Perfectionists strive not only to make things perfect in their life, but also for those around them. For perfectionists, a mistake feels like a death-sentence because it feels like everything that they’ve worked for has failed. “How do you know this?” you ask. Well, let’s just say that I’m something of a recovering perfectionist. I still have those tendencies, but am learning about letting some things go.
A woman years ago told me that she felt my 100% benchmark for everything was the equivalent of everyone else’s 300%. She told me that I would make myself “less-crazy” if I aimed for 80%. That was a hard one to swallow since I have always prided myself on doing my very, very best. But operating at 300% is tiresome and often, mistakes can be made because there’s just too much going on.
So two years ago I really tried to play with the “80%” rule. Now, for most people, 80% may sounds like slacking off. But for me, my 80% still means that I am trying my best, but letting go of the desire to be perfect, while:
- running my own graphic/web design business
- being a mom
- being there as a wife, friend, daughter
- offsetting household chores and parenting tasks
- exercising 6-7 days a week through running, kettle bell workouts, rock climbing, wake boarding, mountain biking, hiking, swimming, etc.
- painting and illustrating
- playing drums 1-2 times a week with my band
- practicing meditation/healing work every day
- running a side comic business that I dedicate 15+ hrs/week to
So, my 80% still means I am busy… very busy. And it still means, that per the ratio given above, I’m still operating at most people’s 240% on my mellow days (which is good to know if you are one of my clients or if your child is under my supervision :).
Yet, prior to adopting my “80%” rule, I found myself not taking the chances I really wanted to take. Well, yes, I do rock climb and yes, I do put myself out there as an artist. But all of those were more calculated risks in areas that I was already familiar with. What I’m talking about is taking new chances in uncharted territories. I was so worried about doing poorly that I held myself back from really moving forward. And then, one day, I just couldn’t take it any more.
This was two years ago and I really felt I needed to voice some concerns and issues that could not be expressed through my paintings and traditional artworks. That is when I started Unearthed Comics. I toiled over the cartoon characters, created my own hand-drawn font, played with a gamut of colors, and assigned a rigid format I would stick with. I wanted it all perfect! But, at some point, I just had to take a chance. So, after it was at my 240% mark, I finally resigned and put it out there into the ethers of the internet. I continued to put out the comics and slooooowwwwly started getting a response.
Now, fast forward one year and my comics started getting picked up here and there by smaller Facebook pages. I had about 3,000 Facebook fans when one day, IFLScience on Facebook, (who had over 6 million fans at that time), posted one of my comics. I was elated!!!
I was getting email after email stating that my fan base was growing exponentially. “Finally,” I thought to myself. “I’m getting rewarded for all of my hard work and perfected diligence.” Then, between bouts of jumping up and down and laughing hysterically, I noticed a weird email about a Facebook comment which stated, “A real scientist would know how to spell Celsius.”
What!?! I quickly went to the comic they posted of mine about how scientists see vacations as compared to most people and there it was: not one, but TWO, terrible spelling mistakes!!!
Thinking I must be seeing it wrong, I scanned over to see how many people had viewed it, crossing my fingers for some teeny weeny number, thinking I would just laugh it off and learn from it. But no, that wouldn’t be funny at all.
I had to look a couple of times when I finally saw my Facebook analytics stating I had 3.2 million viewers of this one misspelled comic!!! 3.2 MILLION!!!! OMG- the perfectionist in me nearly collapsed with shame and embarrassment. There were terrible comments about misspelling and this and that. I cried, barely noticing all the 50,000+ nice comments between my water-logged eyes. I only noticed those 50 people who “liked” that comment about my mistakes.
At first I contemplated wrapping up my comics then and there, being done with it all, too ashamed to move on. But, realizing that I mistakenly put out my misspelled draft instead of my finalized draft, I remembered: I am human and mistakes do happen.
Yes, I still do not like making mistakes and yes, I work reallllllly hard to do my best. But, sometimes there are other things that get in the way. Regardless of how embarrassed I felt in the past, I have learned so much through the process. Now, 200+ comics and two books later, I have 25,000+ fans who support me, mistakes and all.
My lesson learned: it is better to make a mistake, living free by trying our best than to stay a prisoner of our own fear, trapped by the incessant mind-chatter and “what ifs.”