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The Twenty-Second TWIG Post (or why we benefit by letting go of perfectionism and embracing a B-minus)

It dawned on me this week that I’ve a bit of a problem with publishing posts. 

As I write this there are precisely sixteen other articles languishing in my drafts, each in various stages of completion.

I’m the Queen of Drafts.

Behind the scenes of this blog, I’m writing more than ever. You’ll have to trust me when I say I’m writing my heart out.

Yet this clearly isn’t reflected in my rates of publications. Why?

One word: Perfectionismfullsizeoutput_609

It’s defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a “refusal to accept any standard short of perfection”. (For anyone who lives under a rock, though even then you’re likely to worry about living under the “right” rock – ergo you already know what I’m talking about.)

In this particular situation my perfectionistic streak shows in my inability to craft my words to the level I’d like my writing to reach before I’m ready to share it with the world.

Apparently, I’m not alone in this quest for perfection. Reading Corbett Barr‘s post about how to “write epic sh*t” this week, I learnt that it takes “professional” bloggers far longer than I thought to write, edit, and publish posts.

What a relief! Knowing it can take Pat Flynn over eight hours to write a single blog post lifts at least some of the pressure off little ol’ me. If it takes time for the big-time bloggers to make stuff that matters, then it’s reasonable to expect it’ll take time for me, too. Therefore it’s probably pushing it to want to publish something long-form two or three (or more) times a week, plus put in the requisite hours for my full-time gig, and have enough time left over to take care of my body, brain, and boyfriend (in that order – sorry C).

Perhaps I’ve some rather unrealistic expectations for myself. Being a skeptical soul, I suspect it’s not only me who thinks this way.

Clearly, Steph Crowder of “Courage and Clarity” and “Fizzle” fame (in the world of  entrepreneurial podcasts) agrees. She recently wrote a Monday Motivation post in her Facebook group for female entrepreneurs about how what she terms “B-minus work” can change lives:

“If PERFECT is in your language, we gotta take it down SEVERAL notches.

Just. Show. Up. Give me your B- Work.”

Steph Crowder via Facebook

When it comes to us women (some blokes and non-binary persons, too, of course), what we as individuals deem our B-minus work – the stuff we’d label “acceptable” or at a push “good enough” rather than being ourtip-top best –  is often exactly what someone else needs to hear.

In case that doesn’t read too well, given my myriad mid-sentence interruptions, I’ll say it again:

When it comes to us women what we as individuals deem “acceptable work” is often exactly what someone else needs to hear.

In trying to achieve something “perfect” there’s at least a chance however small – we could be preventing someone from finding precisely the help, advice, or inspiration they need in exactly the right moment. Okay, so this isn’t scientifically proven per say, but I’d hedge my bets that most experts would agree with me on this one.  “Experts” being used here to refer anyone half-way intelligent who might ever have said something even slightly supporting the point I’m making here.

I’m a prime example of the problem at play here. I hold myself back because I believe that my writing’s not “good enough” yet for public consumption. Note here the words highlighted – in bolditalics, and underlined, in case you missed it.

In truth, my work is most likely already good enough. Even if it isn’t when I publish a post, then chances are I’d soon know about it and can make amends. You know, I can edit, rewrite, even delete if it’s that bad – or – wait for it – I can choose to let it be imperfect. Revelatory stuff indeed.

But no.

Instead, I continue to tell myself the same self-destructive story – that I’m not good enough, and anything I do inevitably won’t be good enough either. It’s a bit embarrassing to think that, in spite of this navel-gazing, I still make this mistake. It’s frustrating and disheartening to repeat the same errors.

And so I’m trying to become more comfortable with being a B-minus student sometimes, at least when it comes to writing. Easier said than done, I’m learning to let go and release my creative endeavours at least a little sooner. Hopefully, my efforts at getting comfy with being uncomfy will be rewarded when my words reach those who most need to read them.

Speaking of which, I better get on with my weekly dose of thankfulness while my writing’s still relevant!

 This Week I’m Grateful for:

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Guess where I was?!

TWIG #1: A Saturday afternoon out with C. Last weekend we went to Salts Mill, a former 19th Century industrial mill which now houses art, shops, and cafes at the heart of a model village in Saltaire, Bradford. It’s . After a quick stroll and a poke in a few antiques shops, C let me loose in what’s one of my most favourite bookshops.

