About eight years ago I wrote a blog post about health and fitness. I don’t remember the exact topic of the article, the topic is not critical, as the thing I remember most about the post was a comment posted by someone I knew. While I was trying to be informative and helpful, the comments were about several grammar and spelling errors. My initial reaction was one of frustration. I began to question if the reader even understood the point I was trying to teach, or did they see the article as a product to critique?
My longer observed reaction to the comments were ones of self doubt and deeper feelings of perfectionism. It made me ask a few questions anytime I wanted to publish a post:
- Did I spell everything incorrectly?
- Did I misuse any words or phrases?
- Did I structure the story appropriately?
There are many more questions that start to come up that relate to the content and possible perceptions that people have. These questions became barriers to overcome anytime I wanted to share something I wrote or a product I developed. The desire to over analyze every detail, to question my own authority on a topic and succumb to potential (not even observed) criticism lead to many days and weeks of edits, reviews and changes.
There is a balance.
I don’t want to completely dismiss the value of doing great work. When developing a product, there should be great pride in what you release into the world. If you are writing, there is value in providing the reader with a good experience that includes appropriate grammar. When I put something into the world that doesn’t provide positive value and experiences for the user, it definitely causes me to sit back and reflect on the threshold of acceptable quality.
However, it is more often than not that I face the issue of working on something until I feel it is near perfect. The choice to hold onto something that I wrote for another round of edits is ever present. It is also the easier choice to make because if something has not been released then no one can comment or critique.
It can be easy to fool myself into believing that I am being productive and progressing, even when I do not publish something. If I sit down and write, that feels like progress. Watching the word count grow provides an observable metric that I can trick myself into believing matters.
What really matters is not just getting the content written, but making an impact with the words that are shared.
This requires getting out of my own way so that I can share a message. It might be an imperfect message. It could be filled with broken storylines, poor word choices and bad grammar. Understanding that this is acceptable and that imperfect things can still provide stepping stones for our next effort, this is the obstacle I have to overcome.
As individuals begin a behavior change process, the battle of perfectionism is something that becomes a major challenge for many. The belief that everything has to be in order before they can start. The misguided teachings that say if you do not follow your plan each day, without fail, then it is not worth pursuing. The concept that making a lifestyle change means you need to change all the pieces of your lifestyle that you do not like, today. All of these beliefs are inaccurate and damaging to your journey to a happier and healthier you.