The Trouble With Being a Perfectionist

I’m a perfectionist. (Did you know that?)

I spend hours writing each of my blog posts. And then when I’ve finally finished deleting, adding and substituting words, I often hit ‘draft’ instead of ‘publish’ because I’m still not quite satisfied with what I’ve written. And If I do publish a post, I often return at a later date to change a word here or there. Nothing I write ever seems quite right.

The same thing happens when I’m making podcasts. Oh my, you should see my file of ‘failed’ podcasts. Yesterday, I added another one to the pile. “How did your podcast go, Mum?” my daughter Imogen asked me, and I replied, “It wasn’t quite right. It didn’t flow.” And with a sigh, I added, “I’ll have to record it again.”

Then there’s the subject matter. I think: I can’t write about that. It’s not interesting enough. Why would anyone want to read a post about my family… my life… my thoughts…? I need a bigger idea. And so I don’t even start writing.

But just imagine if I didn’t worry so much about being perfect. I’d publish more posts and podcasts. Would that be good or bad? Perhaps I’d publish things not worth reading or listening to? Flood my blog with a lot of rubbish. Perhaps less is best?

I wonder if anyone else has the same problem as me. Do you agonise over every word? Or do you just write what you want to say, and then publish your post without worrying about it having to be perfect?

So how long did it take me to write this post? Well, I’m still drinking the cup of tea I made before I opened my laptop. And I never drink cold tea. So it didn’t take me long at all. Can you tell?

Image: Puppy love. Is there anything more perfect?

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Comments

    • Nancy
    • January 26, 2018
    Reply

    I even read texts over that i send. Your in good company. Nancy

    1. Reply

      Nancy,

      I try and send perfect texts too. We are kindred spirits!

  1. Reply

    There is much I don’t do because I am afraid someone will find fault with it. I have a very demanding built-in editor! I try to encourage my children to be brave and take risks but I can’t seem to do it myself. I often wonder if it is a combination of being an introvert and growing up in a rather unsupportive environment when it came to using my talents.
    I really enjoyed your last (published) podcast! I think you do a great job. ♥ Kristyn

    1. Reply

      Kristyn,

      Oh yes, we want our kids to be brave and take risks but we find this hard to do ourselves. I remember thinking about this problem after I made my first rather awful podcast. What if someone criticised it? It seemed safer to delete it. But I didn’t because I wanted to be a good example of learning for my kids. It was very hard leaving that episode online!

      “…being an introvert and growing up in a rather unsupportive environment when it came to using my talents.” Maybe that’s the reason that I also have a built-in editor!

      I’m glad you enjoyed my podcast. Thanks for your kind feedback!

  2. Reply

    This post was great! It was fun to read and flowed well!

    I’ve been known to post with errors in my text, but I’d still like to post more often. For me, the challenge is to convince myself that there is something to write about that day. A lot of my ‘possible’ posts involve feelings I have about how to do things, and I’m not always brave enough to share those feelings. I also don’t want to bluntly share them as that might make others feel I don’t respect their ways of doing things, (I do respect them, they’re just not for me). What I’m managing to do is write my positive experience without pointing out how they might differ from others. I’m trusting that people who see value in those experiences don’t need me to point out what it is.

    This trust is starting to pay off for me on a personal basis at least. My most recent post was about kids playing in the rain. At first, I thought it was perhaps silly because nothing ‘really happens’ in the post. Now that it’s out though, it’s one of my favorite pieces of writing that I’ve done lately.

    In my experience, for people who want to read your writing, writing more is better. When I wrote on physics, and had time to write daily, there was much more traffic to my site. As my writing frequency fell off, so did the traffic.

    Finally, I think it’s great to have a lot of material that might not be useful to everyone. The material just increases the chances that some of it will be useful to someone.

    1. Reply

      Hamilton,

      Convincing yourself that there’s something to write about each day…Oh yes! I often replay my day in my head looking for something useful to share. Surely there is something that might be of interest to others? Some people seem to have the knack of finding things to write about. Or maybe their days are just more interesting than mine!

      Feelings… My most successful posts and podcasts are the ones where I share my feelings. Yes, it’s scary sharing them especially when we’re writing about something that isn’t mainstream. Maybe readers will think we’re criticising them. It’s a big dilemma. I guess the aim is to open up discussion by providing a different point of view. Give readers new things to think about. Maybe rather than pointing out what is wrong with someone else’s way of doing things, we could talk about why we have chosen our different pathway. It sounds like this is what you’re doing. There have been times where I have spoken directly about what I feel are errors in other people’s parenting etc, however I have never named the people. They can’t be identified. It’s their opinions I’m interested in, not the people themselves.

