Jan 2016: Starting Over

Challenging Perfectionism In Your NY Resolutions

Don’t you just love that blank slate feeling a new year brings? I know I do; I’m a big believer in the power of the blank page. I love riding the wave of change, although I find it terrifying as well. People in general seem to fear change or embrace it. But there is a particular kind of change I’ve come to talk to you about: the radical, and let’s face it, completely unfeasible new years resolutions we set ourselves each year. 

Resolutions with no solutions

“From tomorrow, I will eliminate sugar, dairy and meat. I will get up at 5 a.m. and go on a 30 minute run every morning, followed by an hour-long meditation. I will write every day, but on a new blog that I will construct from scratch; I’ll transfer all my old blogposts to the new website. I’ll be learning a new song per day and I’ll do this all by myself.”

Does this sound at all familiar? These are slightly exaggerated versions of resolutions I’ve put myself through in previous years. There is a part of me that believes that I should do all that, and more, and there are people who seemingly can do such things through pure self-motivation. My point, however, is this: continuing with a small, imperfect task that you have chosen is probably better than launching full throttle into a grandiose adventure you will likely give up on after three days.

Change is a process that can have unforeseen consequences. For example:

  • you go on a 30 minute run after a period of inactivity and you pull a muscle;
  • writing every day cuts into your sleep time and you’re irritable and tired;
  • you write every day for a week; then life happens and you abandon the blog. You stop writing completely for shame of not finishing the project and/or you start a new blog for the same task;
  • and, last but not least: you end up hating yourself for not completing the tasks that were meant to usher in the brave new year of brave new you… .

All the above are things that either happened or could have easily happened to me. I repeat: there is nothing wrong with radical change. However, if you’re not propelled forward by a crystal clear goal (e.g. you have a back problem and you have to change your lifestyle, or else!), radical change is less likely to happen. 

There are, in my mind, two kinds of change: the meaningful one, which you create with self-love as your ultimate goal, and the self-imposed prison to satisfy external pressure (dieting can be both, but often ends up being the latter). One is motivated by love and hope, the other by fear. One is about being disciplined, but gentle (mistakes are human), the other knows no mercy. So what are we battling with in the second case (and possibly within the first)?

The Name Of The Game (Spoiler: You Lose)

Perfectionism: a beast I know intimately and wrestle with daily. It is the whisper that tells me that it’s not worth writing, because I didn’t figure out that wonderful website yet, and that it’s not worth singing, because I don’t practice for hours on a daily basis. Is it the voice that told me for years that I can never, ever be a dancer, because I didn’t start dance school age 7, and can’t play the piano/wear short skirts/insert anything you’d like to do but are afraid of not being good enough at it. 

Perfectionism is this thing that gets in the way of achieving meaningful results, because we believe that they would not be good enough. If you’re familiar with Brene Brown, the shame and vulnerability expert (and if you aren’t, go and watch at once), you will get this:

Perfectionism is the opposite of vulnerability. It can be not acting, because you’re not “ready” (or perfect); it can be creating a to-do list that would put the President of the US and his PA to shame, and then self-hating, because – quelle surprise – you couldn’t do it.

Fighting perfectionism is a long and involved process. It mainly involves self-love and time. We live in a society that does not appreciate the value of mistakes, often actively stigmatising them. Learning the value of our imperfect actions often goes against the grain of what we were taught to expect from ourselves. It’s one of the situations where slow and steady wins the race: one foot in front of the other will, ultimately, change the place you’re in, regardless of the pace you walk.

Slow And Steady: Find The Pace You Want

If you are ready, take the radical step: I just quit my job, after all. But remember: changing things requires thinking them through first. There will be consequences you won’t expect. There will be mistakes and bad habits and that’s fine, because you’re human. Give yourself time and space to figure them out. And if you’d rather take change slowly, one tiny step at a time, well, it’ll be less scary that way. If the voices in your head laugh at your resolution of exercising five minutes a day, tell them that it accumulates to 35 minutes per week, which is 35 minutes more than not exercising at all per day. 

Do you agree that perfectionism gets in the way of change? Do you have any NY’s resolutions, big or small? Let us know in the comments below. 

 

– Rita Suszek
I am a writer, a singer and a budding stand-up comedian. I write on WordPress (Good Enough Diary), sing in The Living Songbook and am very excited about becoming a dancer in a street act soon!

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2 thoughts on “Challenging Perfectionism In Your NY Resolutions

  1. LOVE love love love LOVE this! New Year’s Resolutions are always focused on getting “better” it seems. What about New Year’s Resolutions to “let go,” or “laugh more when things don’t work out” or “listen more”? I like the idea of “slow and steady” tackling NYR.

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  2. Hi! I’m so glad that it resonated with you. 😊 it’s all about the love, isn’t it? Our resolutions are meant to help us live fuller lives. So we can totally put laughter or listening on the list. Listening certainly is on mine, I even blogged about it! 😊

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