Look, I don’t usually cuss on this blog, and I know that cussing offends some people. But if I’m being honest, I have to tell you that I made a decision in early December, and that is what I decided: Fuck perfectionism.
See, I’m building this business, right? I thought I was building self-employment for a couple of years, but I was largely faltering trying to figure out what the hell I wanted to do . . . when I decided to embrace some of what I had been doing: giving guidance to people who feel stifled because of gluten intolerance, casein intolerance, and/or food allergies. In the middle of last year, I got organized about it and launched my business with a name, Tilth.
It was a lot of work but very exciting, early on, getting things going—building my website, deciding how to frame what I was offering, designing my logo, and so on.
But after I officially launched under my new business name, I don’t know, I guess I thought things would be easier than they were. I create amazing recipes that are free of a variety of food allergies. I am good at teaching. I relate well to people. I’ve researched the hell out of a variety of topics related to gluten intolerance, casein intolerance, food allergies, and gut healing so that I am able to save others the time I’ve spent. But that didn’t mean I knew what I was doing, in the sense of which events to create and how to market them. I’m still a complete and total newbie at marketing, and also? I kind-of hate social networking. It feels a bit scary typing that, but it’s true. I mean, though I have a business page on it, I quit Facebook spring of last year in terms of my personal profile. I tweet, but I don’t understand why people who don’t know me start following me after the most random posts. Even with this blog, when my readership had grown pretty large—I basically killed it by then stopping posting for a while.
I love online interaction with people; don’t get me wrong. I have a vast network of friends around the country whom I keep up with using email. I just don’t think it’s a substitute for the real deal, for being in a room with someone and connecting with that person in his or her physical presence. It’s ingrained into our very beings to want to sit with another person and share life. I want to do that regularly with people who are overwhelmed because of food restrictions. I want to calm their struggles with the good advice I’ve collected.
The kicker, of course, is that I generally couldn’t get to the point of reliably, regularly meeting with clients in person without both using marketing and developing events to simply see what would happen. In other words, I had to be willing to try things and fail in order to get it right.
Have I ever mentioned before that I don’t like to fail? I guess no one LIKES to fail, but some people seem like they’ve done a great job of accepting that they have to fall down a few times in order to learn how to skate. For a variety of reasons that have to do with my personality and upbringing, I expect myself to put on skates for the first time and glide into a triple lutz like an Olympian. . . . More accurately, I expect to read five books about skating, interview an Olympian, and then expect to be a new Olympian on the first try. But really, that’s not generally how life works. Sucks, but it’s true.
Which brings me to early December. Actually, it brings me to November. After a very strong and brave and heartfelt start to the launch of Tilth, I was faltering. I was, in a word, heartsick. Though I had far more supporters than anything else, I had expected emotional support from several key people who let me down, which led me to question my worth in a way that I’m loathe to even admit. I had planned a couple of events that had crashed and burned. I had, God forbid, lost a chunk of money that month instead of making some. (I dreaded to think what my husband thought, in his heart of hearts, about that loss of funds.) With the sun sinking down in the sky earlier and earlier each day, I felt a dark place forming in my core. I had been in my adopted city, Santa Monica, long enough to feel frustrated about adapting my life to a new location. I was doing well at our gym but was still, despite major efforts, struggling with an autoimmune condition each month. Socially, things were going well, but I missed my long-time friends and the easy way of knowing and being known.
On a whim, I sent out an email update to my distant friends about my life, detailing what was going both well and poorly, and how I was questioning myself (yet again, it seemed, yet again yet again yet again).
I got a response from my college roommate, who is one of those people who has had major success before the age of 30. I know she has secret pains and struggles because I know some of them, but I also know how amazing and impressive she is to everyone (I think, literally, everyone) who crosses her path. And she got to the heart of what was going on with my business and said, essentially, “Look, you’re still new at this game of creating your own business, and the fact that you’re even playing a game that everyone talks about playing but few people actually do means you’re amazing. Be gentle with yourself, and give it time.”
Around the same time, my husband told me, “You know, I’m not worried about you losing money doing this. You’re going to lose it sometimes, and that’s okay. What you’re doing is still worthwhile, and it doesn’t stress me out.” I can’t tell you how relieving it was for me to hear that.
There were other things, too, that happened, but the culmination in early December was that, somehow, I suddenly felt, “Okay, you know what? Fuck perfectionism.”
Fuck perfectionism. I’m going to try things. In fact, I’m going to THROW myself out there. Risk is the only way to grow. I’m going to get some things wrong. It’s going to happen. I’m also going to get some things right. But if I spend my time cringing over mistakes and fearing what may come, I’m putting way too much negative energy into my business to make it profitable OR fun.
I wish I could tell you Oprah booked me for a show the next day. Of course that didn’t happen. But you know what? I’ve been able to engage with my business with a light heart and a lighter touch. And since I’ve been focusing on the things that go well and releasing the ones that don’t, I can tell you that I’m definitely seeing more success. That doesn’t mean I’m not still having dark moments where I struggle with the fact that I gave up (what feels like forever ago now) a steady paycheck and a consistent sense of self-worth (which maybe shouldn’t be heavily based on my work, but let’s face it, for many of us, it is), because of course I still have times when I struggle. But it’s pretty succinct to be able to get myself back on track by reminding myself, Fuck Perfectionism. Embrace risk.