Whenever we visit I come home with a new book or journal. This time, I ended up with both: “The Program” – young adult dystopian fiction by Suzanne Young – and two sketch books. I plan to use the latter for creative brainstorming, free of the constraints of their linear cousin, the notebook. Of course no day out would be complete without cake so we made time for tea.

TWIG #2: My growing confidence in my business competence.

(Try saying that when you’ve had a few!)

You likely know about my most recent mental meltdown, which makes everything more difficult, as depression is want to do. However this past week helped me see I’m more capable than I believed myself to be.

I’m from a business background, academically and professionally. Yet I’m reticent to declare myself expert in anything for fear of being “found out” lacking somehow. Like many other women I speak to, I’ve a chronic case of imposter syndrome, scared to step up and risk being seen for fear of public failure.

I’ve had enough of this self-doubt. So I’m intentionally collecting evidence to prove to myself that I’m already an intelligent professional. As you’ll see, I’ve gathered some examples already this week:

  • I’ve been consulting for a copy-editor – far further along in her entrepreneurial “journey” than I, sharing my ideas around content, copy, and design for her email opt-in.
  • I asked off-the-cuff questions during a Fizzle Friday coaching session, during which I was thanked by someone I admire for my contributions to the forum.
  • Other entrepreneurs have sought me out to specifically ask for my opinion on their business issues.

All of which shows that I have something of value to offer. The more I help othersthe more I recognise that I’m actually good at this stuff. Not only have I got a ton of relevant experience to share (I sometimes forget that I’m 34, not 14), but I’m also bringing my own creativity to the table. Somewhere down the line there’s potentially a business idea there, which feels super-exciting!

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K (left & back) and D (right at the front!)

TWIG #3: This utterly gorgeous photo of our cats!  They’d jumped onto the garage windowsill to steer clear of C reversing the car. They stayed put long enough for C to park up and then take this fantastic photo.

I think it captures their personalities perfectly. Typically cheeky, D’s pushed his way to the front. (He gets away with it for being so cute.) K is that bit more cautious, carefully contemplating things from a bit further back. She lets D think he’s getting his way, but it’s her slinky self that’s  actually in charge.

Unsurprisingly, this picture received the highest number of “likes” I’ve ever received for a picture on Facebook. If I wasn’t so enamoured of this pair, I’d probably take offence!

TWIG #4: The prospect of renovating our house is becoming real! Now we’ve nearly completed the sale of our old house we’ll soon have sufficient funds to start work.

I arranged for a builder to come give us a quote. Extremely chatty (I had been warned), he was enthusiastic about our ideas and advised us on the next steps. As such, we’ve since arranged for quotes from two window companies, a structural engineer, and a kitchen company in the coming weeks.

Best by far was our visit to a kitchen designer, who took C’s technical drawings (on squared paper, using laser measurements) and created a 3D-interpretation of my dream kitchen. Excitedly, it looks almost exactly how I imagined, which feels inspiring and motivating to move forward with making our dream home a reality.

TWIG #5: Going back to the gym. After a month’s hiatus (the first in four years or more), I checked my kit fit (it did!) and went to class last Tuesday. Turns out this wasn’t anywhere near as scary as I’d build it up to be in my head. I should have known; this is pretty much always the case with anxiety.

Still, it was a relief to keep pace with classmates, finishing on a bit of a high and feeling a hundred times better after class than before. Calorie-burning aside, I remembered why kept going to the gym in the first place. I’ve booked again for this Tuesday.

Okay, so I can’t take all the credit for getting back to the gym. There’s a chance I’d have headed home, except that my colleague F had coaxed me to class. She stood by my desk, waiting whilst I slowly shutdown my PC. Though having a bit of extra encouragement certainly helped me overcome my objections to exercise, I’m still proud of myself for making small steps in the right direction.

fullsizeoutput_608TWIG #6: Being able to feel loved by my family. That’s not a poorly-structured sentence (perhaps it is, but it’s not intentional) but is a genuine expression of gratitude on my part.

This is because depression disconnects. It puts up an invisible wall. When my mind is in a mess, this barrier between myself and others is especially impermeable. It’s hard for me to show love and it’s equally difficult for me to receive it. It’s painful on both accounts.

