I used to think the exact opposite. I used to think that if you weren’t going to do something properly and give 110% then you might as well not even bother. This is a very damaging way of thinking, and is a thought trap commonly known as all or nothing thinking.
Basically, it’s when you think you must do something perfectly and completely or it’s not worth doing at all. Unsurprisingly, this is extremely common in perfectionists. It’s basically their motto. And it’s a terrible one.
It’s totally worth doing something if you don’t finish it perfectly, or even if you don’t finish it at all. When you’re depressed, motivation is scarce. It’s hard enough to come up with enough motivation to start something, never mind finish it.
So don’t be afraid to do something poorly!
Exercise – Do It Poorly
You might want to hit the gym and do a full workout, but just not be up for it. Doing just ten pushups is better than doing nothing. And if you can’t manage that, doing one pushup is also better than nothing.
Going for a run is great. Going for a walk around the block is great. Getting out of bed and walking up and down the halls is great. It doesn’t matter if it’s not what you wanted to accomplish or if other people are doing more than you. When the alternative is nothing, anything you can manage is fantastic.
Exercise is one of those things that it’s best to ease back into anyway. It doesn’t matter if you used to be an Olympic athlete, if your body has been wasting away in a low depressive state with minimal activity for months or even years, it’s going to be a slow process to work your strength and stamina back up.
So don’t feel bad about taking it slow. Slow and steady wins the race after all, if we listen to our friend the tortoise.
Creativity – Do It Poorly
When it comes to creative pursuits, there’s two phrases that I have found to be very helpful.
Done is better than perfect.
Started is better than not started.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a drawing, a painting, a story, a piece of music, a video–you, as the creator, will almost always find something wrong with it. Sometimes there are aspects that could use genuine improvement, but more often than not you’ll be nitpicking, and letting that negative part of your brain tell you it’s not good enough.
If it’s for a client, by all means keep working at it until they are satisfied (although, don’t let them walk all over you by being unreasonable) but if it’s a project you’re working on for yourself, allow it to be done, and be proud of yourself for finishing it. Don’t let bad brain take away your accomplishment by picking it apart.
If you haven’t finished it yet, don’t beat yourself up. Congratulate yourself for starting!
Cleaning – Do It Poorly
Do you want a sparkling clean house? Probably. Most people do. But do most people have sparkling clean houses? No, not even close. Keeping a house clean is hard even for neurotypical people. When you’re depressed, it’s a nightmare.
For me, when a low depressive mood takes me, cleaning is one of the first things to fall by the wayside. The dishes and laundry begin to pile up, along with my guilt at not doing them.
So when I begin to feel a bit better, or the filth of the house finally outweighs my complete lack of motivation, I want to powerclean the entire house to make up for not cleaning before. I rarely manage to do this, however.
I might manage to clean the kitchen, and then be wiped out. Or maybe ill do a couple loads of laundry and just be done. I beat myself up for not doing more, but you know what? It’s more than I was doing before, and that’s what matters. Baby steps.
Eventually, those baby steps add up.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want you to just be giving up on projects or tasks all willy nilly. If you can manage it, by all means, do a fantastic job. Finish what you can, when you have the energy. Give it your all.
But sometimes, your all just isn’t that much. So in those times take it easy on yourself.
Something, anything, is better than nothing. Half ass it. Do a crappy job. Get started, and then just stop. Take that all or nothing thinking and throw it into the fire.
Perfectionism is like the one ring. It is awfully tempting and causes people to become obsessive, but it’s terrible for you, and will drive you mad. So throw it into Mount Doom.
Allow yourself to be happy about what you’ve accomplished, and not worry about what you haven’t.
Remember, anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.