I've been avoiding writing since I launched this blog a month back. The goal had been self-expression: to finally start putting what I think out there. But I didn’t write because I wasn’t sure I had anything great to say, and whatever I put up had to be worthy. Thats just scratching the surface though.
Upon examining this predicament further, I realized a couple of things:
- If I don’t write regularly, it’s never going to be good enough. I will only get good at something if I do it more often.
- I’m placing a high value on perfection, and all the vulnerability and self-expression I’ve been touting have gone out the door.
The first point is straightforward to work around. I need to start writing everyday, and can publish on my private blog. The more complex and ingrained problem is the pursuit and display of perfection.
Problem 1: I only like it when its perfect.
Turns out, I don’t like creating anything less than perfect. Even if its just for my consumption. I feel disappointed with myself, I expect more from myself. I can’t help but have high standards, and why should that be a bad thing?
The problem is that I don’t see anything beyond the mistakes, and even if I do, the errors ruin the whole thing.
For example, here’s a painting I made last weekend at a Bombay Drawing Room event (they teach you to re-create a pre-decided painting from scratch, step by step). I become a gleeful child when you give me paints. At first, I enjoyed doing the background and liked how things were turning out. But towards the end, I felt rushed to catch up with the various steps, and ended up ‘spoiling’ it. You see the white oval like things in the middle of the painting; they’re meant to be reflections of light from the lamp posts alongside the path. These look more like ghosts in my painting. By the end of the class, I was just unhappy and dissatisfied. I tried to ignore the feeling but I couldn’t help but regret all the lost potential. I had been looking forward to hanging it up in my living room, alongside all the other paintings that had made the cut.
What does this reflect?
- I’m unable to see anything beyond errors
- I don’t value enough the chance to be creative, to express myself, and to get something done.
Its true. I feel highly skilled at looking for errors and areas of improvement, but seem to lack the skill of identifying strengths.
For example, as part of my training as a coach, we had group mentoring sessions where we would coach each other in front of a group and the mentor coach would give us feedback on our coaching. I would be amazed by the positive feedback the mentors would manage to come up with, for coaching I thought was quite dismal. The feedback was genuine and true, I just never looked at that stuff. I took those positives as the basics, the obvious, that didn’t count in the presence of the flaws.
Even if I learn to see strengths, I’ll still see the errors. Can I learn to coexist with imperfection? Do I need everything around me and inside me to be perfect in order to feel pleased?
Maybe I need to start valuing doing and creating so much, that I’m willing to compromise on perfection. Just like how today I value perfection so much that I compromise on creation.
This might get me started, but turns out its not just me I want to please.
Problem 2: I want be seen as perfect.
I’ve spent so much of my life going for perfection and calling it my drive for excellence. Feeling validated by all the friends and family who thought highly of me as a result.
To finally launch my website and blog publicly, I had to commit to going ahead with my first draft and letting go of perfection. But this time, I decided to set a deadline for when I would launch, and I stuck to it. I felt elated when it happened. Then, in the weeks that followed, I kept editing and even fully re-writing the sections that I didn’t like or feel good about. Before I knew it, I was busy perfecting it again. And then, I didn't want to 'spoil' it with less thought through and refined posts.
Did I not want to ‘spoil’ how others saw me? After all, I was already being vulnerable by sharing my deepest passions and thoughts publicly (that’s a separate story altogether). It should at least be good and well articulated right?
I realized that I’ve been more worried about sharing my work with the people I care about rather than with strangers. Friends who are really smart and have high standards, and also think highly of me and (I imagine) have high expectations of me.
Deep down, I was worried that these friends are going to see my work and be disappointed or think less of me. They’re the ones whose idea of me I didn’t want to spoil. I feel guilty admitting to this, because don’t I trust that they love and value me irrespective of one piece of work?
The thing is, I don’t want to encourage perfection. The rest of the world already does that pretty well, and there are enough people struggling with anxiety and perfectionism. I’d rather inspire others to express themselves despite their imperfections and the fear of judgment. There’s courage in sharing mistakes.
so Where does this leave me?
I’d like to publish one post a day.
- I want to get better at writing and articulating my life experiences and thoughts.
- I want to learn to tolerate the terror of sharing my raw self sometimes.
- I want to prioritize getting shit done over making it better.
Really, I just want to feel free to be who I am and to enjoy doing whatever I do.
I want to make this a non-negotiable, just like brushing my teeth everyday. And yet, I can see the dangers of this approach too – I don’t want to expect myself to be perfect in executing this plan. I don’t want to beat myself up for not always doing what I said I’m going to do. But I commit to at least trying, every single day.
To be kind to myself, I’m going to give myself two weeks of writing privately. And then starting Jan 1, 2018, I’m going to publish a new post everyday. Whether it’s a few sentences, bullet points or a long rant about something. It might help to avoid longass posts like this one, but perhaps longass is an imperfection I’ll have to get comfortable with. Its going to be like taking some unpleasant but critical medicine everyday. And hopefully I’ll develop a taste for it with time, and come out stronger.
PS: I've spent far too much time writing and editing this post. I'll do the being imperfect thing starting tomorrow :P
Update (Jan 26, 2018): I've been writing every single day since I published the post above. I decided against publishing something on this blog every day, because I'd like to be more intentional about what I curate here. So instead, I've finally joined the Twitter bandwagon and taken to tweeting everyday to get used to sharing my thoughts publicly on a daily basis. I know I'm still holding back though, and I'm working on it.