Abandoning Perfectionism

June 18, 2024

Did you know that we’re (recovering? ish?) perfectionists? Honestly, we’re not sure anyone could get through (or even WANT to get through) graduate school if they don’t have at least some tendencies in that direction. 

On the one hand, things like excelling, setting and reaching goals, and generally kicking %&!? Good! Admirable!

But the thing is, that desire to always do more, be more, be better can get so twisted. Pursuit of your best can warp so quickly into pursuit of the unattainable, where anything less than perfect is somehow a total failure.

Ask us how we know!!

The other night, we did our first live lecture for our Lord of the Rings course, The Fellowship. By all accounts, it went beautifully! We got lots of great feedback, we had fun, and people were super engaged and were clearly having a fabulous time. But then: DISASTER!

At the very end of the evening, during the Q&A, our platform abruptly and completely cut out. We were booted from the screen, the PowerPoint presentation vanished, and we couldn’t get back on video to finish the talk no matter what we tried.

Our stomachs dropped to our toes and then burrowed down into the floor.

But we handled it. We generated a quick Zoom link, and people were able to hop over there. We finished out the Q&A without further incident, but we felt like hot garbage.

Honestly? That glitch almost destroyed any good feelings we might have had about how the lecture went.

We want to be perfect for you. We know it’s unrealistic, but it’s true. We want, with every fiber of our being, to create perfect, seamless experiences that are uncursed by internet pixies and effortless for you to navigate. Tech glitches put us in such a sad, frustrated, foul mood. We want to fix it right away, we want to overcompensate, we want to scream into the void about technology (even though, let’s face it, Carterhaugh wouldn’t even exist without all this technology!) 

Humans have this deeply ingrained tendency to always focus on the negative, the things that went poorly as opposed to the things that went well. Tragically, we’re no exception.

(Seriously, it’s true, it’s called the negativity bias – go read about it, it’s fascinating!)

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of focusing on the one negative review among hundreds of positive ones, to believe that the worst possible outcome is the most likely, to even think the most negative take is the one closest to the truth, when in reality, that’s not guaranteed at all. It just isn’t. It’s just how human brains are wired.

The day after the talk, we watched a live workshop with one of our favorite business coaches. She’s wildly famous, successful, rich, and has a whole team behind her helping her every step of the way. She has every advantage and fancy bell and whistle that we could dream of. And guess what? She had tech problems. A LOT of them! But she just shrugged and was like “this is just what happens when you want to do things live! Hang on a sec, we’re working on it!”

It was like a lightbulb moment for us.

If SHE can have glitches during lives, with her team and her money and her years and years of experience, AND she can just shrug it off, fix it, and keep going… what on earth are we dwelling on this so much for? No one is ever going to be perfect, and that’s okay. If you’re always doing your best, no one’s expecting perfection anyway. Were we mad when she had tech issues? Of course not! So why would we assume everyone in The Fellowship course was? You guys are awesome, and we know you know we’ll make it right.

We’re probably never going to be able to get rid of our perfectionist tendencies entirely, but we’re committed to working on it. We’re committed to giving ourselves grace. We’re committed to trying our darndest to cultivate a positivity bias in our own brains. 

And, if you struggle with this too, we want you to know that you’re not alone. You don’t have to be perfect. You can’t be perfect, apparently. And isn’t that kind of freeing to think about?

P.S. Miss our Smithsonian Associates talk about “Beauty and the Beast” last night? No worries! Click here to listen to us talk about the tale on the Not Old, Better podcast!

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