how to overcome self criticism and perfectionism
Perfectionism is defined as "refusal to accept any standard short of perfection". Perfection is defined as "having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be." Although it may sound like the "roadmap" to success and greatness - perfectionism along with self criticism is one of the most common mindset blocks when it comes to achieving progress in any area of our life. Perfectionism and self-criticism are also one of the major reasons of low self worth and self confidence! In this blog post I am sharing the advice on overcoming perfectionism and self criticism, as I am witnessing every day how many women are struggling with this issue in my life coaching practice! I will share with you my own journey and life lessons learned, and at the end of the post mindset shifts that can help you with overcoming perfectionism and self criticism.
self criticism and perfectionism antidote - focus on progress instead of perfection
Self comparison with someone we admire a lot is the quickest way we can fall into a trap of self criticism, feeling less than, and even thinking of quitting on our dreams and our work - just because we do not feel as ready, good enough, branded enough, capable enough, knowledgeable enough, glamorous enough, popular enough, talented enough, successful enough... as that person! Nowadays, in the world of Instagram and social media, it is even more so. You may look at your Instagram pictures, YouTube video, Facebook live, website, first article(s)or blog posts(s), art or craft work, yoga pose... and think to yourself : "I will never be like..." or "It's terrible!" or that is far from "perfect"! Your heroine on Instagram is all glamorous and confident, she talks the talk and walks the walk, and she seems to be doing it so effortlessly - while you feel like a total fraud, failure, impostor, amateur, "nobody"... If you resonate with these words above please remember the line below:
STOP COMPARING YOUR 1ST CHAPTER WITH SOMEBODIES 10TH!
Let me tell you this - I was feeling the same way when I was just starting out. I was sooo frustrated with my Instagram pictures. When I first recored a YouTube video I was so disappointed with myself, my accent (English is not my native language), and how non-fluently and slowly I was talking, my presence and body language in front of the camera, my lack of confidence while speaking in English - in front of the camera... Not to mention my pictures and my wardrobe which nowhere could compare to pretty pictures posted by fashion bloggers or my role-model coach on Instagram. Actually, just to depict to you the entire scene I will show you some of the first pictures that I have taken for Instagram and blog. Warning: if you are not following me since 2016. 0r 2017. - you may not expect to see this and you may have a good laugh or your jaw dropped, ha ha. :-))))
As you can see, I was working on my small ASUS Transformer (that laptop was worth every Indian rupee I invested in it!), and I was taking all the pictures in my garden. I was always running from the cameras (even while in Journalism College) and you can see me hiding behind the trees, ha ha. It took me a lot of time to learn to pose for the camera with confidence, straight back, and open hands, ha ha. I was a freelance writer at that time just starting with life coaching and I did not have the money to buy beautiful dresses and I could not travel much. I was fantasising about working on MacBook Air, and shooting beautiful pictures in beautiful destinations like fashion bloggers Tamara and Leone that I was following. But, this was the reality I had to post on Instagram , ha ha. I was no way satisfied with how I looked on the pictures, my poor dressing style, my posing... but I knew that I had to start from where I was and build an audience - so I had to post something! So, I was posting daily -whatever I had, ha ha. My dream of having those fashion blog & #girlboss pictures did come true - but in summers of 2017. and 2018. :-))
Now, you can also compare those fist pictures with the pictures I was posting this year, while I was in India. Look at the location spots, look at how I am posing for the camera, look at my body pose and body language, look at my confidence, look at my dresses...
