Two months ago I stopped writing this newsletter the same way I stop or start most things in my life. In a rage. In a flurry. In a moment. I was sitting at the kitchen island, the lights above the counter aggressive and loud, as I stared with crazed eyes at words on a screen.

This is not good. This story is stupid. All my writing is crap. I don’t know what I’m doing. And for the last time, I decided enough. I couldn’t do it anymore. I deleted the words I spent the last eight hours sharpening, wielding, molding and haphazardly wrote two hundred words letting everyone know that the newsletter was over. I was DONE. I had too much going on. I was too stressed. Too busy.

Jay, my husband, was relieved. Like how my parents must have felt when I quit softball. They couldn’t watch me cry on the mound any longer. And for the first week, I also felt relieved. It felt good to not have to do it any longer. I didn’t find myself spending the weekend tense and anxious about it. I woke up Monday morning without wishing I had written something better, without hating myself for not taking more time, without lamenting how difficult it was.

Then, one by one, I quit a bunch of other things. My work out routine. Daily showers. Getting up early. Books. (I stopped buying them, reading them, then finishing them at all.) I stopped drinking water and green tea and stopped caring what night I drank whiskey. I stopped putting on make-up and brushing my hair and changing out of the sweatpants I wore to bed every night.

Exactly two months after the release of my book, two days after my thirtieth birthday, one month since stepping on the bike, I woke up in a deep, dark malaise. Besides no appetite for breakfast, lunch or dinner, I had no appetite for life. I spent the next week moving from the bed to the kitchen where I sat for eight hours to do my job, then back into bed to watch TV until I fell asleep. And then, I got an email from one of you.

Hey, I just wanted to let you know, I really miss your newsletters on Monday. I hope you know I don’t care if they had errors or mistakes. Flaws and all, they were a comfort to me.

I received a bunch of kind and generous emails the day I retired the newsletter, but none of them hit me like this one. Maybe, I thought, because this woman saw past what I was pretending to say. She knew why I stopped. It wasn’t because I was too busy. Too stressed. Too overwhelmed and spread thin. It was because I was having a crisis of imperfection.

I stopped writing because I thought these newsletters had to be perfect. And every time I sent one and noticed a spelling mistake or thought of a better ending, I became anxious, stressed, upset. And the next time I went to write one I started to think about all the ways it would be imperfect. How I couldn’t think of a better story, a more useful metaphor, a better description. Until, eventually, I couldn’t write them anymore. I couldn’t write another newsletter because I couldn’t stand the idea of doing another one imperfectly.

I started wondering if the same thing was happening in all the other parts of my life. Like with my job. I felt so stressed about it all the time because I thought if I didn’t show up every day and nail it, that I was failing. If the interaction, the response, the email was less than my expected level of perfection, then I started to hate the job and myself. If every day didn’t feel like this huge accomplishment, this big step forward, I had failed.

The same went for exercising. If I couldn’t do it right, couldn’t get on the bike every other day, it was pointless. If I looked in the mirror and didn’t look perfect, I was ugly. And there was no use getting out of sweats, brushing my hair, making an effort. My life, I realized, was stalled in this crisis of imperfection.

Then I had another thought. What if I just sent an imperfect email? What if I sent this newsletter every week knowing it’s not going to be perfect? It was such a simple yet liberating revelation. I’m going to do something knowing it can’t or won’t always be the best or perfect or even good, because it’s better than doing nothing. Because I know at least one person will appreciate it.

Sometimes I’ll spend weeks on the newsletter and the story will be great and the grammar perfect. Sometimes it’ll be rushed and surface level and written Sunday night. Sometimes work will go well and sometimes it won’t. Sometimes I won’t impress my boss. Sometimes I will. Sometimes I’ll have a great idea, do something amazing, and other days I won’t do very much at all. But I’m going to show up and keep showing up.

And I may have a few bad newsletters in a row. And if the next interview I do for the book isn’t perfect then that’s fine. I tried. I showed up. And if the book sales aren’t perfectly impressive and the reviews on Goodreads aren’t perfect, then that’s fine too. I can do an imperfect life. Because an imperfect life is better than the life I’ve been living the last two months. A bad metaphor or cliché today could be a better one tomorrow.

What if our new mantra when our feet hit the ground every morning is: Today I will send the imperfect email. Seize the imperfect day. Do it imperfectly.

Today may not be a triumph. There may be nothing I do that’s worth attention or praise or that delicious feeling of accomplishment. But what I do today will build on tomorrow. And tomorrow, there’s a possibility for better. For closer to perfection. For growth.

