Waves of Perfectionism
I went surfing the other day after having not gone for two-to-three years. I was petrified I would fall on my face, make a fool of myself, be filled with shame, feel like a loser, you name it. I was terrified my friend would think I was a fake. Imposter syndrome roared its ugly head. However, I put on my wetsuit, got in the water, got on my board and paddled. I took the next indicated step. Here’s what one hour of surfing taught me that more than 12 years of psychotherapy didn't.
1. To paraphrase Wayne Gretzky: You miss 100 percent of the waves you don’t paddle for.
I didn’t realize how much of a perfectionist I was until I went surfing the other day. Wave after wave after wave drifted by, with many of the same surfers catching wave after wave after wave. I nervously sat on my board waiting for the ideal break. Eventually it came, and I successfully rode it into shore, to my surprise. But, imagine how many other waves I could have caught had I not been so scared, so set upon catching perfection.
2. Start where you are.
I always want to be the best. I compared myself to teenage girls, even pre-adolescent girls, who probably surf every day. They were catching two-or-three-foot waves with flawless execution. They seemed like they had a formula. Paddle, stand, surf, repeat. Somehow, they knew the right-size wave for them, how far to paddle out and when to start paddling in. It was like clockwork. For every wave I attempted to catch or caught, I spent more time staring at these girls in awe. Again, this is my perfectionism telling me I am not good enough, that I am a fake, that I will never get to where I want. However, for someone so “bad” at surfing, I successfully caught five waves. Not too shabby considering I had not surfed in two, maybe three years.
3. To quote William Edward Hickson: “Try, try, try again.”
I have been surfing, on and off, since I was 16. Some days it's been great. Some days I have not caught a single wave, and I have been cycled in the white wash like yesterday’s laundry. But I keep trying. I do not give up. Despite my struggle with perfectionism, I will never quit. I am a fighter; a puncher; a strategic, calculating opportunist who knows exactly the right time to strike. I will never, ever, ever relent. The perfectionist voice inside me tells me I am an unqualified loser, who will never make anything of herself. And to that voice, I say, “Go to hell.”
If I can successfully catch five waves within an hour, I am basically on the way to being the next Kelly Slater. Right??