Now my Instagram and blog look like this, bit it took almost four years of evolution get to the place where I am today! When I was just starting out, I was a beginner, I was living my chapter 1, while working hard to get to the chapter 10 where I wanted to be. I knew I was not nearly as there, but I have to start the journey from the place where I am to get there. But, was I happy with not-so-good Instagram pictures and shabby website?Nooooo.... Talking about the website, let me show you my first one. :-))
COMPARE THAT ONE TO THIS ONE... IN 2019.:
As you can see, I have gone a long way when it comes to branding, web design, and photography. :-)) I wanted to show you this (although it feels embarrassing now, ha ha) so that you see that I also had my chapter #1, and I also started out far from perfect! I also wanted to prove to you that you do not need to be "perfect" when you're just starting out in order to become successful! You remember that shabby website? :-)) I was booking life coaching clients with that website! I also earned my first 5K$ in one moth with that website too - in 2018. before I had redesigned it. I was showing up, sharing my advice as best as I could, writing captions, blog posts, articles... and it was enough. I was enough! My advice was helping people and that was much more important than having a shiny website, fashion blog like pictures, or "dress for success". I was GOOD ENOUGH to my clients who decided to hire me! They chose me over other coaches who have been perhaps cheaper or had more glamours branding because they liked ME and resonated with MY message!
Speaking of articles, I want to show you one of my first articles published in English.I can say that I have a "talent" for writing as I got the award when I was 10 for the literary work that I wrote and I was always writing essays with ease. But, when I sat down to write my first article back in Journalism College in 2011. - I was sooooo nervous. I was sending the article for publishing and with lot of anxiety clicked the "send" button. I was wondering if it was any good, if it would be published or rejected, if I had just embarrassed myself, if perhaps I should write something else, or somewhat more... But, I gathered the courage to send it. It was published. I still did not think that I was "good at writing" at that time. I did not think to continue with writing. But, then my former teaching assistant Sejn Husejefendic told me that articles were good and I should continue to write as that would be a good way to build myself up as a writer and journalist. Luckily, I took his advice and here I am today with around 500 articles written in my native language and English. I would not have been where I am today without my blogs and articles - they were my rocket to success! I get chills in my body when I think that I almost quit writing back in 2011. due to self doubt!
Writing in English was much tougher than writing in my native language - I was so nervous and it was taking me such a loooong time to put one article or blog post together, when I just started back in 2016., and I was making a ton spelling and grammar mistakes... Therefor, I want to show the (excerpt of) my 2nd article which was published in English ("10 Things You Need To Let go Of To Experience More Happiness") on Mike Dooley's blog (www.tut.com). You will be able to notice the difference in my writing style, length of the sentences, vocabulary that I used... (I cannot show you my first article in English that was published as Over The Moon magazine got shot down and the article is no longer existing online). Check this out:
1. Staying "busy" all the time
You cannot make any positive change in your life (learn a new skill/language, obtain additional education, lose weight/change your diet, work overtime for an extra income, welcome a romantic partner into your life, etc...) if you are busy all the time. Get rid of "time-eating-worms": start tracking where you are spending time and with whom. Be honest with yourself: what people or activities can you cut-out in order to increase the amount of your available time?
"Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have 24 hour days." - Zig Ziglar
2. Self-criticism in any form, size, or shape
Negative beliefs and thoughts about yourself that you are constantly repeating in your head will not do you any good. It's important to be objective and honest about your behavior and capabilities, but you must not allow self-criticism to start rolling over your confidence and self-esteem.
3. Judgment and gossiping
It's easy to judge others, but we actually don't really know what they are going through in their life and we are not able to see things from their unique perspective. We can never truly know what other people feel deep inside and why they act in certain ways; we can only know our own motives. Instead of wasting time and energy on judgment and criticism or empty gossiping, focus on building your own strengths and enriching your own life.
