Perfectionism Is The Enemy Of Communication

Hi there,

Remember when I told you in my last post that “Perfectionism is the enemy of communication”? Yeah… I’m currently quite struggling with that statement 😅 Don’t get me wrong, I’m still convinced that it’s absolutely true. And that’s exactly the point I’m struggling with…

Overthinking

As much as I love to write, as difficult it is for me to find the right words to express my thoughts. It’s a bit like all things I want to say are stuck in my head and I’ve got to “unstuck” them before I’m able to write them down in an useful way. Kind of a big ball of wibbly-wobbly 😉 stuff up there in my mind…

And as soon as I’ve written a paragraph, I’m rereading it. And that might be a failure. Because when I do so, I always start thinking something like: “Huh, yeah, that’s okay. But I’m not really sure if these sentences make really clear what I want to say. There must be a way to express it in an even better way.” And here we go 🙄

That Leads Directly to Perfectionism

That’s it. Over and over again: Writing. Overthinking. Editing. Overthinking. Editing. Overthinking. Adding something. Overthinking. Editing. Overthinking. Writer’s block. Overthinking. Editing. Overthinking. Adding something. Overthinking. Editing. Overthinking. And with a lot of luck there might come the point, when I finally call a text “finished”.  So there it is: a perfect example for perfectionism.

And yes: It’s definitely as strength-sapping, time-consuming and frustrating as it sounds.

The Enemy

I just want to write about stuff which flashes through my mind; anything I consider worth writing about. Just for fun. On a regular basis. It would be a big fat plus if I’d be able to improve my writing skills that way, as well. (And it would be even cooler, if there would be someone, somewhere, drinking a cuppa, reading my articles and consider them helpful and entertaining. I’d really love that. ❤️)

Of course it is absolutely demotivating, if you’re writing for hours and hours, but you don’t get any sense of achievement. Certainly I’m happy when I’m able to finally hit the “publish button”, but as I spent so much time on writing an article, there isn’t much energy left to enjoy one of these great “YES-I-DID-IT!”-feelings; it’s rather a relief than anything else. (Just for fun, here some stats: I edited this article 13 times so far and spent seven hours writing. 95% of the first version’s paragraphs are completely gone. Okay, I admit: might be possible that I’m some kind of hardcore perfectionist 😅)

Being a perfectionist means that you have high standards. You always want to do a great job and you work very hard and they achieve very hard to achieve their goals. And that’s nothing bad, is it? That’s even a quite admirably character trait. But there is only a unbelievably slim line between the positive and negative aspects of perfectionism, so you’ve got to be careful. Very careful.

Don’t Let Perfectionism Get You Down!

Based on own experiences, perfectionism can have quite adverse impact on someone’s life. And that’s the case, as soon as it keeps you from achieving your goals (publishing new blog posts on a weekly basis or being able to make the deadline for work projects, for instance). Or if it makes you feel bad.

Perfectionists tend to struggle with making mistakes. They consider it as something really bad instead of seeing it as an opportunity for improvement. If they did something wrong or if they weren’t able to fulfil someone else’s or their own expectations, they often feel as if they have failed completely. Unfortunately, perfectionism can even make you feel pressured, anxious, upset, frustrated, sad, exhausted or even depressed. Perfectionist also often suffer from low self-esteem. (I’m also very familiar with these negative feelings and emotions.

Overcoming perfectionism can be really hard. (I know what I’m talking about.) But there are different approaches and strategies you might want to try, if you feel addressed.

Overcoming Perfectionism

I’m trying to give everyday life some sort of structure. I’ll set up concrete time slots for each task I’d like to accomplish. If I’m not able to achieve it, I try to be happy, anyway. Eventually, I didn’t have more time on hand and I definitely did my best. (Certainly, it doesn’t work every time (at lese not yet), but I consider it quite helpful, anyway.) I try to set up realistic goals, which I can achieve easily. For example I tidy up at least 10 minutes each day. I set an alarm, so I know when I’m allowed or forced to stop working. But it’s certainly more difficult to follow this plan when I’m in a middle of a task I really love to work on; writing an article, for instance (I definitely need to figure out how much time would be appropriate to spend on each post 😶 So if you’re a blogger yourself, please let me know how much time you plan. I’d love to get some advice. Thanks in advance! ☺️)

I also found some relaxation strategies to calm me down and to get my mind free: I drink a cuppa (A cup of tea solves everything!), get lost in a good book 📚 , go out for a walk 🌳, take some deep breaths, meditate a bit, try to get aware of the moment I’m currently experiencing, talk to loved ones ☎️ (doesn’t matter if it’s face to face or on the phone), cuddle my cat, treat myself to some pieces of chocolate 🍫 , listen to music 🎶 or dance very badly (the latter is definitely a realistic assessment and not based on low self-esteem 😂) Or I do all of these things.

