I’ve been having a difficult time writing lately. It’s not for lack of ideas, mind you. I have plenty of those knocking around. In fact, each day brings more frantic notes on my phone or in my journal to capture those ideas before they slip out of my overwhelmed mind.
The problem is that I’m struggling with self-doubt. Second-guessing every word I write until I’m so paralyzed by it that I stare at a blank page mentally groping for the right word to even begin bringing my ideas to fruition. That first word eludes me, but even if I could find it, I doubt its [Aaargh, couldn’t think of the right word here. See what I mean!]
Though I’ve always had self-confidence issues, this is probably the worst it has ever been in regards to my writing. In fact, in some cases, I’ve had far too much confidence in my work, and only discovered later how raw and in need of further revision and editing it was. Perhaps that is part of my problem now. Since I’ve been mistaken before, I question my self-judgement. What if I’m filled with flaws that I can’t see? What if I’m blinded to my own shortcomings? (Perhaps you noticed I’m not just talking about my writing anymore.)
You see, I’m a perfectionist. It sounds like a good thing, right? Perfectionist. That means you show attention to detail and work hard to get everything just right. How could that possibly be a bad thing?
The way it works for me is that I’m not satisfied until things are “perfect.” I don’t think I need to tell anyone how often things are “perfect”—especially the things I do. I’m an exceptionally harsh critic towards myself, and my internal dialogue would certainly hold up in court as verbal abuse. I’m trying to change that, and I fully intend to over time, with positive thinking and inspiring mantras.
I’ve gotten better at derailing some of my worst criticisms as soon as they pop up in my head. In fact, I think one of the reasons my characters feel so alive to me is because I allow them to talk to me as loud as they want to drown out my own worst enemy. Myself. (I’m not really hearing voices…at least, not the way that sounds. 😉 )
I tend to take any external criticism to heart, yet ignore any external praise as biased or just “people being nice.” This is part of my problem, because I cannot even find solace in the approval of others. (Not that defining yourself by how others see you is healthy either.)
I have quit or given up on things I wanted to do because I couldn’t do them perfectly. This is another aspect of perfectionism that isn’t understood by those who don’t suffer from it. I fear failure, so I quit before I can fail. Sometimes, I won’t even start. If I don’t have a chance of achieving the perfect end result, I don’t want to come in second.
This is a terrible mentality to have! It doesn’t acknowledge how important failure is to our self-growth. One of the most important lessons I think anyone can learn is how to fail. We spend all our time focused on how to succeed, but we forget that failure is a likely outcome and if we never learn how to handle it, we crash when it happens. Or, like me, avoid the risk of it happening altogether.
Fortunately, there is something that lives within me that is even stronger than my perfectionism. That is my passion for writing. I want to quit writing. Every. Single. Day. I want to stop trying to make something of my writing and not achieving the results I’d like. I want to stop creating works that are flawed, even though I can logically accept that nothing is perfect. I want to. But I can’t. The passion for writing has me like a dog in its teeth. I try to struggle against its hold and it shakes me until I give up the fight against it. That’s why I continue to write, pushing past these blocks and shaken confidence. That’s why I’m still typing even though I face the page hating everything that I put on it. And that’s why I’m still posting this, even though my inner critic is screaming at me about how bad it is.
Eventually, the worst of these feelings of inadequacy will pass and I will emerge anew, filled with a fresh mind and a new perspective. I have fought my internal enemy all my life, and have learned how to judge the flow of battle. When I’m knocked down, I can see a different path from my new angle on the ground. Being brought low only gives me a new perspective from which to view my situation.
Here is what I know in my heart, though my mind tries to tell me different, and this is the message I would have everyone take away from this:
Human beings are fundamentally flawed. It’s what makes us unique and gives us purpose. We strive for perfection, but it remains out of our reach, because once we achieve it, we’ve got nowhere else to go. There is nothing wrong with being flawed, and indeed, the best fictional characters—the most interesting, the most relatable, the most engaging—are flawed characters. Perfect characters are Mary Sues. They’re boring and one-dimensional.
I am human and imperfect. Therefore, I have room to grow and become more than I am in any moment of my life. I have potential. When I can drown out the noise of self-doubt, I will realize that potential. I believe this of everyone. Do not let your inner critic destroy your motivation. Prove it wrong and silence that negative voice with reminders of how far you’ve already come.
I’m incredibly blessed, and I’m thankful for that every single day. One day, I will finally believe that I deserve to be this blessed. As for my writing, I will continue to work on it, despite the internal struggle. There simply isn’t any other option for me. Whether I’m a good writer or not is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. I was born to write, not because I have some wondrous skill for it, but because I have a passion for it.
I hope you find the ultimate message of this post inspiring. I know that I started it in a terrible mood, and ended in a much better one. Once again, writing has saved me from myself. The simple act of putting my thoughts to the page and acknowledging in black and white the truth of imperfection and how important it really is has already changed my outlook. Perhaps I need to start typing my positive mantra or writing it down in a journal every day. I’m going to try that, but I hope that by sharing this post, someone else who struggles with these self-doubts, or with perfectionism in general, will find something helpful here.
Let me know what you guys think. Don’t worry, despite how this might have come off, I can take critiques. I actually approve of the constructive ones, because they help me improve myself and my writing. As for those criticisms that sound too much like my inner voice, I ignore them in a way I wish I could manage for my own criticisms.
All photos courtesy of Pixabay.