Breaking free from perfectionism – #fiery thoughts

“Damn it”, I think to myself. The second I start reading aloud is the moment my voice starts trembling, and I feel my face heat up like a little pocket hand warmer. I try and take a deep breath, but that is quite tricky to do when you’re reading aloud. 30 seconds later, and I glance up nervously. Perhaps I was more nervous that my sudden embarrassment had become clear, and not so nervous about the feedback to my story. I had forgotten how scary sharing & developing your writing can be.

breaking free perfectionism

Sh*t, I keep forgetting that sharing your work can be scary!

Something I had not thought about before I started sharing my writing – some of which is deeply personal – is how incredibly SCARY it can feel to share your work. When I started my blog two years ago, I was already trembling (literally in this case, it gave me a lot of anxiety haha). When some of my earlier blog posts were seen by a lot of people, and thus also received the standard negative comments, I had anxiety for weeks. Anything which could be interpreted as criticism gave me nausea. Eventually, it got easier, and my skin became a little thicker.

For me, my journey in exploring writing did not only mean learning how to write better. It has also meant becoming more resilient, growing a thicker skin and giving fewer f*cks about what others think of me. I think most of us don’t really think about the peripheral skills you have to develop when exploring something new. Also, the amount of vulnerability you have to show in the process. And in that, we probably also do not give ourselves enough credit for this. I know I don’t. Actually, I had never even thought about it, until I suddenly lost my nerve during a writing workshop last week.

These are also not *small* things to learn, and for me, these are things that really push me outside of my comfort zone. Breaking free from my perfectionism is so hard. Feeling vulnerable is almost an icky feeling to me, it feels exposed, open to other people’s opinions about me as a person. Is that why people try less and less new things as we become older? Do we get more stuck in our ways, which become less intentional and more automatic over the years?

breaking free perfectionism

Twenty seconds of courage helps sometimes…

I don’t have a solution for this to be honest. For me, it works best to identify that icky feeling of being scared of doing something, and then doing it anyway. I tell everyone I’m going to do something, buy a ticket or enroll for a course. My drive to keep commitments (even if they are just small financial ones) is bigger than my fear to fail, I have found. With some things I now employ the ’20 seconds of courage method’. Just for 20 seconds have courage – take a deep breath and do it/say it. It works for sending scary work e-mails too (I like closing my eyes on those haha).

What I have to keep reminding myself of, is that this is a never-ending process. I’m relatively okay now with publishing personal articles on The Fiery Explorer (like this one on creativity and mental health, or my updated About Me), but in a small, personal setting I struggle.

That’s exactly what happened when I volunteered to read my short story aloud at a writing workshop (given by The Writers Guide to the Galaxy, check them out if you’re in or around R’dam). I got flustered, embarrassed and suddenly very scared everyone would laugh at how badly written my story was. When in the end it doesn’t really matter. It isn’t about being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ about something. For me, it’s about doing the things you love, and stepping outside my comfort zone to do that. And that isn’t always easy.

breaking free perfectionism
The mood board I made for one of my short stories during the workshop

Why I push myself outside of my comfort zone

I write because I enjoy it, not because I want to win a prize for it. I share my travel stories because it allows me to re-live those vacations, and enjoy sharing my favorite spots. I write about depression and mental health because when I was in my darkest period, articles written by people being very open about it helped me a lot. That is something I want to pass on, and hopefully make someone else feel less lonely. I started doing the international wine accreditation course (WSET) because I love wine. Although with the WSET I have to admit I have some “I have to get a high-grade” anxiety.

I started doing all these things (too many new projects to every finish…can you tell I’m a typical Aries 😉?) because I enjoy them and get a lot of energy from it. Not because I want popularity or recognition or money from it. If that is true, it would follow that it doesn’t matter if I’m good or bad at something. But after so many years of being an addict to perfectionism, it takes some time to let that go, and be more vulnerable. Those two cannot exist in the same world, as perfectionism revolves around control, and being vulnerable means you relinquish control to an extent. Perhaps that is what I struggle with most…breaking free from my control, my perfectionism.

My point is that we should all start doing the things we love. Even if we’re scared. Because trying something new will always push us out of comfort zones. Being honest with myself, fear of failure is just not a good reason enough anymore NOT to do something. Doing so, remember that it’s a journey. Sometimes we will not give a f*ck about what people think – and sometimes it will still make us nervous. That’s okay, as long as we’re still doing what we love.

Control, perfectionism, and fear of failure will only take me so far. I am refusing to let it stop me in pursuing new things and skills in the future. I owe myself – future Flávia – much more than that. I owe her all the passion and love and loud babbling excitement people know me for. I should show up for her, as much as I show up for other people.

Something that helped me to understand my motivations/behavior better (besides the two years of therapy ofc) was the concept (incl. book) of Gretchen Rubin – the Four Tendencies. Do the test here – it helped me understand how to motivate myself a lot more!

If you also struggle with breaking free from perfectionism, I hope you also find the courage to let go. Even if it is just a little bit. Even if it is just in one small aspect of your life. Start with small steps. Small steps help build courage. And we need the courage to broaden our comfort zones, to break out of them, brick by brick.

No worries babes, the recovering perfectionist club meets every week in the wine bar. And in three weeks I will have the certificate to tell you something about the wine too 😉. Then we can work on breaking free from our perfectionism together!


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