Even writing this newsletter now. It hurts. It’s hard because I want to spend more time on it, more hours on it. And right as I’m ready to pull my hair out, to slam the laptop shut, to turn on Real Housewives and say ‘f*ck it’, I repeat to myself – it doesn’t have to be perfect. Just send an imperfect email. And I feel better. I feel like it’s okay to finish and send it, full of all its imperfections.

For more like this, sign up for Monday’s Inspirational Newsletter

Founder of Words of Women

Comments(16)

    • donnamr@uvic.ca

    • 10 months ago

    Your words resonated with me and I’m pleased you’re back! Thank you! Donna

    • eva.islandwriter@gmail.com

    • 10 months ago

    Just perfect; glad you’re back lady!

    • barclaypamela@hotmail.com

    • 10 months ago

    I had a therapist tell me once—you’re perfect in your imperfections. And for some reason that really resonated with me. And may I also suggest John Legends
    All of Me? https://open.spotify.com/track/3U4isOIWM3VvDubwSI3y7a?si=H9IaPmzVQBGXmFTWR_pA9A
    ❤️

    • carliethomas58@hotmail.co.uk

    • 10 months ago

    Thank you Lauren for coming back to us. We are all imperfect works in progress. It’s good to be reminded that showing up & giving our best is good enough. I hope many encouragements come your way this week!

    • justinebedell@gmail.com

    • 10 months ago

    Tell you the truth, I never even noticed any errors or imperfections. I just looked forward to the Monday morning newsletter to keep me going too! I’m so glad you’re back!

    • psibhayi@gmail.com

    • 10 months ago

    Thank you for coming back Lauren. I resonate with this so much as I too am a perfectionist. Tomorrow I’m doing life imperfectly, as long as I show up.

    • jenna.dauer@gmail.com

    • 10 months ago

    This is my first time here, because of your book. I’m glad you’re back. Great post. Your writing resonates with me, imperfections (what imperfections?) and all!! Thank you for writing, and for showing up. You’re doing meaningful work!

    • TMS092355

    • 10 months ago

    A wise man taught me, “90 is an ‘A’.” While perfection is an achievable goal sometimes, most of the time just getting to ‘A’ is sufficient. This is the of your articles that I have read so I am looking forward to seeing more of your work. Thanks!

      • TMS092355

      • 10 months ago

      This is the second of your articles I have read… Getting started on imperfection right out of the gate…

  1. Just happy to have you back. And that Ann Dowd Glamour piece was just what I needed today. Thank you.

    • misty.degiulio@gmail.com

    • 10 months ago

    I love that you’re back. And that you called it out for what it was. That’s hard.

    I looked forward to this newsletter every week because it seemed to capture what I was feeling so much of the time. I’m certainly not perfect and have a hard time with overthinking every single thing. I totally understand wanting things to be perfect but would have still subscribed and followed even if your newsletter said “Hey, I had a shitty week and I don’t have the capacity to take on anything more right now. Here’s a cat gif, see ya next week.”

    Also love the book!

    • Jessica Granatiero

    • 10 months ago

    Lauren – So amazing! Life is a journey and you are doing it – there is no perfection, ever. We love real people and real people aren’t perfect. I struggled with the same thing. As a business owner, entrepreneur and author myself I struggled (still struggle) with that too. It’s a daily practice. Just show up and take it “bit by bit!”

    Warm thoughts to you, Jessica

    • Grace Incoll

    • 10 months ago

    Imperfectly perfect! So glad you’re back.

    • fiberdarlin@gmail.com

    • 10 months ago

    Yes girl yes!! Thank you for trying again 🙂 I always use the saying – Progress not perfection! Cheers to trying again imperfectly

    • mikaela.nykoluk@gmail.com

    • 10 months ago

    Thank you for talking about this, I feel it is something we all struggle with on some level and it really resonates with me! The fear of imperfection can be absolutely crippling, love to hear from other women about this!

    • Monica Graff

    • 10 months ago

    I just cannot stress enough how much these inspiring words mean to me. I have struggled with these kind of feelings for decades, and it has taken me a long, long time to identify the problem and start unwinding it from my True Self. I can tell when one of these episodes is about to happen. I call it an “ego attack.” My ego is a relentless, cruel bully with many disguises. If it’s not attacking me, it’s attacking others. And it feels like, well, like being abused, because that’s exactly what it is. Took me forever to figure out that my True Self/Inner Core/Whatever You Want to Call It is good enough, always has been. And so is yours. Guarantee it. IMO, it’s our purpose to understand this and live in this truth because it truly does make the world a better place. Can you imagine what the world would be like if we could all be at peace with ourselves? Not perfect, just peaceful, letting our little lights shine! It took having a grand baby (my stepdaughter’s child) for me to really get this. I hope it happens sooner for you. 🙂

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