Taking the full measure of life

Let’s Just Say, “Fuck Perfectionism.”

January 18th, 2011 · 13 Comments

If you're new here and want to understand the title and purpose of my blog, you can read my first post by clicking here. You may also want to subscribe to my RSS feed so that you don't miss further posts of interest to you. Thanks for visiting, and I hope you'll stop by often!

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.

Tags: fruits of my labor · gratitude · sturm and drang

13 responses so far ↓

  • 1 gaile // Jan 18, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    You go girl!

  • 2 Amy // Jan 18, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    Yeah, eff that! One of my favorite bloggers, Ramit Sethi, talks about the necessity of failing in order to succeed. A quote:

    I fail all the time — and I love it. I have a tab in my email account titled, “Failures” and, if I’m not regularly adding that tag to different things I’m working on with the blog, partnerships, or testing..I know I’m not trying enough things. In fact, I now plan for failure. I know that out of every 10 marketing initiatives I take on “I Will Teach You To Be Rich,” 7 will fail. And I am ****ing good at what I do.

    So fail away! It’s how you learn.

  • 3 Hannah S-Q // Jan 18, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    Reading this post was almost like looking in a mirror. You voiced many things that I’ve struggled with over the past few years, with Hannah Handpainted, and honestly, even before that with my concept of being able to get out there, decide to do something and have some measure of success (by my own terms and otherwise)…

    It is daunting and there’s no doubt about it, but you are right. Giving the heave ho to perfectionism is a great way to go. I am going to try to do the same with whatever I do.

    I’ve been trying to be gentler to myself, and I know you can relate to this: when things are not going as planned and then health issues and other problems (financial or otherwise) get heaped on top of that then it is a recipe for disaster and leads to giving up on oneself.

    I agree with your friend about how you are ALREADY a success, simply by even daring to do what you’re doing.

    Anyway. Feel free to curse at me any time.


  • 4 Terri // Jan 18, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    I think you said it perfectly, Sally! I’m glad that you are giving it your all and trying to accept any pitfalls. You are doing amazing stuff and I’m so proud of you!

  • 5 birdie // Jan 19, 2011 at 7:40 am

    HELL YES. Embrace Risk! Eagerly await change. Fuck perfectionism. You said it perfectly. 🙂

    (Glad to have blog-met you!)

  • 6 Molly Mahar // Jan 19, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    YES. 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.”

    AND YES. “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. ”

    You were right. I adore this blog. And am so, so with you in spirit. And you know I love a well placed curse word….

    Sally, you’re an inspiration woman. Seriously.

    Love, M

  • 7 Jenn // Jan 21, 2011 at 3:31 pm


    I know you know that I can relate to this all too well. 🙂 I could definitely benefit from adopting your new mantra!

  • 8 Andrea // Jan 21, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    I’m so glad you’re back.

  • 9 Cheryl Harris // Jan 29, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    Rock on!
    I started my business 3.5 years ago. I didn’t have a clue, and face-planted on quite a few occasions. It does get easier to roll with it, and like you, that was the only way I could think of to do what I love and share my gifts.
    There’s a quote that freedom is living without the anxiety of imperfection. It’s something to aspire to. Because you/i/we all will goof, it’s how we relate to it that makes all the difference.

  • 10 Veronica J // Jan 30, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    You’ve drawn me in! My kids’ school operates on the success of failing. They want them to fail in order to learn. Learning from mistakes. What I’ve seen so far, this is no failure. Life which is that of a roller coaster. Ups and downs. I’m excited to read the rest of your blogs! Major allergies being detected in my daughter. I need help and I’m glad I’ve found you!!!

  • 11 Marci // Jan 31, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    I saw Greg Mortenson speak the other night. He said the most important thing that happened in his life was failure. He failed to reach the summit of K2, but out of that has grown a network of schools to promote peace in the mid-east. He shared a quote “when it is dark, you can see the stars.” pretty inspirational. we must fail before we can succeed. keep on…

  • 12 Claudine // Feb 12, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    So many things on here to comment on…but I’ll limit it to two. Martha Beck is something else, isn’t she? She literally helped save me when I was drowning. Do you know Elizabeth Lesser, Broken Open, How Hard Times Make Us Grow…awe inspiring.

    I put myself into boot camp several months ago to train myself to deal with failure, rejection and fear and I do things that I know are very likely to get me rejected and I just tell myself “deal with it like super healthy people do”…and I have been and I feel so powerful doing that. You go….you’re so on the right track, keep marching.

  • 13 Kami // Mar 23, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    Way to break out of the box, one sliver at a time. I love this post! Keep up your fabulous work. I found your “Tilth,” website by searching for gluten free ideas. Now, after realizing that you are the same Tilth woman that I found on that website, I’m relieved. By reading your raw blog, I am happy to say, Thank you for letting me know you are a “real,” woman and not some idea of what a woman is supposed to be…according to our warped ideas of perfection. Thanks for staying true to your dreams…it reminds me to stay true to my own.

Leave a Comment

Powered by WP Hashcash