A Perfectionist Focuses on a Fern

January 30, 2007
In the uncurling of a fern a perfectionist discovers a symbol for taking life more slowly.

Fiddlehead FernLike many others, some of my best thinking happens in the minutes and hours before I get up. My body isn’t ready to rise, but my brain isn’t willing to sleep. So I ruminate on things I plan to do in the next hours and days. That’s what happened this morning. I got to thinking about all the things I had said I would do.

I would create three posts every week and write a newsletter every week that included some of the questions I wrote about in the blog, plus information on the latest articles and book reviews. And adding to all that, I had committed myself to finishing my book, two workbooks, two CDs and an animated flash, all of which I hoped to have ready within two months.

That’s when I pulled the blankets around me and said, “Lady, you’re crazy. No one has a gun to your head. No one is forcing you to do all that.”

My first response, of course, was that I had already said I would do it (a common characteristic of perfectionists who make grandiose plans that are hard to accomplish and then keep going to the point of exhaustion because they’ve committed themselves). But now that I’m a “recovering perfectionist,” I could see that just because I was in the process of burying myself under impossible-to-meet self-imposed deadlines didn’t mean I had to continue down that road. Time to step back and re-evaluate.

Sliding further under the covers, I realized that most people are quite busy enough. They very likely don’t have time to read all the things I was planning to write anyway. Why give them more than they have time to absorb?

By the time I crawled out of bed I was relieved to have a plan that seems doable.

I’ll write in the blog when I feel there is something worth sharing and have time to do it. And I will only send a newsletter once a month. That will leave me time to work on my book, workbooks and CDs, projects that will, hopefully, for the first time since I began creating self-help websites eight years ago, allow me to at least break even. Also, in considering when I want to have these things done, I am allowing the completion of these goals to unfold as I am able to do them comfortably.

Interestingly, as I write this today, I realize that this blog entry will make a good addition to the Perfectionism section of Support4Change, because the willingness to stop oneself from going over the edge is an important lesson for most of the perfectionists I’ve known.

This brings me to explain why I chose for today’s illustration a picture I took in Australia last month of a fiddlehead fern, so named because the tightly coiled young frond resembles the spiral end of a violin or fiddle. Gradually the frond uncurls itself into a beautiful fern, of which we saw many in the rain forests down under. In fact, we even noticed that the fiddlehead is part of the tail design of the New Zealand Airlines.

The picture above reminds me that what I want to accomplish will unfold in its own sweet time. I won’t get there faster by rushing myself.

If you relate to this metaphor, feel free to print out the picture for yourself. And if you want one with a higher resolution, just contact me either through the comments link below or from the contact us page on Support4Change.

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