Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

I’m a perfectionist. And, no, that’s not a good thing.

I used to think that being a perfectionist is linked to being a genius and doing an excellent work.

But it’s not.

It’s linked to fear, shame, and seeking approval.

I would do anything to avoid being seen as imperfect. Not because I want to do an excellent job; because I’m afraid people wouldn’t like the imperfect version of me.

Hard confession. I wish I can omit that last paragraph. But no, I want to suck and I want to do something imperfectly.

If you are anything like me, you would’ve probably come across sayings such as, “give yourself the permission to suck!”

And it may even sound cliché to some of you. It did sound cliché and stupid to me for a long time. But recently, something happened that made me deeply realize that I do need to give myself to permission to suck sometimes. I can’t be perfect all the time.

I knew that before. But now I know it by heart and it’s starting to become one of my basic beliefs about how I interact with life.

Here is how that happened.

What I Learned From Running English clubs

English is not my first language. I knew that if I wanted to become a professional blogger then I need to brush up my writing skills and also improve my English language.

That’s why I decided to join a center for learning the English language in my country.

That was almost 2 years ago. I learned a lot and I’m now very grateful.

One month ago, I started teaching there. Never in my life did I teach anything to anyone. And never did I think, when I joined, that one day I would be teaching there.

We have that thing that is called English Clubs. It’s a way to practice speaking. In order for an English club to be successful, it needs to be interactive. The topic should be interesting to most of the group and it needs to be controversial.

As an English club leader, you are responsible for creating a safe environment where people feel connected and secure. It’s a foreign language and this is a group of strangers, so it’s kind of uncomfortable to some people.

I was responsible for running those clubs.

I was responsible for connecting people. I was responsible for coming up with topics that would engage people. I was responsible for keeping the conversation going.

It’s not that hard, but it’s absolutely stressful. Especially if you are a perfectionist.

During the first week, I wanted every English club to be perfect. I wanted to make people enjoy and feel connected.

Whenever an English club goes bad, I feel as if I’ve failed myself and the students.

Let it be someone who is quiet and shy or someone who doesn’t like the topic, I feel bad.

I feel intense feelings of anxiety and shame. And I try to make things ‘perfect’ again.

But there was a moment in a certain English club that I still vividly remember. I looked at the people, looked at the window, looked at the people again, and thought to myself, “Hey, give yourself the permission to screw up!”

Give yourself the permission to have failures and bad English clubs. So what?

I don’t know why that thought came up to my mind. Maybe I got sick of trying to do it perfectly. Maybe I realized that I won’t ever do it perfectly. Or maybe because the guys I was sitting with and I were connected and comfortable talking.

All that I know that, from that moment, I stopped seeking perfection in my English clubs, from me and from my students.

And that’s not the amazing part yet. Since I’ve decided to give myself the permission to screw up, I started running better English clubs where people really enjoy.

Ironically, when I stopped caring about perfection my performance improved. Unlike when I was trying to get it perfectly, people enjoyed the imperfect clubs.

How I Started Applying This To Other Areas In My Life

Socially, I’m trying to stop being a boring, perfect individual.

That means I’m no longer interested in projecting a perfect image to the people around me.

I’m willing to be not liked by some people and be OK with that. I’m willing to act in a stupid way sometimes and not hate my guts because of it.

That is huge because perfection has affected me socially in a negative way.

Perfection in social situations manifests itself as a way of protecting one’s self of getting hurt. Also, as a way of gaining other people’s approval and impressing them.

I would be perfect so that people wouldn’t see the real me. I would be perfect so that people would love me.

In either case, it’s about hiding who you actually are and putting up an act. An act that you hope would be perfect.

But people sense that. People can feel it when someone is not being himself. People don’t like perfectionists because perfectionists are not real.

And as the old saying goes, “people are attracted to each other’s rough edges”. It’s your imperfections that would attract people to you. Trying to pretend that those imperfections don’t exist is a big turn off.

So, give yourself the permission to suck here as well.

Not every person has to like you. You don’t have to seem like you’ve got your shit together all the time. Your conversations can suck at times. You can say stupid things sometimes and laugh at yourself.

Perfect is boring. Perfect is scared. And being boring and scared, as far as I know, doesn’t have a positive effect on your social life.

As a Writer, This Is Very Important…

Last week, I’ve not written that much. I’ve not published any new article as I’m used to and as I supposed to.

“I’m busy. I’m also tired. I would write more as soon as I find enough time and energy. After all, what work would I produce with this kind of energy? Poor work, I presume. People wouldn’t like reading my articles unless they are masterpieces.”

And, boy, that was a mistake. That was a lie.

Yes, I was tired and busy. But not because of that I didn’t write; I didn’t write because I was scared.

Some of my articles started to get some traction. As a result, I felt pressure.

I felt as if I need to keep up that work and never do less than that. I felt I need to write only masterpieces and perfect articles.

But because I wanted to write ‘perfect’ articles, I wrote nothing at all.

I tried to come up with topics, but I couldn’t. And when I do find a topic, I can’t even touch the keyboard.

Many writers have been through this before. The only way out is to stop pursuing perfection and give yourself the permission to suck.

By writing this article, I’m telling myself to stop seeking perfection. To screw up sometimes. To confirm the idea that consistency is impossible with perfection. And only when you give yourself the permission to screw up will you stay consistent.

I’m saying that to myself. And I’m also saying that to you. Give yourself that permission and you’ll feel liberated.

Final Notes

Perfection, at its core, is an attempt to gain approval and avoid getting hurt.

It will not help you at all. Don’t believe that perfection will help you do better work. It will do the opposite; it’ll make sure you do no work at all.

What will help you do a better work is, counter-intuitively, screwing up!

By being comfortable screwing up, you are no longer after any kind of approval and you are not afraid of getting hurt.

People feel it when someone is not being real. And perfection makes you fake.

So, letting go of it can actually get you better results. It can make you get hurt and lose some approval, but it’s better than being a prisoner to perfection.

“I prefer being disliked for who I am than being liked for who I am not.”

However, that doesn’t mean you should just go out there and screw up blindly.

You still need to do your best. You still need to care and perform as good as you can.

Yes, a lot of paradoxes!

When you stop trying to impress, people get impressed. When you give yourself the permission to suck, you end up doing a good job.

With giving yourself the permission to suck, you still need to do your best.

Paradoxes everywhere. Guess that’s what life actually is.

Now, if you would excuse me, I would like to publish this article as a way of allowing myself to screw up and stop seeking perfection.


4 thoughts on “This Happens When You Give Yourself the Permission to Screw Up<span class="wtr-time-wrap block after-title"><span class="wtr-time-number">8</span> min read</span>

  1. one of the best articles I have ever read…. It really spoke to me. Going through some hard times now because of fear of screwing up. Thank you.

  2. Great article 🙂 Life is paradoxical sometimes.

    I definitely feel the need to plan and be perfect before going into something so I can relate.

    An eye-opener for me!

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