When there is a conflict between what you think you have to be or should have been and what you think you are, a battle erupts: the battle for nonexistent perfection, the battle that cannot be won. The battle that we can become addicted to. It lures us in with a promise of “almost there”, “just one more step”, “great success or the Perfect You is just around the corner”. We push harder and go further only to realize that we are still us, not the other guys we’ve hoped we will become. Some give up eventually and count their losses. Some keep going only to be disappointed over and over again.
I got stuck in a battle for perfection hundreds of times, hoping that the next time was going to be different, that I wouldn’t be dragged into the war with myself.
The solution is quite simple actually, but, unfortunately, not as attractive. The battle promises us a trophy. The real solution does not promise us anything but reality and, maybe, a possibility to be satisfied with the result… eventually. The illusionary perfection, somehow, seems always grander than reality. And, according to science, it’s totally normal. Kelly McGonigal explains it well in her bestseller “The Willpower Instinct”.
Her book presents solutions for problems that many of us face. It seems I should take all those solutions and run with them, but why am I still struggling?
Maybe because deep inside I’m not fine with being imperfect even though I know that perfection is an illusion. Maybe, I’m the kind of person who seem never satisfied, but is it really true?
When I was a kid (about 4 years old) I decided that I want to remember every single sparkling moment of my life, every moment that makes me feel happy. Those moments seemed so rare and short lived, in comparison with moment of struggle or moment of plain nothingness, that’s why I wanted to treasure them, and because those moment were quiet reminders of my connection with Earth, of being alive.
Nowadays, when I complete a task, whether it is something simple: like making beds for my kids, or washing dishes, or something bigger: like finishing a website or an artwork, I do feel happy. But then… the critic wakes up and points out everything what’s wrong with my accomplishment. This self-criticism sometimes forces me to seek outside appreciation more than I probably should, it prevents me from finishing projects and moving forward.
I understand that where you are on a scale depends on who the scale belongs to. But for a perfectionist the existence of some universal scale appears very real.
A few days ago I finished a short illustrated tale about sad Old Badger and his friend, wise Golden Eagle. I wanted to try a new way of making illustrations, in the end I was quite satisfied until I started looking for imperfections. I shared it, got almost no response, and started beating myself up even more.
I kept thinking how bad I was at writing and how crappy my illustrations were.
It feels as if a giant monster inside of me punishes my inner little kid who has just planted a small sprout hoping it will grow into a big tree one day. The monster is unreasonable and very sad, because for him time does not exist. For him there’s only sheer perfection that never changes. This monster is our human, well, mine in particular, need for control. The less safe I feel, the more control I need. I believe that if my work is perfect there are less chances to be criticized. There’re less chances to be in a position where I would have to decide whether I need to change something or not…
I could walk through these psychological woods endlessly, looking for more symptoms and their causes, it has always been one of my special interests 🙂 …
There’s a simple method anybody can use when they need to resolve a problem. You can ask yourself, “What would I say to a friend in a similar situation, if they really wanted my help?”
Well… I would ask, “What do you worry about?” I would keep asking the question until I get a concrete answer. And the answer I would get in the end, “Nobody would want to pay for what I offer”.
That is it. That is all it’s about. I want my creativity turn into a paid job, and, unfortunately I believe that I am going to fail just like millions of other people.
OK, hokey is about to start. 🙂 Where am I going with all this? This post looks like a therapy session notes of a sort 🙂 But it’s fine. I want this blog to help me succeed, that’s why I’m writing all this.
My final note on the subject: the reason why I feel so insecure is because I lack experience and information in the sphere of creativity/art/writing business. This lack of information makes me feel as if I have no control, lack of control make me want to reestablish feeling of being safe. But the truth is: without experience I will never have this information. I can build as many theories as I want, but each theory, no matter how close to reality it is , is just a theory and may not apply to every single case. So unless I really try hard to sell my work I will never know whether I can do it or not.
And it is absolutely normal for many people (I’m not going to say “all”, because it’s not true) to be afraid of change, of risk, or trying new things, of failure. But if I don’t push through it I will never know what I can achieve, what my true abilities and limitations are. Even though I understand how human this fear is , I’m still trying to deny it, and this denial makes me feel miserable…
I have been through this so many times and now I finally see the answer: my main problem lies in the denial of my humanity. I don’t think that’s what I have meant to learn growing up but that’s what I have taken in: the less human I feel the more comfortable I am.
So, I guess, the title of this post should have been: To Be OK with Being Human.
I need to be OK with being human. I want to be OK with being human…