You Have Permission to Not Be Perfect
Fellow entrepreneurs and creative types, I have a problem. I have a problem with perfection. Whew does that feel good to get off my chest!
I feel like I can’t do anything until it’s perfect. For example, writing this blog post will probably take three times as long as it should because I will obsess over every single word.
Guess how long it took me to actually publish my website? Just guess. About a year. An entire year! It didn’t take me nearly that long to write the website copy. But the final act of pushing the publish button and sending something I had created out into the world took an entire year.
My biggest struggle has always been my perfectionism. It has kept me from publishing my novel, a story that has been in my head since first grade. It has kept me in jobs I don’t feel passionate about. It has kept me from moving forward more quickly with my business. But the worst thing? It has kept me from creating.
It Starts in Childhood...
Why do I feel the need to be perfect at everything? Not to get too deep into my childhood sob story, but it all goes back to an offhand comment one of my parents made about kicking me out of the house the minute I turned eighteen. It was meant as a joke, but I was too young to understand that. All I knew was that I would turn eighteen right at the beginning of my senior year of high school and I did not want to try to graduate while being homeless.
The solution, in my tiny little brain, was to be the perfect child. If I was perfect, they wouldn’t want to kick me out, right? I’d at least get to stay until I graduated, right?
That train of thought led to decades of struggling with perfectionism. Sure, I got amazing grades all through high school, but my first B sent me into a spiral of depression and anxiety. Sure, I was accepted into an amazing college with a half-ride scholarship, but I never tried anything new for fear of being bad at it.
I never learned how to fail or learn from my mistakes. Because I made sure I was never in a situation where I made mistakes.
And Challenges Adulthood
This has caused some issues as I work to build my freelance writing career. The biggest issue has been my fear of failure. Because if I fail, I will get kicked out of my house for real. I won’t be able to pay my mortgage, the bank will foreclose, and I’ll be out on the street.
So why should I even bother trying? Why not continue my current, soul-sucking job and keep a roof over my head?
These are the thoughts that I have, and I know they’re the same thoughts that a lot of entrepreneurs, small business owners, and creative types have.
It’s hard to put your heart and soul into a creative work and then send it out into the world to be judged and evaluated by other people. Any time I write something, it is a battle to push the publish button.
It’s hard to build something from the ground up. It’s hard to rely on yourself and be in charge of every part of a business. It’s hard to be a leader, to be the person in charge.
And it all comes down to what if I fail? What if I screw up?
That’s what I’m really afraid of. What if I screw up and it ruins everything?
A Big Business Mistake
But the thing is, mistakes happen. When I first started freelance writing, I made a huge mistake. I’m actually super embarrassed to share this...
I had one client at the time, a friend of my dad’s who needed website copy and weekly blogs. Simple enough.
The thing is, I wasn’t in the mindset of running a business and I let everything fall through the cracks.
I was completely unreliable with writing the blog articles. Sometimes I would have them completed at the beginning of the week, sometimes at the end. Sometimes I would do all four at once, sometimes I would space them out over the month.
After several months of kindly asking me to stick to a schedule (my dad’s friend is a saint), he stopped contacting me with the list of topics and the relationship ghosted to a stop. And that’s how I lost my very first client.
I screwed up, and it haunts me. I feel terrible that I let him down. I feel terrible that I ruined that relationship.
But I don’t have a time machine. I can’t change the past. I can only learn from it. I’m starting to sound a little like Rafiki from The Lion King, but it’s true. I screwed up. I’m not perfect. I have to move on.
I might be screwing up right now by writing this. Some of you might read that story and think “She’s completely unreliable. I would never hire her as my copywriter.” It’s terrifying for me to wonder if you are thinking that.
I’m still going to go ahead and write it, though. I’m going to push that publish button. Hopefully not a year from now. I’m doing this because I think it’s important for us to support each other. We all make mistakes, and we can all learn from those mistakes.
So, fellow entrepreneurs. Fellow creators. Fellow small business owners. How have you screwed up lately? Send me a message and let me know! Let’s learn from our mistakes and grow together.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you!