A few months ago, I discovered that I have perfectionist tendencies. It definitely fits; a quick Google tells us “perfectionism is a personality trait characterised by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting high performance standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.” It’s like when you read your results in a personality test; how could it possibly know so much about me??
What I’ve learnt since then, is that perfectionism and self-criticism is a learned behaviour, and so it’s something we can unlearn over time. Now, I’m still at the somewhat beginning of this journey, but I’ve definitely made significant progress from just a few months ago.
The sum of this journey is that all of these things are simply things that you believe about yourself, but your beliefs aren’t necessarily truths. If you choose to replace these beliefs with something else, or leave yourself open to the idea that a different reality is possible, you can leave these beliefs where they belong; behind you.
But why is learning this important as a business owner? Perfectionism, fear of failure, and self-criticism are all beliefs that can hold you back. If you believe something to be true, it affects your mood and your reaction to a thing, usually negatively, and can lead to a roadblock you just can’t get past.
It can stop you from trying the thing at all.
One of my biggest passions is learning new things, and it drives me in pretty much every aspect of my life. In my business, in my personal life, in my hobbies and in my political beliefs, I’m not satisfied with only knowing what I already know. Unfortunately this sometimes leads me to feeling overwhelmed by all the things I don’t already know. I also have a resultant fear of being wrong, all of which drives my perfectionism tendencies.
And this brings me to this story: I recently starting reading a book on creating a brand identity. As a web designer, brand identity is incredibly important, and something that needs to be factored in at every step of the way. I wanted to learn more about this whole process so I can help lead clients in the right direction and ensure their website reflects their brand identity.
Completely unexpectedly, the book almost immediately triggered my self-critical beliefs. I’d barely read the first chapter and I could already feel my body and my mind shutting down the possibility that this would ever be something I could do. I looked at the beautiful brands the author had included as examples and thought “I’ll never be as good as that”.
I could have let that belief fester. I could have let the belief close that potential chapter of my life. I could have let that become part of the voice in the back of my head that criticises my every move.
But I chose to address it. I wrote down everything that belief was telling me and every reason why that wasn’t true. I’ve learnt how to do plenty of other things before, so why would this be any different? Everybody starts somewhere and almost no one starts at the top; so why would I expect my beginning to look the same as someone who has been in the industry for years? I basically journalled myself a little pep talk.
I then wrote down all the things I can do to try and be better than I am right now (because there’s no point in trying to be “good”; good is subjective). The first one was to finish the book with an open mind. The second was to find YouTube videos or lessons on SkillShare that might help me on the journey. And finally, just practice. Practice makes “perfect”, after all.
So, what are your beliefs holding you back from? Writing content that makes you glow inside? Creating or commissioning a website that shouts about you from the rooftop? Starting the business your soul burns for in the first place?
You are not those beliefs. You are not the sum of what you’ve been taught to believe about yourself. You have the power to reject those beliefs. Because you have the power to change the world; even if it’s just the world around you.
Until next time, be kind to yourself!