Doing More Things Badly

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“Do more things badly.”
My inner perfectionist flipped out when I first heard this recommendation from one of my mentors; Rebecca Latimer, who wrote a book called You’re Not Old Until You’re Ninety: Best To Be Prepared, However.
Rebecca said to me;
“Oh SARK, when you speak to groups of people, would you please let them know that if they meditate and do it badly, it still works? And that goes for everything else too. My best recommendation to you is to do more things badly.”
I knew from experience that my perfectionistic ways were inhibiting my joy, so I took her recommendation to heart and began consciously practicing doing more things badly, or imperfectly, or just not up to my former standards. I discovered that the more I did “badly” the happier I felt.
I found that my perfectionist inside was exhausted by me and my ideas about how to do things. I’d learned really well from my perfectionistic Mother how to do things “the right way,” which was basically HER way, but it took me years to figure that out.
So that’s when I began doing things like eating a chocolate cake with no silverware, lying down in line at the bank, singing Amazing Grace at the Department of Motor Vehicles, doing a TV interview with the back of my hair soaked in coconut oil from a massage the night before and singing Karaoke- without alcohol. I also experimented with tinier, more mundane things too.
I’ve learned that not only is it fun to do things badly, it’s such a relief to give up so many of the “rules” I’d grown up with and then imposed on myself. I’ve also learned that I’m a pretty high achiever, and in some cases, an over achiever, so my dialing down from a 10 on a 1 to 10 scale, to a 5 or 6, is barely noticeable to anyone else!
It was noticeable to me however, so I engaged in some practices to support my new freedom.
1. Giving myself “primary permission” to do some things badly or imperfectly, or just differently.
I do this by experimenting and practicing, and noticing the results. For example, I’m usually very quick to do favors for people, or fulfill requests. My younger brother had asked me to find out some information for him prior to his wedding, and I simply didn’t do it. When he asked for the information, and I confessed that I didn’t have it and hadn’t done it, he was shocked and annoyed with me. I apologized, but didn’t feel guilty. We processed what had happened, and both realized that I was ALWAYS reliable and so rarely faltered, that I’d given myself no room at all to just be human. It was really fun to watch him be “the responsible one” who was getting things done for his wedding, and I got to experience the role of “someone who hadn’t come through.” I am now really learning to consciously give myself that primary permission first, that I’d always automatically given to other people.
2. Ignoring or simply not noticing what others think
I used to get so scared or worried if someone felt disappointed, annoyed or irritated with me about something I had or hadn’t done. I had been a people pleaser who relied on being filled up from outside sources in order to feel good. Now that I consistently practice self-love and exquisite self-care, I fill myself up first, and allow others to experience and take responsibility for their own emotions. I don’t focus on other people’s reactions much at all anymore, and it’s felt like such a great relief. I also practice ignoring people when I do unusual things, or I invite them to join in. I got the whole room to sing Amazing Grace with me at the DMV. Several people sat, or laid down with me in the bank line, and it was no problem at all to find people to eat cake with me, with no silverware.
3. Practicing self-love and exquisite self-care consistently
I practice living as a “full cup of self-love,” ready to share the overflow with the world. I used to live like a half empty cup, looking for people or substances to fill me. Now that I’ve learned how to care for myself exquisitely, I can respond to the world, instead of reacting. In response, there is a choice, in reaction, there is very little choice. Now I choose what to respond to, and why. When I feel less than self-loving or caring, which is often every day, I engage in specific practices and processes to recenter myself. I am then able to extend so much more love to the world.
And of course, in all of the above, I also fail, falter, stumble, flail and flounder and do a lot of things badly, and sometimes very badly. I’ve discovered that being truly self-loving is a long term relationship with myself that contains EVERYthing, as every relationship does. The point is not to love myself all the time. The point is to practice loving myself as consistently as I am able, in all sorts of conditions. This means practicing loving the fat, forgetful, resistant parts too. And when I turn away from myself in aversion, to bring myself back as lovingly as I am able. And perhaps an even greater challenge, to love the successful, brilliant and soaring parts of myself. Because I sometimes feel more afraid of my joy than my pain. Pain seems easier to relate to, and joy can feel lonely.

My early abuse experiences taught me that pain lasts, and joy is unreliable. I’ve now learned to live more often in a opposite state- joy is everlasting, and pain can’t always be trusted. And in between those two states, is the glorious middle spaces where most of my growth takes place. My explorations in doing more things badly have shown me that there is a lot of joy in the mess and chaos of living as a “splendidly imperfect” human bean.

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    Funny you say that, I just sat through a Youtube video called “Suck it!”..for writers, to learn to suck, a lot, and if you think you suck, you probably don’t suck enough.
    Don’t be afraid to suck! ;P
    “Dare to Suck”:

  2. jen gray


  3. Kelley

    “…joy is everlasting, and pain can’t always be trusted.”
    Thank you for this! Indeed, enjoy the day!

  4. Emma

    oh, you last wrote on my birthday! maybe you can write again for those of us wandering about in internetlandia?

  5. Joodie

    What are some of the things you practice and do “…when I feel less than self-loving or caring”??
    I just lost my dad and am having lots of days like that.

  6. Eden

    Love it, wise words once again SARK.
    Thank you 🙂

  7. Emily

    I have bookmarked this post so I can return and read it often! What simple, life altering advice! As the oldest I was always the good, reliable one. Trying to be perfect, and never saying no has been a constant struggle.

  8. Delphine

    Yippety, YAHOO!!! I love this…I feel better already. Tonight I plan to get the “badly” going as soon as I get home. Can’t wait to see the kids and my husband’s reaction…oh what fun! Sark, your the bestest!

  9. Denise Michaels

    I love this journal entry. Because so many women have a tendency to be “pleasers” we want so much for things to be “right” before stepping forward and really taking a risk. The challenge is that if it has to be perfect first – so many times we hold back.
    I’ve been a mentor to women business owners for many years and I can’t even tell you how many times a woman will spend months or years researching a business idea and then a man who doesn’t know as much as her jumps out with an idea very close. We don’t get brownie points in heaven for researching and holding back.
    Denise Michaels Excellent Adventure

  10. Jenn

    I *must* learn this lesson! It’s one of the main things I struggle with as a writer…the feeling that it’s got to be perfect the first time ’round!
    what are you grateful for today?

  11. Teralyn

    You have such great ideas! I’m struggling with a book I’m writing right now — it’s a romance, and I NEVER write romances. I have to be so incredible vulnerable, and since I’ve never done it before, it’s uncomfortable for me. I should stop taking myself so seriously. Maybe I could just write something bad, laugh at it, keep it, and not live in fear that someone’s going to pick up my notebook and start giggling at it… or if they do, maybe I could giggle along with them. It’s hard, but I need to stop being scared.

  12. Elizabeth

    SARK! That’s what Samuel Beckett said too! “Go on failing. Go on. Only next time, try to fail better.” — Samuel Beckett OH, boy, did HE ever do things differently than everyone else! Thanks! I am ALWAYS worrying about what others think! And I feel frozen half the time. Except in savasana. If only I could WRITE in savasana! XOXO

  13. Tiffanie

    what a relief!!
    thanks for the inspiration. : )

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