I have tried to write this blog post for months. I’ve thought of different titles, different ways of approaching the subject, and different outcomes of writing it.
To be honest I’ve also been grappling with my own experience with these issues, and how to deal with them. Reading this post and this one really helped me recognise my problems, and begin to articulate them.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a battle going on in my head. It starts in the morning. The perfectionist in me wants to get up early, at the same time every morning, and complete a perfect version of my morning routine, with all my tasks done on time, and then move on to work. Another part of me, let’s call it the struggle part of my brain (I don’t have any diagnosis so I don’t want to equate it to a mental illness) disagrees. That part of my brain is tired. It wants to lie in bed, doing nothing, because everything feels difficult, and heavy, and like such a huge effort to get going. This internal battle takes place every morning. Most of the time I manage to get up.
In the past few months I’ve actually developed something of a morning routine (after years of trying and giving up cycles). So I try my best to follow it, some days more successfully than others. But I show up, and I start the day.
Then comes the next part of the day. Recently I’ve got into time blocking (I used this great video to help me). I’ve divided my day into blocks of different activity, so after my ‘start up’ which is my morning routine, I move on to ‘create’ which is anything where I’m creating; blogs, poetry, writing, workshop creation etc. I put this block in the morning as I think I’m more creative earlier in the day, before I get too tired out and restless. I have an alarm to mark the beginning of each block, so at 8.15 and then 8.30 am my alarms go off to signal it’s time to create.
Once again, my brain has a battle. I know that I need to get on with things. I want to get on with things. I enjoy writing, creating, getting my words out of my brain and onto a page or screen.
But part of my brain is screaming ‘NOPE’ at me. I can’t really tell you why. I guess I’m scared it won’t be good enough, I’m worried that I’m not good enough. I visualise writing a post, publishing it, and getting no likes, no comments, no interest. That makes my brain feel awful. It fills me with a sense of dread that is totally out of balance with the perceived consequences. So often I skip over writing. I haven’t written a complete blog post in over a month, because of this very problem.
This goes on, and on through the day. Sometimes I get quite a lot done before I give in to the struggle brain. Sometimes I only manage a few tasks, or have a really lazy morning and just about manage to get a couple of things done in the afternoon.
Every time I don’t finish my to-do list, or do my schedule perfectly, I feel shit. The voice in my head is whispering ‘you didn’t do enough’. Sometimes it talks louder. Sometimes it screams.
This all adds up to me feeling pretty overwhelmed. Sometimes I don’t even try to do anything, because the thought of going through that battle makes me want to curl up in a ball and shut everything out. Sometimes I find myself procrastinating for hours, not sure where the time has gone, because I’m so overwhelmed with the standards I want to meet that I simply create an excuse as to why I haven’t met them. Which I can then beat myself up about, and so the cycle continues.
I’ve battled with these problems for years. I didn’t really realise they were problems, I just kept telling myself that I wasn’t trying hard enough, or I needed to figure out a better productivity system. These were excuses that I used as to why I wasn’t achieving what I wanted to, what I felt like I should be achieving.
So now I am trying to overcome my struggles. It’s going to be a long road, and I’m not sure how exactly I’ll do it, but I’ve made a start. Recognising my problems was a big first step. In the past year, with the amazing support of my boyfriend I’ve started to come to terms with it. There were several steps that helped me do that.
One of the first things was finding Smart Twenties, a blog by Sam Brown. Sam speaks about perfectionism, productivity, and motivation. Suddenly it was like someone turned on a light for me. She could have been almost directly talking about me instead of herself. For the past year I’ve devoured her content, and honestly she has helped so much. I enrolled in her course ‘Get Out of Your Own Way‘ and the exercises really helped me look at the root of my perfectionism.
I also got a book called Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight which I’ve been reading and taking in over the past few months. One of the best things I’ve learnt is a way to deal with procrastination. It’s called ‘Stop, Drop, and Roll’.
Basically when you realise you’re procrastinating by being on your phone, watching TV, doing some chores instead of work etc, you Stop what you’re doing, Drop the device/channel/laundy (don’t actually drop something that might break! Just put it down) and Roll away – towards what you’re supposed to be doing.
It’s a great tactic, as it takes away the space for judging yourself. You simply go ‘oh, I’ve got off track’ and take the steps to return to your work/homework/whatever you should be doing. I would recommend it to anyone who struggles with procrastination, or even motivation to get going. You could use to to sort of ‘count down’ to starting that thing you keep putting off.
Basically I’m taking little steps towards a better me. At times my perfectionism feels frustrated that I’m not ‘further along’ than I am. It’s still early days, and when I give in to struggle brain part of me thinks ‘what’s the point in trying to fight it?’ But I know that I need to keep making those little steps, and fighting to move forward. I’m trying to celebrate my wins more, and focus on what I do achieve, instead of beating myself up for what I don’t.
Do you have any tips or tricks for beating perfectionism or struggle brain?
Do you have similar struggles? Let’s support and encourage each other in the comments!
Be gentle with yourself today,
You’ve got this!