I was not very "satisfied" at that time with this article - I knew that I should write better or I could do better... but I also knew very well that if I do not start writing and sending my articles I will never be able to improve or succeed in making my dream of being a life coach a reality! If I allowed self criticism and perfectionism to stop me and hold me back that time from publishing this article - I may still be writing writing my first blog post or my first article today, thinking that it is yet not "perfect" or "good enough". I would not have had articles published in COSMOPOLITAN, TIMES, SENSA, The Huffington Post... You would not be reading this blog post today. Or any of my previous blog posts. Having standards is OK - they are part of a strong work ethics, but we need to get real when it comes to acquiring new skills, performing, speaking, doing the creative work... Whenever we start doing or practicing a new thing, we will need the time to adopt the skills required, improve, evolve, grow, master the craft. Our first blog post, article, essay, research paper, or YouTube video, IgTV, Facebook live, piece of art or craft... will probably be terrible, bad, amateur like, with lots of mistakes, and far away from perfect. We have to accept that it is normal! There is a funny folk saying:
I love the myth about the birth of Greek Goddess Athene. The story says that Athene, the goddess of war, was born with helmet, shield, sword, dressed in an armour. The myth also says that throughout her entire childhood and adulthood she was practicing fighting! Let's read that again - the Goddess of War - Athene - was practicing fighting her entire life! She, who was immortal, who was born as a goddess of war, Zeus'es daughter - was practicing fighting! The myth also says that she never lost a battle in her life and the only one who was her match in fighting was the God of War - Ares (I didn't read about his birth and life, but I believe that he was practicing fighting too!).
We tend to get carried away by other's people success on Instagram, YouTube, on the stage, on the CNN, in the Forbes magazine... thinking that they were "born" to succeed, they are naturally talented at what they do, and we start comparing our first chapter with their 10th forgetting that they were once beginners too! That COSMO columnist or book writer that you adore has spent years writing. That YouTuber which you admire has spent years speaking in public + talking + performing in front of the camera. That fashion blogger that you admire has spent years in developing her style and her posing. That speaker that you admire has spent hours, days, or even weeks and moths practicing thats ONE speech at home. That dancer or yoga teacher that you admire is dancing or doing yoga every day for two hours or more. That coach that you admire has coached many people. That girl which has amazing Instagram pictures - she must have spent many years learning graphic design, photography, collecting crystals, planners, beautiful prompts... The truth is - they are so good at what they do because they were PRACTICING it! Yes, talent matters, but there is the time and practice needed needed to learn, grown, evolve, and master the skills and the craft till "perfection". Expecting to be "perfect" at something that you are starting with at the moment or you are lacking the experience in is unrealistic and it is a recipe to block your growth.
how to overcome self criticism and perfectionism - mindset shifts:
#1 - INSTEAD OF PERFECTION - FOCUS ON PROGRESS. PERFECTING THE CRAFT DOESN'T COME FROM BEING HARSH ON YOURSELF FOR NOT BEING PERFECT AND GOOD ENOUGH - IT COMES FROM PRACTICING AND SHOWING UP FOR THE EXPERIENCE!
Self comparison at these moments is like the venom for your emotional wellbeing and your self worth. It is easy to quit in the beginning stage, but it takes persistence, huge strength of character, and commitment to practice anything! Winners in life do not quit when it is hard - after first few trainings in the gym, or on the yoga mat; after first failure attempt, after first shabby creation... they keep on coming back to the gym, onto the yoga mat, in front of the camera or their laptop, or their canvas... So, do not quit, but practice! Keep on practicing. As Marie Forleo would wisely say: "Clarity comes from action, not from thought!" I would also add that experience, greatness, and success comes from ACTION, not from thoughts (especially negative thoughts = self criticism).
#2 - KNOW THAT ANY TIME YOU DO NOT SHOW UP OR SHOW YOUR WORK YOU ARE LEAVING THE WORLD SHORT OF SOMETHING THAT CAN POTENTIALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE, INSPIRE SOMEONE, HELP CHANGE OTHER PEOPLE'S LIVES, LEAVE A LEGACY TO THE WORLD!
