EPISODE 020: OVERCOMING PERFECTIONISM WITH MONICA LENSINK
Blog Title: Nourish + Fete
About Monica: I am a food blogger at Nourish and Fete, which focuses on easy, accessible recipes for busy people who still value making real food and trying things from scratch, despite the fast pace of today's modern family. A semi-obsessive home cook, I'm self-taught, and love nothing more than creating and simplifying recipes that help us all get tasty meals on the table, night-in, night-out. I am also a Mom of one, step-Mom of two, and maintain a day job in a "typical" office environment, as well. So balance is a key part of every day!
Notes from Episode #020: Overcome your perfectionism, learning when and how to embrace "good enough" so you can move forward in your business and life.
-Fun fact: Monica had zero idea on how to cook. She didn’t learn growing up, didn’t cook along with family to gain experience so it’s ironic she’s become a food blogger.
-Perfectionism is bad when it prevents you from doing something else.
- Monica is a life-long perfectionist, born and bred. As a small child, she learned that perfection equaled the praise and validation she craved, and quickly internalized subtle and not-so-subtle messages that perfection was THE standard. And, of course, that's something you see all the time today, particularly in the hyper-polished world of social media. So those message are easier to internalize than ever.
- For Monica, holding herself to impossibly high standards became a feedback loop. She'd joke that her perfectionist tendencies were probably unhealthy, but she’d held to them so far in life, and things had worked out, so why change now? Of course, the real joke was on her. She was stressed out, made some poor choices, worked through the fall-out. And still, perfectionism crept in - old habits die hard.
- What helped Monica finally shift? It began when she had her son and moved overseas - two massive changes within two months of each other. Monica doesn’t recommend that to anyone! But it did provide her with the jolt she needed to look at her life and force her to come to terms with a more "realistic reality”. There were some nights she would be happy just to get literally ANYTHING on the table for dinner, AND THAT WAS OK.
- Ironically, on that foundation is where Monica began to blog. And it's through the blogging journey that she truly learned how and when to check perfectionism, so that she could move forward and grow.
-Stress and negative self-talk are impacts of perfectionism on people.
-Social media and modern advertising is super polished and everyone struggles with that because it makes us want to strive for something that isn’t real.
-Perfectionism makes you become stressed out and you make poor choices.
-You might be able to work on these behaviors in one venue but then fall back into it in another environment.
- Monica began blogging with some pretty naive assumptions. It seems comical now, but she truly believed people would just find her - somehow! Monica had the notion that you could basically just post a recipe with a snapshot and call it a day, etc but she realized she would need to level up to make her blog match her vision - through practice and incremental steps. She could not/should not/did not want to stop sharing recipes and creating content until she "figured it all out." (She’s still constantly refining her site, writing, improving on photography, and yes, even recipes. That's the nature of blogging!)
- She had the desire to succeed, but recognized that waiting/insisting on perfection would 100% hold her back.
-Monica’s life changed for the better once she was able to shed the perfectionist skin.
-Perfection was the enemy of the good. Insisting and waiting on perfection was holding her back from putting out content and improving on the way.
-Recognizing in life or in blogging, everything is a season. Once you become comfortable with that, it allows you to give yourself a little more grace. Say to yourself, “In this season, with what I have going on, I can manage X. In a different season I might be able to do more.”
- As long as she knew the recipe was solid, Monica learned to hit publish even when unsure how to introduce the topic, or whether people wanted more story/less story. She published even when the photos could be better - that has been the single biggest growth area for her she admits! Monica finds herself agonizing over photos, and routinely reshoots. Her inner perfectionist can be managed, but she never really goes away!
-Learn to filter what’s coming in at you and realize that what others think really can’t impact every move you make. It’s about what you have to offer, not about how far you have to go. You have something to offer now. To not share that is taking away something from others.
-Advice on how to avoid the pull to be perfect - you can’t just “say” move past it. These are ways that Monica has found useful to manage perfectionism:
Establish criteria about what good enough looks like for you so it doesn’t feel like you’re falling short. You are moving forward. Create a baseline for yourself. If you meet that, it gives you permission to feel confident and everything around that is great and nice to have but the criteria was met on what was needed to get content out. You can work on the other standards you value along the way.
You don’t want to set aside perfectionism so that you compromise what your standards are either.
Cultivate a growth mindset. Look into a book by Carol Dweck called Mindset. She discusses what is a fixed mindset. See your skills and abilities on something fixed, maybe something you were born with vs a growth mindset where you can learn and improve and always get better. (Growth mindset) This is a gift to yourself. You can approach everything with a sense of curiosity and confidence that you could invest in yourself to get better.
(Ira Glass) quote paraphrased - All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But we have a gap between what inspires us and what you are currently able to produce. Our own work might not live up to what others have done or your own vision. So you have to close the gap but its hard with creative work but you just keep at it.
Choose to publish 2x a week or make a plan to take a picture with your dinner each night until you are more comfortable with what you’re producting and see improvement in your work.
Whatever the hardest part is for you, meet it dead on and realize it’s not perfect and you actually have to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Then you will see improvement until the work matches your vision.
Recognize you can still take what you’re striving for and remember it’s ok not to be there yet.
“Great things are achieved by a series of small things brought together. “ Monica appreciates this quote
Your vision of what’s perfect keeps changing so give yourself a little grace that you’re doing the best you can.
-Ways to keep perfectionism away when it tries to creep back in
Perfectionism helps you feel safe - safe from criticism or the feeling that you aren’t enough
Give yourself daily reminders of what you value more than seeming perfect to push you out of that safety comfort zone. You might value growth or improvement more than the cocoon of perfectionism.
Write it on a sticky note or on a wipe off board so you see what you value daily.
Tell yourself, “I want to grow”. Even if that means being uncomfortable.
Value sharing yourself and your content vs the perception of what you want to show. It’s not that you don’t value quality, rather than agonizing over it, you choose to share to value sharing it vs seeming perfect.
- Perfectionism can be helpful when it drives you to do your best. But insisting on it at all times will hinder you, especially in the ever-changing, demanding world of blogging. If you're a perfectionist, let it be a source of intrinsic motivation, NOT a punishing yardstick.
Helpful references from the episode:
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (book by Carol S. Dweck)
- Let's Hear it for the Average Child (opinion article published this year in the New York Times) https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/31/opinion/average-child.html
- “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” ~Ira Glass (my absolute favorite quote on pushing through and managing perfection)