The Paralysis of Perfectionism or How I'm Learning to Forgive My Bad Writing

I went back to bootcamp a month ago—not because I particularly like exercise but because I always like the results.

I gained 35 pounds last year. Dear God. It was like a switch flipped in my brain and suddenly I was voracious for yeasty rolls, scones, biscuits, croissants, chocolate chip cookies. Baked goods are my kryptonite. 

The first item of self-care was to stop weighing myself. It had become a torture session. A terrible way to start my day. It felt like quitting a bad habit. I had to replace stepping on the scale with some other activity. Unfortunately, that activity usually involved eating. Heh.

But I went back to bootcamp and although my "Christmas Baby" (as I affectionately call my tummy) isn't really shrinking yet, I am experiencing an immediate positive benefit: increased energy and zero depressive mood swings. Hard exercise blasts away the cobwebs of my mind. There is really nothing like a hot, sweaty, difficult workout to handily eliminate the blues. I don't know why I forget this, but I do. And that's ok.

I'm embracing the idea that we have seasons in life. I had an Exercise Season. And then I had a Baked Goods Season. Up next: Vegan Season? Who knows? Stranger things have happened.

Last week I picked up my first book to find a quote and found myself flipping through the pages thinking: I wrote this? This is such crap. It was disconcerting. Just a few months ago I felt like "Girl at The End of the World" was my best writing ever and now, here I was feeling embarrassed that I couldn't go back and write it prettier, more perfectly. 

I had to sit with this discomfort for awhile. It got under my skin and bothered me. 

Why didn't I do a better job? Why didn't I rewrite it a fourth time?

But then I realized I was simply affirming a lie I've believed for too long: I'm Not Good Enough.

Here's the truth: I did the best I could. I wrote to the best of my ability. And I'm learning to forgive myself for not being perfect.

Perfectionism is paralyzing. I did a good enough job and that's good enough.

My little book didn't break any records or make any big bestsellers lists. But it did touch the hearts of the people it was supposed to touch. I get emails everyday. This has become my new definition of success: I did good for a few people. That's all I could ever hope for.

I'm learning to embrace every stage of my life without self-rejection, without self-judgment.

I practice looking at myself through the eyes of compassion, instead of scrutiny. I give myself permission to take breaks. To stop pushing so hard. My daily to-do list is much shorter these days. I say "no" more frequently. I say "yes" to fewer things. 

I spent years burning the candle at both ends and the only thing that came from that was anxiety, frustration and a kind of frantic urgency that permeated the fabric of my days.

I'm so weary of judgmental thoughts, words and actions.

I'm weary of being judgmental toward myself, I'm weary of judging others. What possible good does being judgmental accomplish? As the early desert fathers would say, "Being judgmental is too heavy a burden a bear." It's true, isn't it? We carry such a heavy load when we live our lives judging ourselves, judging others. I'm learning the difference between judgment and discernment.

Discernment looks like wisdom. It is able to decide and take action without harshness, without personal attachment. Discernment is gentle. It isn't loud. It moves quite softly. Tenderly. It doesn't need to be right. It only needs to honor its still, small voice.

I am learning to embrace my soft, sensitive self. I am learning to honor my need for rest.

Writing this second book has been a much different experience for me. I'm not pushing myself. When I hit writer's block, I allow myself to walk away. I've begun keeping a small crochet project on my writing desk. When I am stuck, I pick up the piece I'm working on and gently crochet my way out of writer's block.

Tomorrow I will get up and go back to bootcamp again. I will run through dark streets. I will sweat. I will grunt. I will despise the pain. But then I will drive home and the sky will be shot through with pink. I will see the sunrise and feel the dawning hope of a new day.