Perfectionism Is An Insidious Demon…

Perfectionism Is An Insidious Demon…

Perfectionism is an insidious demon that must be fought with every weapon you’ve got.

Here’s what’s so tricky about perfectionism: it turns procrastination into a virtue.

Because it’s good to have high standards, right?

And it’s good to expect the best from your self, right?

We want to make things that are beautiful, extraordinary, unique…

And then you crumble under the pressure you’ve put on yourself and never create anything at all. But it’s not your fault – it’s your damn high standards.

The other problem with perfectionism is that it keeps you from noticing the great things that you create effortlessly.

By keeping your focus on that which is hard, unattainable or impossible to execute, you fail to give yourself credit for that which is easy and fun.

While you’re busy struggling with the idea that you need to be some great painter (all the while NOT painting), you might miss out on a brilliant career as a caricaturist. Your frustrated desire to write the perfect novel can prevent you from seeing your potential as a lyricist.

This is the worst kind of snobbery.

Disdaining your own gifts is as cruel as disdaining your own children.

Remember:  The World Needs Your Art.

Dream Big, Lush, Vivid Dreams

Dream Big, Lush, Vivid Dreams

Disappointment is, literally, failing to keep an appointment. Which is why I think it hurts a little more than the other bumps and bruises of life.

When you feel disappointed, you are feeling deprived of something you thought was already in motion. If you’re feeling like you have an “appointment” with a promotion or a successful presentation or a new love, having that thing not work out is especially crushing because it was kind of a done deal inside your mind.

And that old saw about “don’t get your hopes up, and that way you won’t get disappointed,” is the biggest bunch of hooey I’ve ever heard.

First of all, it’s a bad strategy because it plain doesn’t.

If something you want doesn’t work out, you’re going to be bummed whether or not you had anticipated the failure.

And missing an opportunity to have delightfully high hopes seems. . . churlish.

I understand the impulse to say, “I just don’t want to get hurt again.” But guess what? You’re here to get hurt.

We’re here to try again. and again. and again. We’re here to gain resiliency.

So I say go ahead — get your hopes up. Dream big, lush, vivid dreams. Imagine your ideal of success with the full knowledge that reality may never measure up.

Then when things do work out, you haven’t wasted one moment tamping down your enthusiasm. And if they don’t work out, well, then, you are free to feel the full force of your disappointment. Which may or may not be as bad as you had imagined it might be.

I bet that if you stacked up all your disappointments you would you would find that very few of them make you think, “Oh, I wish I hadn’t even tried that.” I bet you would mostly think, “Well, I sure learned a lot.”

And that’s the other thing we’re here for: our soul’s education.

Nevertheless, disappointments can leave deep scars. And some disappointments take longer to heal than we’d like, even when we know we “should be over it by now.”

(Over it by now? Says who? What is this mysterious global time frame on getting over things? Honestly.)

Disappointment is a wise and valuable teacher. It acquaints you with grief. Grief, said the Greeks, is the daughter of anger and sadness. These two powerful emotions need to be felt, explored, and lived through.

Otherwise we are only a living shadow of our true selves: pretending we don’t care about the things we care about most.

So there’s a time to cry and a time to stop crying.

photo credit: A.K. Photography via photopin cc

Don’t Be Afraid to Get a C

Don’t Be Afraid to Get a C

Some years ago I was suffering from some fairly extreme anxiety.

One of the ways the anxiety manifested was that I felt like I was being constantly graded.

During every meal I cooked, every parallel-parking job, every audition, every everything, I felt like someone, somewhere, was monitoring my every move and keeping track in a big notebook about how well or, more often, how poorly I was executing my life.


So I decided that if I could not disabuse myself of the idea that I was being graded, then I would just try to get a C — which is the grade you get for showing up and doing the work.

Not doing the work better than everyone else, not doing extra-credit work — just showing up and doing the work.

I was quite pleased with this idea, and I shared it with my sister during one of our almost-daily phone conversations. She agreed that it sounded like a jim-dandy strategy and wished me luck with it.

Then we went on to discuss the real topic of our conversation that day: our father had moved into a new apartment and we wanted to send him a housewarming gift. I said I would take care of it.

A day or two later we were on the phone again and she asked me if I’d sent anything to Dad yet.

“Well, no,” I explained, “because I want to get him something nice but still within our budget, and I was thinking about something for his kitchen although he already has quite a bit of kitchen stuff so maybe there ’s a better idea if we do some sheets or maybe towels, maybe monogrammed, or —”

“Sam!” my sister interrupted. “Get a C — send a plant.”

Ah, the pure ring of truth!

Ten minutes later I had spent less than fifty bucks at an online flower delivery website for a handsome dieffenbachia plant, and the next day my father called both of us to say thank you and to tell us how lucky he felt to have such thoughtful daughters.

Here’s the point: my desire to find the perfect thing for my father was preventing me from finding anything for my father.

My willingness to take the budget-friendly, obvious option (a houseplant) allowed me to do what we really wanted to do to begin with, which was just let our dad know that we loved him and hoped he was happy in his new digs.

There are two more reasons you can afford to get a C.

One, your version of a C is probably everybody else ’s version of an A.

