The One Question I Ask Myself when I’m Having Self-Doubt

So you come up with an idea.

And it is an Amazing Idea™. It’s so brilliant, the old masters will roll over their grave with envy if they learn about this. You have to do something about this awesome idea stat.

And so you did. You started working on it. Days and nights passed by your window. Your work desk is getting more and more cluttered. An upbeat and incredibly motivating music is playing in the background while you are in a montage of maximum motivation.

But then– the needle scratches.

The music stops and you realize… what you’ve been working on this whole time? It isn’t like anything you’ve had in mind. It is not the Amazing Idea. It is, in fact, nowhere near amazing.

You plunge into that deep, dark hole of despair. Repeatedly beating yourself over and thinking, “Maybe I’m not good enough to do this.”

Does this sound familiar?

Self-doubt comes unexpectedly to the best of us. And if you're ever bombarded with all the heavy thoughts and doubting yourself, here's one question you can ask.

I like to think of perfectionism as a creative’s very own Kryptonite. See, we somehow follow this unsaid memo that whatever work we’re doing at the moment must be perfect.

That first draft of a novel? Must be perfectly outlined.

That sketch you’ll later post on Instagram? Must be perfectly messy.

That blog post you’re currently writing? Must have no typos.

(Seriously, I’d like to go back in time to find out just who the heck among our early ancestors passed that perfectionist tendencies into our DNA.)

And what happens when this unsaid memo doesn’t get accomplished? You frazzle. You start to panic. You become so caught up in making things 100% perfect that you have 0% energy left to actually finish the work.

You end up repeatedly editing that one line that does not make any sense. Or rereading your unfinished draft to look for typos. Or desperately using water to wash out that part of your drawing that you painted with the wrong color.

At the end of the day, you’re completely exhausted and you realize two things:

1) You’re not perfect.

2) You did not finish anything.

Have you ever felt that way? That you don’t feel happy or satisfied with what creative work you’re making? And you either do a complete overhaul of it or want to throw it to Davy Jones’s locker where you can never ever see it again ever?

Yo I’ve been there too.

Perfectionism was as constant in my adolescent life as acne is. And it was very prevalent in my relationship with my art.

I hated all my drawings. And in the off chance that I do love them, I’d see a mess in the colors or a tiny scratch a second later. And I’d immediately have this urge to do it all over again. Or burn it. For a long time, my perfectionist tendencies made me hate any creative work I made. Be it an essay or a school project collage or a blog post.

This you?

Well then, I want you to ask yourself one simple question. The one question I ask myself now whenever I’m bombarded with the need for absolute perfection:

“Will anyone, other than me, notice this flaw?”

Will anyone else take notice of this tiny flaw and think it ruined the entire piece the way you do?

No.

And I learned this is true most of the time. Most people probably won’t see anything. I know this because whenever I point out a small imperfection that has been bugging me for the entire creative process, you know what people usually say?

I don’t see it.

Or, Oh yeah, there is. But that’s so tiny!

Or, It’s not relevant, Kate. What are you talking about?

And this goes both ways. A friend of mine showed me her work and said she wanted to burn it. And I was totally confused because her work was awesome! We sometimes overlook the fact that we spent the most time looking over our work. (That was a mouthful so yes, you can read that again.) It comes to a point where we’re basically seeing everything in a magnifying glass, focusing on the tiniest specks rather than seeing the bigger picture.

Look, of course I’m not saying it’s okay to half-ass around and overlook the little mistakes you make.

You can’t really fully ignore them. You can’t erase the existence of the form/from typo you’ve written, or that stray stroke of watercolor that doesn’t go anywhere. They’re all there. They exist.

But here’s the thing:

Flaws, perfectionism, fear, quotes

Try taking a step back. Hold your paper at arms’ length. Zoom out that Word document to 10%, until all you could see are the pages you’ve written so far. Look at what you’ve made, the work-in-progress in front of you. It’s a messy work-in-progress, sure. It’ll need a tweak or twelve. But sometimes you need to remind yourself that you created something out of an idea.

Bask yourself in that. Because YOU made that.

And all those tiny flaws you see when you’re hunched down, laser-focused on one certain area? They are just that: tiny. Single specks in the huge amazing canvas you’ve created.

Own that amazingness.

That’s all you.

How do you move past the tiny flaws you find in the creative process? Let us know in the comments below so we’ll learn from your wisdom! 🙂

xx Kate

Photos from Aaron Burden and Ivory Mix

Love this post? Share it!

10 thoughts on “The One Question I Ask Myself when I’m Having Self-Doubt

  1. Love this! We all have a tendency to doubt ourselves sometimes – I know I’m guilty of being a perfectionist too. I’m definitely going to ask myself this question from now on. Great advice, thanks! Charlotte x

  2. This is a fantastic post! Really gave me a boost to read it, I’m troubled by self-doubt a lot. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Absolutely loved this post! I related with this so much. I’m constantly doubting myself and scrapping projects because they’re just not perfect. Being a perfectionist with anxiety isn’t a great combination. I really loved this part: And all those tiny flaws you see when you’re hunched down, laser-focused on one certain area? They are just that: tiny. Single specks in the huge amazing canvas you’ve created – that’s a really great way of thinking about it and I’m going to remind myself of this next time I doubt myself and my abilities.

  4. This is incredibly relatable! I know whenever I’m writing a blog post I get incredibly stressed out over how it’s turning out and if it isn’t the way I imagined it to be in my head I can sometimes scrap it and end up putting nothing out in the end! I think it’s best that we give these things our best shot instead of our perfect shot, who cares if it’ll hit or miss y’know? Thank you for this inspiration Kate!

    1. Best shot over perfect shot. I LOVE THAT. Mygod, I do miss your way with words. Thank you for sharing your beautiful insights, too, Chris!

  5. Woo! Welcome baaaack!! <3 I'm so excited to see you are back to blogging. 🙂
    What you had to say in this post was fantastic and so relatable. All throughout your post I kept being like, "YASSSS!" I feel like I need to print several quotes from this out and put them on the wall by where I write so I don't continue to agonize over one sentence like a lunatic. Great post! 😀

    1. Aww thanks so much! <3 I'm super excited to be back. 🙂
      Oh gorsh, you're making my heart melt, thank you. <3 But gah, I know how you feel about agonizing over one sentence. You just can't help it! But I hope you do know that you are a fantastic writer and an awesome human being <3

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.