. And then I tweaked some more. And then some more.
The post fell apart, a mess of disconnected parts. I no longer have the initial version of it, which I think may have been the strongest of any of them. With some reconstructive surgery, the post could be presentable in the future, but in the meantime, I thought I’d take this as an opportunity to talk about something I’ve been thinking about anyway: self-doubt.
I’m no stranger to feeling uncertain about my blog posts. Pretty much every time I finish a post, I wonder whether it’ll strike a chord with anyone, whether anyone will take offense, whether I wrote what I was called to write, whether I was faithful to my Savior.
In short, I want the post (and, let’s be honest, myself) to be perfect. That’s a lot of pressure. Cue the self-doubt.
Brené Brown writes in her book The Gifts of Imperfection that perfectionism is “often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life-paralysis. Life-paralysis refers to all of the opportunities we miss because we’re too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect” (pages 56-57).
I don’t consider my life paralyzed, but reading that line about fear of presenting anything that “could be imperfect” immediately brought to mind my blog. I’m also reminded that I’ve been known to procrastinate in submitting my writing to industry pros, agonize over email wording, or otherwise try to keep things on lock down until I have them just so.
I’m guessing there’s something, some part of yourself, you’re afraid to put out into the world, too, and that’s why I’m sharing this with you. Know that you’re not alone and that we can do battle against the perfectionism that would hold us back.
For me, one of the keys is recognizing the impracticality of the fear of imperfection.
We’re all inherently imperfect, and, even if we were perfect, we couldn’t make others think of us or our work that way. As Brown puts it, “there is no way to control perception, regardless of how much time and energy we spend trying.” (pg 57) I can’t make people like me or my writing.
Another key? A commitment to living my life, not missing opportunities.
Dating back years, I’ve had to say to myself, “At some point, I just have to send this.”
To live my life and accomplish my dreams, I’ve got to publish a blog post, submit my work, send the email, and let people in. Perfect or (more likely) not.
Posting to my blog and putting myself out there in any number of ways has been an ongoing exercise in relinquishing the tight grasp I’d like to keep on perfection. I’m growing, and I like to think I’m on my way to quieting the unnecessary self-doubt earlier and earlier.
These mindsets parallel insights from Brown’s book, but she has a lot more to share, including a helpful description of the difference between “healthy striving” and perfectionism. I highly recommend the book if you find yourself struggling with people-pleasing, perfectionism, and/or shame. (They’re all related! Did you know that? If not, another reason to read the book as she discusses the connections.) I’ve been reading it with a pen in hand so I can underline parts that resonate with me.
But while you’re here, one thing that helps me overcome perfectionism and live my life as a follower of Jesus is knowing that though I’m not perfect, I serve a God who is.
He knows I’m not perfect–if I were perfect, Jesus wouldn’t have had to die for me–but He loves me anyway. He’s also all-powerful, and my imperfections are no match for Him.
Where I am weak, He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Where I fail, I am washed in the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7).
Where I go astray, He seeks me out and brings me home like the sheep that I am (Psalm 119:176).
Point and case: He is a God who can use the fact that I killed one blog post with perfectionism to feed me a new blog post.
Do you see perfectionism hindering you in some way? How do you combat it?