One of the most famous writers of the 20th century, Franz Kafka, hated (!) his writing work (!) so much that he destroyed 90% of the things that he wrote before his death! He wrote in his will that the remaining of his writings should also be burned "unread" after his death. His friend decided to ignore his last wish and thanks to that we know about him - and we can read his books. One of the most famous painters in the world Claude Monet hated (!) his paintings so much that in 1908. he destroyed 15 of them (!!!) in the gallery, before they were supposed to be exhibited in public! Those paintings would be probably worth millions of $ today, and they would be exhibited in the most prestigious art museums in the world, such as Louvre in Paris. But, since Monet did not find his paintings "good enough" and "perfect", by destroying those 15 paintings he robbed them from the rest of the world, for the centuries to come. Emily Dickinson wrote over 1800 poems, but only released few highly edited ones for publishing while she was alive. She also, like Kafka, left strict orders to her sister to "torch every scrap of paper in her room that she could find" and burn all of her work. Her sister, just like Kafka's friend, ignored the instructions so today we can read her poems. Harper Lee tossed "To Kill A Mockingbird" book script out of the window, in the snow, in a moment of "desperation", but she luckily changed her mind and asked somebody to collect it back from the snow, after a dog who was passing by peed on it. The book won the Pulitzer Price and was sold in over 30 million copies world wide! Michelangelo smashed the unfinished statue of Florentine Pieta or The Deposition into pieces, when he was 72, after working on it for seven years, because it was not "perfect" enough. Somebody still bought the broken pieces and gave it for reparation, so today we can see it in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in Florence. Can you even imagine something made by Michelangelo not being "perfect"? He thought it wasn't for seven years, until one day he decided his work was not "worth" of the existence in this world and smashed it! You can see the image of the "im-perfect"(!?!) statue below:
Self doubt, self criticism, and obsession with perfectionism has robbed and in many cases (almost) robbed the world of so much of the philosophical and literary work, wisdom, knowledge, and art! It still does every single day whenever you or me decide to destroy, delete, tear of...the piece of our work, or whenever we decide that we are not good enough and therefor we do not show up for that coaching session, public speech, workshop, Facebook live, class... The saddest thing is that while we hate our work, somebody else or even many people in the world would like it, admire it, benefit from it. But, we selfishly decide to rob the world of our gifts because in our mind we do not perceive it as "perfect" and we never reveal it to the world. Please, whenever you criticise yourself and your work have in mind that even some of the greatest people were struggling with it and before you destroy it, delete it, decide never to publish it or never to show up for another coaching session, live, workshop, event, class... remember the broken pieces of Pieta, Kafka's burnt and never published books, and 15 paintings the world has never seen because Monet had destroyed them.
#3 - YOU MAY HATE YOUR WORK - WHILE OTHER'S CAN LOVE IT - SO ASK FOR A RELEVANT AND UNBIASED FEEDBACK
It has helped me a lot to get the feedback about my articles from the teaching assistant I admired (still do!) a lot when I was just starting out with writing. It gave me the confidence that time to keep on writing. When I was starting out as a life coach, the words from my mentor Vanja Beukelman Pavlovic: "You are ready! You will make a good life coach!" meant so much to me! Having a mentor who will give you an unbiased feedback and push you forward can be a great antidote against self criticism and striving for unrealistic perfectionism. Having a life coach who will give you an honest feedback about your abilities and what is possible for you can also be very helpful. The thing is that we can be very harsh on ourselves when it comes to critiquing our own work - than we would ever be about other people's work. Just like Michelangelo, Kafka, Emily, or Monet.. we can fixate our mind onto this one thing which we think is not "perfect" or "good enough" and obsess over it when actually other people find it OK or do not even notice it! Remember that your harshest critique will always be - your EGO! Also, working with a life coach, health coach, business coach, health coach, fitness coach... can help you to avoid most common beginner's mistakes, improve, grow, and increase yours self belief much faster than you would on your own.
