Finding your voice as a recovering perfectionist
Change is about the only constant I've had in my life since I turned 18
And even though I have changed cities, countries, navigated school and work in three different languages...I was not getting anywhere close to understanding myself and figuring out my purpose.
The pandemic has been the incubator for the page that you see today. Turns out...what I needed to do was to sit still and listen. By the time Canada had announced its lockdown, I was going through the painful experience of reconnecting with my inner child for the first time. That awakening was brutal, as it wasn't a deliberate move on my part - I just stumbled on the pain and what I found left me with intense back pain for days (an abnormal thing for me since I've never suffered from back pains).
For the longest time, I've wanted to do something like this. Have a blog. Write some stuff. Create a course. I have lost count of all my attempts, I would usually start but then give up because I felt that I had nothing to say, or whatever I wanted to say felt like it was a lot of work to put together into a coherent post. My last serious attempt to blog took a toll on my mental health, so you might understand why I approached this with a lot of caution.
I did not want to burn out. I did not want to do things the old way because that would just flare up all my coping mechanisms - perfectionism, procrastination, overwork. I did not want to spend THOUSANDS of dollars on an idea just to realize that I had no fucking clue on how to recover my investment. Yup, that already happened to me.
I decided to take my time and see what would come out of the process.
A year in, and with just nine weeks to go before the big launch, I want to give you a recap of what this process has looked like for me. I want to share this because you don't get to hear this often. We all hear about the successes, but we don't understand what had to take place behind the scenes before getting the first yes, the first sale.
I'm at $0K, but that is no longer preventing me from thinking that I can do this. I have no qualms and no shame to say over and over that I am launching this course because the things I will be teaching are exactly the things that set me on the path to trust that I got what it takes to pull this off.
We often hear "fake it till you make it" and that "the magic happens outside your comfort zone" but that is dangerous advice for a perfectionist. Those two statements completely bypass the importance of believing that YOU ARE WORTHY and that YOU GOT WHAT IT TAKES, and you need to believe in those two things BEFORE you make your first sale, BEFORE you even design your landing page, BEFORE you come up with the perfect choice of font and colors for your brand.
When a perfectionist skips the work and continues to take actions using this coping mechanism, nothing ever feels good enough. The comparisonitis is intense. The entire journey is painful because you overthink it, you are full or worry, you are clinging to the outcome because if it doesn't happen, what will that say about you?
Doing that inner work to believe that I am worthy and that I got what it takes was just the beginning of the journey. Having that confidence has made everything else seem within reach. That is a first for me.
Part 1: Coming up with my idea
As I've said, I've started blogs on and off since Wordpress has existed (2003!) This time, I had the clarity and mindset to know that things would be different...
When I started to brainstorm ideas, I knew I wanted to talk about my experience and I wanted to offer something practical that people could apply in their own lives.
I started to develop a course for immigrants that have just arrived to Canada and are looking for work. It was an experience I knew and I thought that I could offer another perspective since I know the emotional rollercoaster of building a life in a new country. I've done it enough times to know that it doesn't get easier. You just get better at rolling with the punches.
Except, the more I got into the idea, the less I wanted to do it.
I started torturing myself with questions - Am I doing this AGAIN? Have I not learned anything? Arghhhhhh!
But, I already knew better than that. I had to face the truth. The REAL reason I chose that topic is because it was safe. I wouldn't have to put my entire being on the line and I could keep hiding behind a nice, polished story that would keep my professional online image intact, without risking a damn thing.
That's why I felt bored and uninspired. It was not my calling. This is not what my soul wanted to do.
I knew that, because the other idea I had was to talk about perfectionism, and while that idea thrilled me, it also terrified the shit out of me. And yet..it kept calling to me. It kept nagging me. It persisted so much that I finally caved in. Even if it scared me, even if I felt that I was not capable to deliver, I was going to do it.
So...this is happening...I am going to publicly share about the perfectly hidden depression that I've carried since elementary school. Can someone hold my hand and tell me it's going to be okay? 😶
The next couple of months (May-July) I kept this idea to myself and I only shared with a couple of people (even though these are my friends, it felt uncomfortable). I immersed myself in the topic, as I had nothing else to do during lockdown, I read about 50 books by the end of the year.
What was I doing between May-December 2020?
- I was researching more information that could back up my experience in working with the subconscious
- I kept going down the rabbit hole with the help of a therapist to continue the work that I had started on my own
- I enrolled in courses, which helped me gain some clarity but also made things more confusing for me because I had no idea where to start.
Part 2: The overwhelm of a fresh start
What is the first thing you should do when you have an idea for an online business?
...buy the domain?
...start a YouTube channel? A podcast? Have your Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, TikTok, LinkedIn ready?
...figure out your entire business model and have a content calendar planned for the next 6 months?
...get better at selling, copywriting, public speaking, graphic design?
