perfectionism is ruining your progress
for a friend and fellow creatives.
Kia ora e hoa,
I'm having a break, they said. After noticing they haven’t published in a while.
On further questioning:
The analytics are depressing.
Not all of us can make it to the top.
And every video is a lottery ticket.
Perfectionism and self-belief — that’s what I want to talk about.
Perfectionism isn’t your friend. Perfectionism welcomes black and white thinking. It's either perfect or terrible. And nothing is perfect, especially when you are starting something new like making YouTube videos. So, everything is terrible if nothing can be perfect.
A lot of us are perfectionists and that’s not our fault. Currently, I'm reading this book called "Complex PTSD" by Pete Walker, and Walker talks about the origin of the perfectionist mindset.
Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or cptsd (yes, Walker doesn’t fully capitalise it) originates in childhood from our parenting. The causes of trauma mentioned in the book are quite extreme. However, when bringing this topic up with a psychiatrist friend, they said to a certain extent we are all traumatised. Our parents did their best job but they aren't perfect in their methods (which is ironic).
A key contributor to perfectionism is abandonment in our childhood. When we are children we haven’t developed our self-protection ability. I guarantee we have been abandoned sometime in our lives and instead of blaming the perpetrator, the abandoner, we blame ourselves. In this, the perfectionism inner critic beings to develop.
I’m pathetic that’s why I was abandoned.
This wouldn't happen if you were perfect.
I had a reasonable childhood, but I can recount my childhood where my parents did put pressure on me to perform well academically.
Getting good grades—no, getting perfect grades became the number one objective.
That pressure leaked into my own self-concept, where I'd judge myself more harshly than my parents would later in life.
I can only forgive them for this because they came to Aotearoa with almost nothing. They saw poverty and the stakes of failure, seeing it for real in Sri Lanka. In their minds, the way to avoid such a life is to work hard, get good grades, go to university, and get a stable career.
This high bar, which few passes, becomes the minimum standard.
But we know life in New Zealand is a lot more forgiving and risks can be made without harsh consequences — you will have a roof over your head.
I also see perfectionism flow in other parts of my life as well. For example in weightlifting, a slight injury and I will try and push on to complete the workout.
"I worked hard" and "I didn't give up" feeds the short term satisfaction of the perfectionism monster, but this is at a detriment for long term goals which I harder to perceive. If you are training you want sustained progress and that involves preventing injuries from getting worse.
Coming back to my friend, the analytics will almost always disappoint you. It's hard to see progress when we expect viral videos all the time or a general upward trend. Analytics should be used as a barometer to see if your content is making an impact on your audience. If it's not what they want to see, it gives you the freedom to try something else.
If you are able to shrink your perfectionist inner critic, which Pete Walker talks about a lot in his book, then you will be able to progress?
How does one do that?
There is no simple answer. Mindfulness is a start — observing when the critic rears its ugly head. The other is to start building self-protection to fight against your own criticism.
Another point is that success is only for a lucky few. There is truth to this element. Luck does have a part to play in it. But I really think luck like this is made. If you don't participate then how can you get lucky?
Finally, not all of us can make it to the top. Good, but why can't you? Believe in yourself first. If you fail, then there is satisfaction in trying. I close my eyes sometimes and I imagine what life would be like if I gave up. The regret is worse than being rejected and failing - the "what if", especially if the stakes aren’t that high (I’m not going to go homeless).
I was talking to another friend and their excuse for sticking to their miserable path is "it's hard". It's hard that doesn't mean you can't try. When we focus on the outcomes we are rarely happy. When we focus on the process, the journey and not the destination, it's fun nearly all the time. Just believe.
Stay focused. Talk soon.
Ngā mihi nui,
Weightlifting is a hobby I started many years ago and I'm happy I did. I stopped for a while and now I'm back and I'm happy that I'm doing it again!