It doesn’t matter which strategy you follow, the important part is that it helps you.

More strategies and interesting facts you’ll find in these articles: “How to Overcome Perfectionism” (published by Anxiety BC (The Anxiety Disorders Association of British Columbia)) and “Tipps für den Umgang mit Perfektionismus” (published by German psychotherapist Dr. Rolf Merkle on Psychotipps.com). Maybe you’ll find them as helpful as I do 🙂

Perfectionism and Language

Though, back to the quote I mentioned at the beginning 😄

If you’re a perfectionist and learning a new language, it will probably happen that you’ll set up goals impossibly to reach. For example: “I want to master English like a native speaker within a period of six months.” How should you be able to reach a goal like this beside a fulltime job and a family? So you’re going to feel pressured, and because of the few moments of feeling successful, you’ll probably feel discouraged and depressed instead.

Some people, myself included, are so anxious about making mistakes that they avoid situations which hold a high risk to fail. Relating to improving language skills, that involves especially avoiding writing texts (and publishing them) and actually speak. But if you’re too anxious about doing so, there is – unfortunately – no possibility to improve.

Try to realise that learning a language, especially if you just got started, is in a way primarily based on making mistakes. But that’s actually okay. You’ll learn from it and you’ll get better over time 🙂 Promise!

Are We In The Same Team?

Anyone else here who’d love the ability to turn off your mind for a couple of hours? 😅 (If hours aren’t available, I would also take minutes. I’m not hard to please.) Or who also suffers from perfectionism? Hey, how about a support group? We could produce even matching sweater 😂

But honestly: Take care of yourself and remember: Don’t let perfectionism (or anything else) get you down.

Vroni

The Reason Why / Or: My Lingual CV

Hi there,

When you’ve been studying a language for a while, sooner or later almost everyone comes to a point when you’ll ask yourself whether there has been any improvement at all. You’re frustrated, because you’d like to master the language you’re learning much better than you think you already do. You’re language skills are improving, though. Even if you’re not able to notice your progress yourself, I’m sure your family, friends or colleagues did. Noticing improvement of skills in other people is much easier than noticing them in ourselves. Outsiders are not in the middle of it, so they’re able to be way more objective than you could ever be.

When we read stories, we can often relate best to characters, who are in similar situations as we are. And I think it’s the same when it comes to becoming aware of your actual progress in learning a foreign language. For one or another it might be helpful to read about other people’s experiences. So today I want to share mine.

So why don’t you grab a cuppa, get comfortable and read on?

 

Excitement

When I was a child (approximately eight years old), my parents gave me a lovely learning book for children. I just loved it. I always had a great time sitting in my room for hours and hours, listening to the tracks on the CD while I was reading the text aloud from the book. My favourite chapter, by the way, was the one about Stonehenge. I was quite impressed by it and I decided that one day I’ll  visit it. (That will hopefully finally happen in Feburary 2018 – Yay! 😀 ) And I think that was the moment when I felt in love with Great Britain and the English language.

I started learning English at school in 3rd grade. It was a lot of fun, but I was quite shy and I tried to avoid speaking in class. (Reconsidered not the cleverest decision, though.)

 

Getting Slightly Frustrated

My enthusiasm became a bit less intense, when I changed to secondary school. I still liked English classes, but I started to get more and more confused by grammar rules. Still, I was too shy to actually speak English. My grades weren’t bad, but I noticed that I needed to put  much more time and effort in improving my language skills.

 

Getting Even More Frustrated

After secondary school I went to Berlin and I began a dual apprenticeship. At vocational school I had English classes as well. Yay, it was totally fun… Certainly, I didn’t consider my English to be perfect. But based on my experiences at my former school, where I was at least average, I neither considered it being that awful. I always loved participating in English classes, even if I was struggling here and there, but that feeling changed quite fast into complete frustration and confusion.

I still remember the first task in my new course. We had to write down personal statements about ourselves. Some of them should be true, some of them wrong. We had to read them aloud, so the class can have a guess, whether it has been a wrong or a correct statement. It should has been a funny and relaxed way to get to know each other better.

But the language levels within the class varied as widely as the age span. With 17 years I was one of the youngest pupils in class. If I remember it correctly, the oldest one was already 25 years old. 28 people, quite different in age and educational background (some had a degree similar to a high school degree, others did their A-Levels and some even dropped out of collage). So there were people who already spoke English quite well, fluently and without big grammatical mistakes. And there were people like me, who didn’t understand half of the vocabulary our classmates and the teacher were using and who weren’t able to follow an English film, even if there were subtitles.