#4 - SELF COMPASSION INSTEAD OF SELF CRITICISM AND NEGATIVE SELF-TALK
I heard the famous British hypnotherapist M.Peer few months back saying in one of her speeches how psychological research has revealed that one of the major causes of depression are the harsh, critiquing words which people say to themselves! Consistent, daily, repeating self criticism is the fastest way to ruin our confidence, self worth, and emotional wellbeing. If you keep on repeating to yourself in your head how you are not good enough, how you will never make it, how you are worthless, how you can never be as good as that XYZ that you are comparing yourself with... you are condemning yourself onto life of a misery, crushed self worth and self belief, and perhaps even depression! The bitter truth is that we tend to be much more compassionate, understanding, supportive... towards other people than towards ourselves. We tend to justify other people's mistakes but punish ourselves for our own. We need to learn the art of self compassion. Whenever you "mess up", disappoint yourself, make mistakes, catch yourself in negative self talk... pause for a moment, forgive yourself, and say something compassionate to yourself like you would to a person that you love the most. Now, do I mean by that that we should praise ourselves always and have poor work ethics and low standards? That brings us to the next mindset shift:
#5 - HAVE YOUR STANDARDS MATCH YOUR ABILITIES - DO THE BEST WHAT YOU CAN IN THE PRESENT MOMENT!
If you are at a beginner level at something or limited by resources - you have to get real and accept your limitations. Having standards of perfection without having the resources and skill level matching it - is UNREAL-istic expectation which can never be met. Do not set the standards for yourself higher than what you can deliver at the present moment. Give yourself the commitment to do your best in the present moment, with the knowledge, resources, and abilities that you have. You may not be having NOW a team, professional camera, well practiced public speaking or writing skills, money to hire ten people to work with you and help you out, years of experience... so you have to accept that and work with what you do have, as much you can, the best as you can! Set your standards in a way that you grow each and every day, and keep on tracking your progress. The key is in being better (progress) not in striving to be perfect! Make sure that you track your progress over time and remind yourself how far you have come. We often tend to get so much focused on where we want to be and how we are not there yet, that we forget to even notice how far we have already come and what all we we have achieved! That is the reason why I often ask my clients to write a "success journal".
#6 - trust that your work does have an impact - even if you don't see it!
In the world of INSTA-gram-gratification we may seek INSTANT likes and feedback, but the reality is usually different - not many of the people who are impacted by our work will approach us or write to us saying how much positive difference we have made in their life. There is a saying among psychiatrists: "We never know how many suicides we prevented. We only know how many we didn't!". We never truly know how many people was impacted positively by our message, our work, our art... until somebody says it - which happens rarely. Think for a moment how many times you have approached to some author, teacher, writer, artist, speaker, Instagramer, blogger, YouTuber... telling them how much what they said or taught you mattered to you or impacted you? But, you do feel grateful to them and they did make an impact in your life. Imagine if they were not there or they destroyed their work due to perfectionism and self criticism?
I remember the times I used to think that my vegetarian blog was not "good enough" because there were no good quality images, and I was not posting some complicated meals with popular ingredients in vegetarian community like seitan, tempeh, algae... like other vegan chefs out here. After two years of blogging, I got a Facebook message which made me cry - it was from a woman who was recovering from cancer. She wrote that she had to start eating vegetarian food as a part of the treatment, but she was struggling so much to eat plant based food because all the recipes on the internet had the ingredients that were to expensive for her. Once she found my blog she was delighted because everything that I used on my blog she could find in her garden or cheaply in stores. She was saying that if she had not found my blog she would have probably not recovered from cancer - and blessing me generously. We can get into a trap of self comparison so much that we fail to realise how special we are and how exactly what we do and how we do it is "perfect" for somebody searching and needing exactly that!