However since finding the right medication for me, I’m experiencing positive feelings much more often. This sounds dramatic, but anything that breaks through the kind of emotional numbness depression brings is nothing short of miraculous.

TWIG #7: I rescued a frog! 

Finally, on a far lighter note, I can proudly say I single-handedly rescued a frog this evening.

I heard the tell-tale chew toy squeak that I’ve learnt terrorised frogs make, so I rushed – okay, I was guilted off the sofa by C, who sent me out in my pyjamas – to the rescue! Our two ferocious felines had cornered the poor fella. Bravely, I shielded the frog with my bare hands until C came with an old ice-cream tub to transport our new friend safety to the neighbour’s pond.

I’ll conclude my gratitudes with this – my contribution to the safe-keeping of our local wildlife population!

x

The Twelfth TWIG Post (or why self-care is most definitely not selfish)

Unusually hot and humid, the first week of June has been a weird weather week. I’m pretty sure that offices across the country are stuffed with sleep-deprived, grouchy, and uncomfortable staff. I know mine’s been no exception; despite a shorter working week we all agreed it felt incredibly long and arduous.

fullsizeoutput_369For some unbeknownst reason, I’m particularly sensitive to changes in temperature. Hence this week’s left me feeling especially tired, irritable, and dispirited. You seen I’m not physiologically built for extremes of weather. In Winter I get Raynaud’s Syndrome, my hands and feet becoming numb when it’s cold out. In Summer I’m prone to heat rash, putting a damper on many a holiday.

More importantly, my not feeling too great exacerbates my psychological propensity towards burnout. I feel more susceptible to this kind of mental pain in the Summer months after having an anxiety-fuelled breakdown a few years ago. It left me hyper-vigilant for any signs of stress because I really don’t want to sink that low again. Hence my consciousness around the potential need to do something to prevent this kind of emotional breakdown happening in future.

Recognising my vulnerability this week I took immediate action. On an especially miserable morning, I decided I’d look at my remaining holiday allowance for the year and plan in my breaks for the next few months. Unlike C’s employer, mine has a generous holiday allowance which means I can take more paid time off. I used some of my leave to create a series of long weekends throughout the Summer, and made plans to visit my teacher sister (and gorgeous nephew, of course) during her long break.

Pre-planning periods of rest and recuperation made me feel instantly more relaxed. Knowing I’ve booked days off work gives me something positive to look forward to. I’m excited to have time to myself to do the things I love. For example, I can’t wait to take my new MacBook (more on this later) to my favourite cafe to write. Even rolling up my sleeves and getting stuck into the gardening sounds preferable to being stuck in a stuffy office.

Knowing C will have to work whilst I’m taking time off does make me feel somewhat guilty. I want him to have what I have, or at least to be able to share in my good fortune holiday-wise. Thankfully in reading Brene Brown’s book, “Rising Strong”, I’ve a new understanding of what it means to feel guilt and shame. I recognise whilst it’s irrational to feel guilty for something outside of my control, it’s a learned response for which I can show myself compassion.

Prioritising my well-being means not permitting uncomfortable emotions to stop me from acting in my own best interests. For example, though I can’t control C’s holiday allowance I can control what I do with mine. I can be grateful for what I have and can choose to use this gift of time to my advantage. Putting my money where my mouth is, I made a last-minute decision to take an afternoon off work this week. Turns out this was exactly what I needed. Those couple of hours to myself made all the difference to my mood, meaning that by the time C brought family home for dinner I felt re-energised and relaxed. I was better able to enjoy spending an evening with my excitable nieces.

fullsizeoutput_364Taking steps like this towards self-care proves I’m becoming better at recognising when I need to step up and take responsibility for my well being. To be the best version of myself I have to acknowledge and respond to my needs. It’s not always easy to work out exactly what that is and how to give it to myself, but the more I practise, the easier it becomes. Hence I’m thankful for this opportunity to exercise my self-care muscle this week.

Speaking of thanks, I think it’s time I share my gratitude list.

This Week I’m Grateful For

  • Taking self-care seriously by booking an afternoon off work. As I’ve spoken about this in length already, I won’t repeat myself here. Still, it’s important that I acknowledge that prioritising my well-being is a personal achievement of which I can be proud.