      You make so many helpful points in your comment. Thank you! I’m encouraged to write more often. Even if what I write isn’t useful to everyone, it’s good practice for me. We can only get better at something like writing if we actually do it!

      It’s so good to chat with you, Hamilton. I’m looking forward to reading your playing in the rain story. It sounds like my kind of post!

  3. Reply

    I write a post and then, as quickly as I publish it I am hitting the edit key. I am a perfectionist about another thing, though, and it is driving me crazy. Unschooling. It’s a great idea and I try to strew things around and motivate. Getting them to actually do something though, is o hard. What they want to do is sleep in till noon, watch TV and talk on the phone. The perfectionist in me wants to say, “Okay, time to get up. it down at this table and get out your math, do this assignment and then I’ll give you another.” Help. Perfectionism i getting the better of me (but not allowing for their betterment.)

    1. Reply

      Marc,

      I’m sorry to hear you’re feeling frustrated about unschooling. Yes, we can decide to unschool, we follow some suggestions for letting go and strewing, and then things don’t turn out as we expect. Our kids aren’t interested in our strewing. They don’t get up early each day eager to begin learning. I’ve had times like that with my own children. Even though we’re unschooling, we can still have some expectations. It’s hard to let these go and forget about our own perfect vision of unschooling.

      You said you start editing a blog post as soon as you hit publish. (I do that too!) I see that you have removed your Being Led Astray blog. Have you created a new one?

      It’s been good to chat with you. Thank you for stopping by!

  4. Reply

    I used to be a perfectionist. But then I realised people don’t really care about my life in such detail. But being able to see such little things can also be useful.
    So these days I deliberately publish despite flaws and call them quirks. Sometimes they irk me and I want to redo, but I tell myself I can’t make a masterpiece every time!
    I once read of a way of overcoming perfectionism. First step, to deliberately post an email with a spelling error. Learning to sit in that imperfect space is half the battle.
    You always seem pretty perfect to me!
    Xo Jazzy Jack

    1. Reply

      Jack,

      Wanting to make a masterpiece every time? Oh yes, even though it’s impossible, that’s what I’d like to do! Your approach sounds much more sensible. I love how you reframe flaw as quirks. Quirky is good!

      Next time I write an email to you, I should include a few speling errors. But can I do that? It will be hard sitting in that inperfect space, but I could try!

  5. Reply

    I used to be a perfectionist, even as a child. Sometimes I would throw my completed homework away 3 or 4 times and maybe never turn it in at all. But I have largely stepped away from that because going through a really difficult time in my life helped me to see the importance of doing the best I could in the time I had available and not stressing about anything beyond that. I love to hear your podcasts and read your blogs. I met a Sue Elvis fan while I was away with two of my children at science camp. 🙂

    1. Reply

      Venisa,

      It’s no good trying to be perfect if we never end up achieving anything, is it? Imperfect homework would have been better than none at all!

      I have a fan? That sounds strange and nice all at the same time. Thank you for letting me know!

    • Em
    • January 31, 2018
    Reply

    This is so interesting! I’ve always found it hard to do things when others are watching or want to see the results. I simply blame school (hmm… is there anything you can’t blame school? Whoa, what will my kid blame?!). In school you are forced to write and perform without being able to do it in your own pace and way. I mean, I refused to speak my prime foreign language for almost five years just because it felt like someone was grading me and searching for results. Still having trouble with every language except naitive. Horrible! But I’m working on it. I love to write but I don’t find my writing good enough (good wnough for what?!). I write in secret and love the “delete” (love that magic button!) How do you get over it? I’ve tried just do it but I always end up deleting it or putting it away anyway. It’s so frustrating or maybe it’s more.. saddening? Anyway for some time ago I listened to a ted talk about perfectionism and the importance of it (or what the lack of it could do, maybe its all about black ace (and in this sentence auto correction decieded that black ace would be a better choice of word than balance)). https://www.ted.com/talks/jon_bowers_we_should_aim_for_perfection_and_stop_fearing_failure/up-next

    1. Reply

      Em,

      I don’t like to be watched while I’m working either! However, I don’t mind sharing with a few ‘safe’ people like my family.

      I often wonder how writers in times gone by wrote such wonderful novels etc without the aid of computers and magic delete buttons. Perhaps the physical action of handwriting encourages a better flow of thoughts? I’ve been writing my ideas in a real notebook, scribbling down words quickly as they appear in my head. Then later, I write using the computer. It seems to work!

      The other day, I heard a couple of good tips for writing. Write every day and write in public. (We can’t delete everything completely otherwise we’d have nothing to share.) Ignore our inner critic and just write. Hard to do but it could be exciting!

      “maybe its all about black ace” I love how words change and something unexpected and interesting appears! But yes, maybe the answer is indeed balance. I shall watch the video. Thank you for the link!

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