Those are all strategic things, and when you are starting that is the LEAST important thing! (I know, heresy, especially coming from a Marketer)
The important thing is being clear on your message and putting yourself in front of your ideal audience (it doesn't matter which platform, as long as your audience hangs out there).
Being authentic, providing value, being clear on your message...what the hell does that look like when YOU are the product?
I have done so many workbooks and courses on this topic and frankly you won't know until you start writing and posting. Since I am a recovering perfectionist and an ENTJ who loves mind maps and planning...here's what I thought I had to do:
- Launch my website
- Launch my Instagram
- Have a lead magnet right from the beginning
- Collect emails
- Write for other platforms to attract that audience to my site
- Build course
- Promote course
- Start with my first cohort Jan 2021
These were the assumptions that I did not bother to ask or challenge:
- All of this can be done at once, and on my spare time
- Since I have done my research and my workbooks, this was just going to be a matter of executing.
I thought that by writing down the answers to those workbook questions I had already gone through the trial and error process. LOL. The courses and workbooks are a great place to start, don't get me wrong! But, they won't give you the feedback that you get by DOING things. That's where the real trial and error happens. The courses I took helped me narrow my approach and have clarity around my intentions, otherwise I'd be doing something stupid like launching a lifestyle brand/blogging/coaching program for some nondescript audience and then throwing 2k on Facebook ads and then wonder why no one is buying.
What ended up happening was more like this:
- I decided to do one thing, and to do that well. I chose Instagram as my channel. Between July-October 2020, I worked on the concept for the Instagram feed with the help of Kat Coroy and her course Instagram Makeover. I love giving credit where it's due, and I highly recommend her course because it simplifies the process of coming up with the visuals for your feed (I don't do affiliate marketing and neither does Kat. This recommendation is purely out of my love of sharing resources).
- In November 2020, I launched my Instagram. I cried a bit when my first post went live. I did it. I had taken the first step!
- By December 2020, I still had no course content, I had no website, no landing page, no lead magnet, no email list sign up. But, I kept posting, because I had to get comfortable with the platform I selected to promote my work.
As I kept posting, an ugly truth emerged. I was having trouble being authentic. There were other things, like my hashtag strategy being useless, but the main issue was that I knew that I was still hiding. I was receiving positive feedback and friends and strangers sent me DMs saying that my content was already helping them, so that felt great and reassuring...but I knew that I was only scratching the surface of what I really wanted to say.
I knew that I was editing my captions to the point of watering down my message. I was creating content that could have been created by anyone. It was "me", but not entirely. I felt that I was doing the same thing I do in real life, carefully measure my words because I don't want you to find out how contrarian and intense I am...
It even showed in my choice of colors and concept for the initial feed. I picked navy and gold, and I went with this mystical/tiger/moon images because I knew that my course was about working with the subconscious and I knew that accessing the subconscious through symbols was going to be part of the course. But, I didn't know HOW I was going to do that when I was designing the feed, so the mystical tiger thing was good enough (and I also wear excessive amounts of leopard print clothing so I thought it would be good for photoshoots etc).
Looking back, I also went with that branding because a part of me felt was confused about my online identity. Who am I in the online world? If I look at other women who speak about these topics, they have witchy vibes or something in between a coach and a therapist. Hmmm. Even though I learned from spirituality and psychology...I do not fit in those labels. I'm too brazen to be labelled as spiritual. Too masculine in my looks to pretend I am witchy (I don't wear flowy clothes, if you want to piss me off give me a shirt with impractical sleeves that will get stuck in places and dip in my soup. Grrr.) I am definitely not qualified as a therapist.
The easy and obvious answer is that my online persona is similar to my real life persona.
In my mind, that was a problem. Like, I'd rather have panic attacks again than show my real life persona online. Real life Carolina is not algorithm-friendly. I swear a lot. I am intense. I have a dark sense of humor. I am a contrarian, and when I speak about things I care about, rage just ooooooozes through my pores. I may not even be angry at the moment, but I am not soft-spoken and when you add the feisty Latina stereotype...ughhhhh...anything but being called feisty! Argh!!!!
To convince strangers on the internet that my words are coming out of LOVE and not HATE felt like an impossible task because we are all brainwashed to believe that anger has no place in the heart of a good woman. 🤔
I watered down my message. I compulsively edited every post. That consumed enough of my spare time that I could not think of doing anything else. Instead of sharing more about my story, I bypassed all of that and I started posting tips about cognitive behavioral therapy. Helpful? Yeah, I guess. But, would it shake people's soul and set their curiosity on fire? Nope.
This is getting long, so I'll stop here. The next part will be about how this issue, which I thought was a marketing and mindset problem, was waaaaay more than that. It wasn't about my online persona at all, that was just a symptom of an emotional issue that runs deep within me.