I don’t have many regrets in life. One was in high school, and it involved this guy named Danny. (Really hoping he never finds this mention of him.) Danny transferred from another school, and I met him in band class. I can’t remember how I ended up there, considering I didn’t play any “band instruments,” but alas, I was assigned the snare drum.
Turns out, Danny used to be on the drumline at his old school! He offered to meet me between periods and after school to teach me snare drum. He simply asked me to copy beat patterns he played on his practice drum pad, but I was too embarrassed to even try. I knew I would screw up right away, and it made me so anxious, I decided to forgo these private lessons altogether.
To this day, about 10 years later, I still regret not learning how to play the snare drum. Technically I could learn now, but I don’t have the interest at this point in my life, and that’s not the point anyways. This is just a short demonstration of the way I lived my life until I was about 25. I kept caving into what I call “perfection paralysis.”
I would avoid doing things like publishing articles I wrote, trying new recipes, and doing more stand up comedy because I didn’t have full control over the outcome. If there was any uncertainty, anxiety would take over, and I needed to stop whatever I was doing. (Now I’m on medication to help with some of the anxiety, but that’s for a future blog post.)
Instead, I convinced myself that I was good at everything I put my mind to, but I only put my mind to things I knew I would be naturally good at.
Sure, there’s the universally-accepted wisdom that you can’t learn without failing, but that’s the problem with perfection paralysis. It’s not that I disagreed with the benefits of failure. It’s that I hadn’t worked through HOW to fail. I’m sure part of it has to do with cultural expectations and upbringing. Let’s not dissect that just yet.
Long story short, through a combination of being in Toastmasters for almost five years and meeting my boyfriend Scott, I found the confidence I needed — not the confidence to know I could do everything well, but the confidence that I could learn from my mistakes and be willing to take risks and fail.
Instead of seeing life as a series of regrets and missed opportunities, I could treat it like a lab — a place to try new ideas and discover things about myself.
Because of this new mindset, I’ve become a stronger communicator and leader at work and in the non-profits I support. I’ve gotten job promotions and tons more speaking opportunities. Most importantly, I feel more comfortable speaking up for what I believe in, and that includes starting this blog.
This blog has been a long time coming. I’ve wanted to do it for so many years, but I let perfection paralysis stop me. There’s still some of that perfection keeping me on edge, but now it’s a matter of channeling the anxiety into positive energy. If sharing my lessons learned can help others find the courage to accept their own mistakes and be open to failure, then that’s all the motivation I need to keep on writing.