I like things to be easy.
When I was young, most things came very easily to me. I didn’t have to work hard for much of anything. I quickly learned to stick to the things which were most obvious to me — and which impressed people the most — and just sit back to receive the praise.
For the most part, I‘ve done the same thing for my adult life. Unless I have a huge incentive, I stick to what I know how to do. It’s safe. It gets the praise I crave. And it keeps me from having to risk failure.
But every now and then, I push myself into something completely new. The old fears start surfacing. What if I’m a fraud? What if I fail at this? What if I‘m just embarrassing myself? What if I’m not perfect?
I’m in that position right now as I work toward the first complete episode of my new podcast, Love & Hope. (Listen to the three-minute introduction here.) I know the things I need to do. I’m working on them. But I’m not an expert at these things — and I once again feel the old fear of not being perfect.
At times such as these — when I allow my perfectionism to cause me go numb inside and make me want to run away from something I’m doing for the first time — I have to remind myself that nobody else knows what he’s doing the first time he does it, either.
I just wish I weren’t so intimidated by my fears of not doing everything right the first time I attempt it.
I have trouble allowing myself to be a beginner — and that’s a very good way of ensuring I never start most things that I’m capable of. Even with this podcast I’m working on, I started out telling myself that I would take existing audio segments and just put them up as episodes — intentionally keeping production very simple — while I got my bearings.
But that changed quickly.
Instead of just using one blob of recorded words, I threw out the things I’ve been recording for the past six weeks or so. I had to add theme music. I had to add a sponsor break. I had to add credits with music. I had to try to make it sound more like what I hear when I hear the shows produced by the most experienced producers and performers.
I’m not experienced, but my mind doesn’t allow me to take that into account. I just want to scream at myself because I’m not getting it right — not writing, editing, recording and producing just like a pro.
One of my biggest problems with anything I attempt is that I want to be a master of everything from the beginning. I know what’s good in whatever medium I want to work in, so I feel shame that my first attempts aren’t good by those standards.
Even if what I do is better than what other first-timers might do, I feel humiliated at my lack of mastery.
So I have trouble sharing work that I know isn’t good by professional standards. Even when I force myself to do that, I beat myself up about it and often prevent myself from doing more of it. I know that in order to do good work in a medium, you have to do a lot of bad work and then mediocre work to develop what you’re capable of, but I can’t seem to apply that lesson to myself — because it involves letting people see how imperfect I really am.
The old shame of imperfection — and the irrational fear of being punished for not being good enough — are still really strong in me.
On the outside, I appear confident and certain about everything I try. I just wish I could feel that way inside. And I wish I could allow myself the grace of being imperfect while I learn — instead of having to constantly fight the desire to run away from things that aren’t easy from the start.