 

  • Online supermarket shopping. It’s not always the cheapest way to buy groceries, but it’s an absolute life-saver when it comes to catering for last-minute family visits. This week was a prime example – within less than twenty-four hours I’d stocked up on supplies without once having to step into a shop. When I look back to my student days of struggling to walk home with overstretched bags, I’m especially thankful for the privilege of having my groceries delivered direct to my door.

 

  • Free cake! Always a bonus however it comes about, it’s the second time I’ve received free cake from Ocado because the frosting had been smudged in transit. As neither my nieces nor I mind a squished bun, it didn’t matter that they were a little less elegant than intended. Still, I was happy that the kind delivery man didn’t charge me for these delicious treats !

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  • Being with my nieces. A last-minute visit to view houses meant hosting C’s sister, her husband, and our two fantastically fun nieces for the night. Despite a very early start to catch their train and a whole day walking, I had two delighted little girls bouncing round my garden because they were happy to make it to Aunty Heather’s house. I can’t express strongly enough how much I love being a part of these little lives!

 

  • An excuse to get me cooking! Having relied heavily on Dominoes to cater for previous family visits, this time I felt it necessary to cook a meal from scratch. Surprisingly, rather than feeling stressed and under pressure, it felt really good to create a healthy, homemade dinner. I felt proud that I’d made something delicious for the people I love. Reminded that cooking itself can be enjoyable – when I give myself the time and headspace for it – I’m feeling motivated to do it more often. Instead of seeing cooking as a chore, I’m grateful for this reminder that it’s actually an act of love I can regularly show to myself and others.

 

  • Securing a place in my favourite gym class. It’s been a challenge of late to book classes, but I’ve now made three bookings in a row. Having worked hard to embed fitness into my lifestyle, I’m thankful for this because classes help me keep up my momentum. With my instructor pushing me on, and with the support of the other regulars to my class, I lift heavier and go harder than I would on my own.

 

  • Working out despite my body wobbles (both literal and figurative). As I’ve tried to become less controlling over my food and fitness, I’m eating a bit more and exercising a bit less intensely. This has lead to my gaining a little weight, which isn’t unexpected but is uncomfortable and unnerving. I’m tempted to shy away from the gym, avoiding myself in the mirrors and not wanting others to see I’ve changed. Yet I’m proud of myself for not allowing my wavering self-confidence to stop me from working out. Doing what I know is good for my mind and body is my way of showing myself that I am enough; I am worthy, whatever the size and shape of my body. I’m grateful to have the resilience to overcome my insecurities and not let anything hold me back.

 

  • Fresh cut flowers. It’s a real privilege to be able to cut flowers from my very own garden and bring them indoors. It feels really special to see my beautiful blooms take pride of place on the mantelpiece, and know that they were grown just outside my window.

 

  • Having French doors has felt like a real luxury of late, letting the breeze cool us down and also bring the scents of Summer into our house.

 

  • Getting into flow. Since writing regularly I’ve been lucky to get into a “flow state”, by which I mean being so absorbed in what I’m doing that not only does time fly by but I also forget to eat or drink. Losing myself in something so completely feels fantastic and it’s proof positive that writing is good for me.

 

  • Buying a MacBook! Arriving sometime next week, choosing a new laptop turns out to have been more exciting than I’d have expected. Technological purchases are generally more C’s realm, but I’ve been enthusiastically seeking out perspectives of just about everyone I could think of who might be able to offer helpful advice. With C’s support, I decided to invest more than just money in my MacBook; I’m investing my faith and hope in myself, my writing, and my creative ideas for an exciting future.

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  • Last, but by no means least, we’ve accepted an offer on our house! Aware that house sales can fall through at any point, we’re happy – and relieved! – with the price and hopeful that we’ve found the right buyer for the house. It matters to C that we do right by the house and our neighbours because it’s meant more to him than just a good financial investment. It’s where he grew up, because if we’re honest, most of us only really start becoming adults once we’ve left formal education and have to figure out how to take care of ourselves and those we love. I’m therefore really glad the buyer put in a sensible offer that C feels happy to accept; one that reflects the two to three months of time, effort, and sheer graft we both put into renovations. Not only am I glad we can start to make plans for updating our new house, I’m also happy to know that someone who loves the house and the local area will bring new life to the place. She’s even bringing two feline friends with her, so I just know she’ll fit in!

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