Stop pursuing perfection (+ other lessons learned in my first year of business)
Up until now I’ve been pretty quiet about it, but I recently celebrated my first year in business. *cue confetti*
Looking back, it’s insane to think how much Ditch Perfect has evolved (heck, how much I have evolved) in the past year. So much has happened (writing, creating, launching my coaching services, pitching, being pitched, re-branding) + the year has flown by.
As I sit here reflecting on all of this, I find that there were certain challenges that popped up throughout the year waiting for me to take action or to learn the lesson they represented.
Some of these lessons were struggles at first and some of them still are.
Today, I want to share these lessons with you as a way of being honest and transparent about my business and personal struggles. I hope you can apply them in your work and life as well.
/ 1 / Stop pursuing perfection
I thought I’d dealt with my perfectionism. But phewww... was I wrong.
The thing about perfectionism is that it’s sneaky. Once you deal with it in one area of your life, it pops up in another area.
Once I ventured into business with Ditch Perfect + I became a creative business owner, I quickly realized it came with a whole new set of challenges: comparisonitis, FOMO, procrastination, being an absolute beginner, my fear of being visible, having to figure out a daunting pile of technical issues and systems that needed to be implemented + figuring out how to make my own dreams and ambitions for Ditch Perfect a reality.
My perfectionism had a field day. I felt like things had to be perfect before I pressed ‘Publish’. I didn’t want to be a beginner. I couldn’t make mistakes. I needed to rise to the level of other creatives in my field or what was the point? Or so, the voice of perfectionism in my head kept repeating to me.
As always, perfectionism led to procrastination and overwhelm. I was so overwhelmed with the scope of a big project that I just didn’t start. I delayed another project month after month.
After realizing that perfectionism was running the show for me, I put a stop to it. I saw perfectionism for what it really was: the voice of fear. To be honest, that voice had a point. Starting a big project or launching a new product is scary.
So I validated that fear and then I made it clear that I was the one in charge.
Since then, even though I still have to deal with my perfectionism (it’s a daily thing!), I run the show. I found a system to help me get organized. I’ve learned how to break big projects down into smaller chunks. I’ve created a daily creative routine that has helped me push past the fear.
I’ve learned that there’s actually joy to be found in declaring something done, when in the past I would’ve spent two more weeks perfecting tiny details.
Another thing that has made such a difference is the belief that I don’t have to be good at everything.
It’s become somewhat of a mantra for me. Each time I don’t know what the hell I’m doing (for instance, when I’m doing my taxes or when I’m trying to figure out CSS for my website), I remind myself that I’m fabulous in a lot of things but I don’t have to be good at everything.
/ 2 / Don’t be too hard on yourself
There’s an insane amount of pressure in our culture and in the online world in particular to be doing, doing, doing + pushing + controlling + hustling.
More, more, more!
I fell for this trap big time when I started my business.
And it made me feel like a failure. My inner critic liked to remind me that I could be doing so much more: wake up an hour earlier, crank out a new blog post, post on Twitter, sign up for Snapchat, sacrifice my lunch break, create a new freebie, or else...
Major lesson here: the culture of ‘always be doing’ is a fallacy.
It’s running around in a hamster wheel without realizing I’m not actually going anywhere. I’m only running around in circles. And if that’s not bad enough... that hamster wheel was locked in a cage. I was locked in.
Every time my inner critic starts shouting I try to drown out the noise and listen to my inner voice instead. My inner voice is so much nicer and gentler and more compassionate: “You’re doing the best you can. There are only so much hours in the day. You’re doing everything you can to work towards your goals.”
Also, self-forgiveness is key. There will be times when I mess up or when I spend an hour daydreaming instead of writing. It happens. I forgive myself.
This is a lesson in progress for me, because that panic (I should be doing XYZ!) still sets in regularly. I’ve come to realize that, as a solo business owner, I have to be comfortable with discomfort. I can do it all, just not all at once.
/ 3 / It’s okay to slow down + take care of yourself
There were times where I felt like I couldn’t slow down. After I was done with my regular full-time job, I only had a few hours each week to spend on my business. I felt I had to be optimally productive during those hours.
But my day job took so much out of me. I came home each day completely drained and overstimulated from all the noise and interruptions. My stress levels were at an all-time high. I had nothing left to give. Not even to my business.