As it was my turn to read one of my sentences, I said: “I cook very good.” instead of “I cook very well.” (Have a guess: True or lie? 😉 ) I’m quite sure that this mistake made people roll their eyes and sigh because of annoyance. Experiences like this took a lot of my self-esteem and I didn’t want to speak in front of the class anymore. So I only did when I was forced by my teacher. Well, I doubt that it’s necessary to mention that my grades were as bad as they haven’ been all time before.

Though it wasn’t my most successful time in my learning career, there was also something positive about it. It reminded me about how much I always liked learning a language, and English in particular. Realising this helped me to get motivated to improve it on my own.

 

And when I’ll be finished?

After completing my apprenticeship in 2013, I was glad to finally have way more time to focus on my resolution. And yes, you’re right: That was four years ago. (Really?! Wow… Such a long time!) And still I’m sitting here and tell you about my wish to improve my English myself. But it’s true. Learning a language can be a long-lasting project.

When I was in school, I always thought: “Alright. I’m learning English. And when  I’ll be finished?!” That shall demonstrate that I thought there’s a point when you finally master a language. But there actually isn’t. I know, I’m a master in demotivation, am I? 😉

The point is: There’s always room for improvement. Just think about foreign words in your native language. Do you know every foreign word what exists? You just can’t. There are too many. Even if they’re obviously part of the language, there’s no need to know every single word. The fact, that you don’t use them doesn’t mean that you can’t speak your native language, does it? According to this, even native speaker master their first language not to complete perfection.

Based on this guess, I think it’s quite subjectively when you “finished learning”. When you only want to learn some sentences to survive during the holidays in a country where people don’t speak your native language, you might feel “finish” after being able to book a lovely hotel room or to oder a delicious meal in a restaurant in English. Speaking for myself, I set a highly ambitious goal: I want to unterstand, write and speak English as well as a native speaker. So for sure it will take me much more time to improve my learning skills. (Yes, I definitely have got some perfectionism issues 😀 ) Though, in both cases someone speaks English. And that’s it, isn’t it? It’s all about your own expectations. (Okay, I admit: Might be a bit different if you need to learn English for professional reasons. Then they’re probably your boss’ expectations….)

 

Take Your Time!

How fast you’re going to achieve your goal depends on a variety of factors. Which language level do you have so far? How much time are you able to spend learning? How old are you? …? …? …? …?

The key to success is mainly about practicing on a regular basis. We just can’t save a lot of information all at once. Our brain simply doesn’t work that way. It’s going to delete information which aren’t recalled regularly. So it’s definitely more effective to learn every day for ten minutes than to learn once a week for three hours. Just choose a method that fit’s best with your schedule. But please, don’t pressure yourself! I did. It’s definitely no fun! And you’re even way less motivated and productive.

 

Make a Choice

There are so many different ways to improve your English. You could join a conversation class, participate in a course at an adult education collage, learn with books, register for a online course or meet with a tandem partner.

What ever you choose, don’t be afraid to change the way to learn if the current method stops working for you. It’s quite important actually to learn in a way that suits you best, because you’ll be more successful and in consequences more motivated as well.

My own current strategy is to speak English as often as I’ve got the opportunity to. I also watch TV series and films only in English. For improving my writing skills I started blogging. (And it was a great idea. It’s so much fun! :D)  But I’ve got to start learning ten minutes a day again. I was a bit lazy lately. (Yes, I admit!) I’ll let you know how it’s going 🙂

 

Perfectionism

Coming back to the perfectionism issue, a great docent once told me during a training: Perfectionism is the enemy of communication. And it was kinda mind-blowing as I realised: He’s perfectly right.

As I said before: I’m definitely a perfectionist. And I’ve still got that “I-don’t-want-to-speak-to-people” issue. Well, maybe the wrong word choice. I want to speak to people in English, but I feel highly insecure and pressured when I do. Still I think he’s right. Even if it’s way outside my comfort zone, how could I improve my speaking skills if I don’t actually talk to people?!

So even if it’s really hard for me, I try to face my social anxiety and to force me to speak. For example: Sometimes I just record an audio message in WhatsApp for a friend of mine, who doesn’t speak German. Or if I feel confident enough I visit an English cafe and even try to order in English.

And every time I do it, I’m so proud of myself. Yay, I’ve survived! It really motivates me. And I know: It’s really worth doing it!

 

What do you think?

I’d love to hear about your opinion and your own experiences! Uh, and what’s your guess: Do you think I cook very well or not? 😉 Please tell me in the comments below. Looking forward to read from you.

Take care!

Under Construction

HEYA!

This website is currently under construction, though content is coming soon.

I’m going to publish posts in both English and German about language, travelling and literature (and every other thought that flashs through my mind). If you don’t want to miss any new posts you should subscribe and you’ll get an email as soon anything new has been published.

So in a few days you should grab a cuppa, make yourself comfortable and start reading. I’m looking forward meeting you in the comment section 🙂

Take care.

Vroni