Two, if you get your work out there and then find that it needs to be made more perfect, well, then, you’ll improve it, right?

That’s how you roll.

How is your desire to do the perfect thing getting in the way of your doing anything?

Bouncing Back From Disappointment: Really Gettting Over It (Step One)

We all get disappointed sometimes.  And mostly we follow a pretty simple process of feeling tremendously upset, thinking about it way too much, then finding some way to comfort ourselves and then moving on.  With the help of some friends, some carb-heavy comfort food (or herb tea or martinis or double-chocolate
fudge crunch ice cream
or whatever your narcotic of choice may be…) and perhaps a period of true unbridled wallowing, we get over it.


But some disappointments linger.  Some become a permanent part of our internal landscape.  Some even feel as though they have become part of our identity, and we almost can’t imagine letting them go, even though they cause us so much pain.

Here’s the good news: you’re reading this.

That tells me that you:

  1. Actually WANT to get over it
  2. Can at least sort of imagine that you COULD get over it
Welcome to Bouncing Back from Disappointment: Three Strategies to Really Get Over It. 

I hope we’re going to make some good progress
here – I can’t guarantee anything, but I have seen people make some miraculous shifts in very brief amounts of time, so I
wouldn’t rule anything out.  Now, it’s not possible to “unthink” something, and you can’t not feel the way you feel
about something.  There’s no magic pill.

But you can
unscrew the bolts a little bit on the ideas that are keeping the experience both fixed and

(One possible exception:  Grief.  My
experience is that other kinds of pain and disappointment can shift and move
but grief – even old grief – just sweeps up on you and feels for all the world like it just happened this morning.  So I want you to be working on a specific
frustration or disappointment or failure here, and I want you to pick one, but
if it’s a Grief, then maybe, just for the purposes of today, pick another, less
knotty one.)

Everybody have one particular disappointment in mind?  Good.

Maybe it’s just a little one: I over salted the
turkey meatloaf the other night and I’m a little disappointed in myself.

Or a medium one: I’m still so bummed I
never finished college, or that we got outbid on that house.

Or a big one: I got fired.

Or a really big one: I still can’t
believe he or she had that affair.

Now, let’s get a
reading here:

On a scale of 1-5, how disappointed are you about your

1 = Actually, I’m mostly
over it

2 = Still stings a bit

3 = This causes me some pain when I think about it

4 = Ouch! Ouch!  Ouch!!!!!!!

5 = I almost can’t imagine EVER being over this

Are you at a 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5?  Whatever it is, just guesstimate and write
down the number.

It’s important that you be honest with yourself about your level of disappointment.

Sometimes we can get caught up in Enforced Optimism (“Oh, it’s all good…”) or Depressive Diminishment (“It’s no big deal”) and I don’t want that.  I want you to haul the monsters out from under the bed and look them in the eye.  Be straight with yourself.  There’s no sense pretending that you feel all yippee-skippy when you don’t, and there’s no sense hanging on to a disappointment from which, you discover, you are really mostly already recovered.

STEP ONE: We Are Not Amused (but maybe we could be…)

So the first thing I want you
to do is give this event a new, more disastrous name.  Really exaggerate.  Unleash your Inner Drama Queen.  Go for it.  Write it down.

“I blew the presentation,” could be
re-named “I’m Headed For The Poorhouse For Sure!!!”

“I fell off my diet,” becomes “I Am
The Walrus, Koo Koo Ka Choo”

“I didn’t finish my novel,” becomes “I Will Never Be A Real Writer Ever Ever Ever Ever Ever”

Got it?
Be melodramatic.  Make yourself laugh.

It’s great if you can do this with a trusted friend who can laugh with you.)

How does it feel to give it this extreme name?  What do you notice?  What shifts?

Next, I want you to write down a really minimizing name for your event.  Brush it off.  Spin it like a crooked politician. Or imagine you have an eccentric great-aunt who hears about your disappointment and just waves it away with a word.  What does she call it?

“Nobody’s buying my product,” becomes “Well, This Has Been Some Fascinating Market Research…”

“I’ll never get another date,” becomes “Oh, Pish Posh, Silly Old Dating, Who Cares?”  

“I’m chronically disorganized,” becomes “I Am So Creative With Where I Put Things!”

Again, write them down and notice how each one feels.  (Don’t worry – you can always go back to the same way you’ve always felt.  No pressure.)

just experimenting with perspectives here, so you don’t need to actually believe your new names for this event, but you do need to acknowledge that there may be some alternatives to the lonely, empty feeling you’ve allowed the memory of this event to trigger in you.

If you like this Step, then keep going:

– What would your dearest, best friend call this event?

– What would your Guardian Angel call it?

– What would a poet call it?

– What would a late-night infomercial spokesperson call it?

– What would a gypsy fortune-teller call it?

Experimenting with different names can remind you that when it comes to your own life, you are in a position of choice. 

You get to decide what you think about it.  

And that can move you from feeling like a disappointed victim to feeling like the confident, empowered, creative genius that you truly are.

NOTE: I’m curious – what names did you come up with?  Please comment because I’d love to hear them!

Coming soon: Step Two!