I’ve learned to leave the guilt of not doing enough behind me. I’ve learned to put myself first.
This means I’ve had to lower my ambitions (or better said, make my ambitions more realistic) + do things at a slower pace. I’ve also had to put off some big things I had planned. Basically, I had to slow down and prioritize taking care of myself.
At first, this sounded horrible to me (slowing down, ahhhh!). But I’ve found that in slowing down I returned to my core and to the core of my creative business. In the quiet, I discovered Ditch Perfect’s true mission and the opportunity to put my values and priorities into practice.
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Related post: 3 things to focus on when starting a creative business
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/ 4 / Don’t take it personally
I believe there’s a constant tension that exists when you’re running your own creative business or when you’re putting your creative work out into the world. I’ve had these victories that made me feel like a total boss and then crippling moments of self-doubt.
There’s an ebb and flow when it comes to business.
There are months when everything seems to happen at once. I’m making sales, get asked to be on a podcast, see growth in my community + on social media. And there are months when it’s preeettty quiet, nothing, crickets.
My biggest aha moment this year was when I came to see that there’s a fine line between healthy evaluation and relating everything to me personally.
The trouble is that I’m a solopreneur, which means everything - everything I do or don’t do, every effort, every result - is directly related back to me. But, and here’s the big aha, I don’t have to make it mean anything about me.
When a launch fails, it doesn’t mean I’m a failure. When I see a good result or no result at all, it doesn’t say anything about me as person.
I’m still figuring this out, but I’m quite sure that this ebb and flow doesn’t really have anything to do with my input, my work, or my efforts. Sometimes efforts produce results, sometimes they don’t, and sometimes results come without any effort.
Again, I’ve learned to not take this personally. I haven’t failed (and I’m definitely not a failure) when I don’t see results. I’ve learned to embrace the ebb and flow and take the waves as they come.
/ 5 / Try + experiment
This past year was a year of trying things out and experimenting. I mean that in a very practical sense, with having to make myself familiar with new programs and systems + figuring out how everything works and how everything is connected.
But I’ve also extended this experimentation mindset to discovering new concepts and new ideas, opening my mind to new possibilities + doing some things I never thought I’d be able to do.
I never want to stop learning. This is something I want to make time for. Not only from a business perspective, but also as a personal challenge and as a way of recharging both myself and my creative juices
I’ve dreamed about going on a creative retreat or do a big vision + planning session for my business, following the lead from fellow online creative + allround inspiration, Ruth Poundwhite. I think I’ll make that a priority for my second year in business :)
What does all of this mean for the future? What am I going to do with all of these lessons learned?
Obviously, some of these lesson are still a work in progress or require daily practice. It’s important to me that I’m the one that stays in charge instead of my perfectionism, that I keep listening to my inner voice, that I slow down and prioritize self-care, that I embrace the ebb and flow of business + that I keep on learning.
But these two things are also important to me.
I want to keep investing, both in time, energy + money. I want to keep investing in myself, in my creative business, in connection and community.
To make this possible as Ditch Perfect continues to grow, it probably means I have to hire someone to help me out. Hopefully, I can make this a reality in my second year of business.
My mission with Ditch Perfect is to help you, an online creative or creative business owner, #ditchperfect, overcome your perfectionism + finally take action on those big creative ideas you’ve been dreaming about for so long. I’m invested in this mission. It’s my why.
This year I also want to stay invested in my business goals + the resources I’m creating for you. I’m giving myself permission to stop pursuing something if it doesn’t feel right + to not do something that doesn’t get my creative juices flowing or make me feel excited to jump out of bed every day.
Are you tired of struggling with your need for constant perfection? Need a little help with overcoming your perfectionism, so that you can start making those big ideas you have for your creative business a reality? Then make sure to download my fan-favorite (not to mention FREE!) ‘4 steps to ditch perfect’ workbook.
HIT ME UP IN THE COMMENTS, WHAT’S BEEN THE BIGGEST LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED FROM RUNNING YOUR CREATIVE BUSINESS OR FROM WORKING ON A BIG CREATIVE PROJECT?
Hey, Wendy here!
As a perfectionism coach, I help online creatives #ditchperfect, overcome their perfectionism + take action on the big ideas they have for their business. Let’s work together and make those ideas happen.