Since I am talking about my blog, let's mention this as well: I have become famous blogger in the Balkan region back in 2013. and my blog was far from perfect! :-)) I was cooking hungry when I would get back from college and I did not had the time or "talent" to style anything - I would take raw cooking pictures and just publish them on the blog. I used to cringe when I would see other food blogs, because their images were so beautiful and meals were served in beautiful plates, decorated, and every recipe had the exact measurements, time of cooking... My blog was lacking all of that. I also was not an expert in nutrition or vegetarian food, but I was writing articles on the topic as I wanted to share what I did know and my experience, wishing somebody was there to tell me all the things when I was just starting out and wanting to be that person for others. That figured out to be enough! I believe the reason for my success with vegetarian blog was that I was sharing my message unapologetically, wanting to help, and not allowing my ego to stop me because I was not "perfect" or because I did not have any degree in nutrition. I was sharing everything what I knew and what I was eating with other people. Second, I was unique and my message was HELP-ful. I had people telling me that they were trying for ten years to learn some meal and they never could until stumbling upon my blog (my pictures were not beautiful, but I used to take step-by-step shots which made it easy for people to learn!). So, once again - it is not about the beauty and perfection as much as it is about the MESSAGE, simplicity, and INTENTION behind it. If you do your best that you can, share everything you know in the way you can do it best, with the intention to HELP, INSPIRE, make a positive difference, and express your soul's creative urge - that is ENOUGH! Even doctors give the oath that they will help as per their best ability and knowledge that they do have. Nobody knows everything! Let's remember that part of the word "perfect" definition is: "as good as it is possible to be".
#7 it is better to done than perfect - SCHEDULE, PLAN, AND COMMIT!
If you want to overcome the fear of not being perfect - you have to expose yourself to that same fear over and over again by showing up - imperfect. Having a plan of posting the content every _____, writing an article every _____, creating a video every ______... can help in being consistent and showing up, so that you can practice regularly and master your craft. Having a deadline for finishing whatever you want to create and share with the world can help not to drag it and delay by endless fixing, editing, and re-writing... Procrastination can be a "cunning" cover up for underlaying obsession with perfection - you constantly keep on distracting yourself or consume the content instead of creating it, in order to avoid doing the actual work and seeing your work or yourself in non-perfect edition - due to belief of not being ready enough, good enough, knowledgable enough... If you have the problem with procrastination I suggest that you read my previous blog post on beating procrastination. Having a life coach or mentor who will keep you accountable to work on your goals and finally publish, click send, show up, do the work... can be of big help! If you stick to deadline and "ship" it or show up even if not yet "perfect" you will do yourself and the world a favour. You will get better by doing it over and over again and other people will benefit from your gifts. Even if you hate your work or creations, somebody else may admire it and enjoy it, just like we admire today Pieta statue in Florence or enjoy reading Emily's poems and Kafka's books.
If you are very much crippled by perfection and self criticism the reason can be an underlying subconscious limiting belief or fear, which has the root cause in the childhood. Many of my life coaching clients who are struggling with self criticism and perfectionism have had very critical parents for whom they were never "perfect" and "good enough". Some of them would have been punished by parents harshly for smallest mistakes, like getting a B grade at school. Some of my clients had mother or a father who were struggling with perfectionism and self criticism and they subconsciously adopted that behaviour trait. Some of my clients had very emotionally distant parents who were showing them some love and appreciation only if they would win at the competitions or get A grades, so they developed a subconscious belief (pattern) that if they are not the best, the first, "perfect" - they are not deserving to be loved. There is always a subconscious fear rooted from the childhood behind the "obsession" with perfectionism and self criticism, which if not healed can continue to hold us back and drive us mental. If you resonated with this post and you want my help in implementing these mindset shifts and overcoming perfectionism and self criticism - click here or on the button below to read about my life coaching program over Skype. It might be the best decision you will ever make.
P.S. This post is very long. English is not my native. I do not have VA yet to edit my posts. I am sure that this post contains spelling and grammar mistakes. But I'm publishing it anyway. :-)) Because my mission is bigger than my striving for perfection and my ego. And to set the example. ;-))