Give Yourself Permission To Do Things Badly

It doesn’t mean that things will turn out badly

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova from Pexels

I recently worked with a very stressed client. We had been exploring different careers and to test the waters, she was going to take some classes in interior design to see if that was a potential direction for her.

But now, everything demanded her attention at the same time. Her full-time work became very busy, she had to monitor 2 kids who were studying from home, and on top of that, she had 2 projects that were due next week for her interior design classes.

She came to me and said: “Oh, my goodness, I am so stressed. I am going to have to work on these projects all weekend to get them done.”

So I asked her: “What if you gave yourself permission to do very badly on these projects?”

She looked at me incredulously and said: “Very badly???”

And she shared with me that it had never occurred to her to ever do anything very badly. Her parents had always expected her to do well in school and were highly critical if she did not achieve top grades.

She carried these high expectations forward with her as an adult. Now she was very self-disciplined. She strove to do excellent work and hated making mistakes.

High Expectations Create Stress

Do you set high expectations for yourself and your work?

Do you have a perfectionist voice that tells you that you cannot make any mistakes?

Or do you envision in your head how things should be and if they don’t turn out exactly that way, you judge yourself and become frustrated?

We think that setting high expectations for ourselves will help us to do things well, but it also creates stress. And we can’t truly feel fulfilled in our life if we are driven by anxiety, rather than enjoying the process.

Permitting Ourselves To Do Things Badly Lifts Off The Pressure

My client agreed that she would take on the challenge of giving herself permission to do these 2 projects very badly and focus on enjoying the work instead.

This was definitely a stretch for her since she would normally try to create work that was as close to perfect as possible.

One week later, she came back and was very excited. She said that things turned out so much better than she thought they would. She gave herself full permission to do these projects badly and to enjoy the process more. This allowed her to approach her work differently.

Rather than working on the projects all weekend (until the results were perfect), she decided how much time she was going to spend on them beforehand and then stuck to that dedicated time. And instead of fixating on the outcome, she focused on enjoying the creative process of building the models.

When she turned in her projects, she was surprised that she received positive feedback. Given that she hadn’t spent any time perfecting her work, she thought that she would not receive any compliments, but her professor acknowledged her creative choices of colors and shapes and how she combined them.

Closing Thoughts

Life is challenging enough already. Most of us have many demands put on us on a daily basis. We then add to that burden by setting high expectations for ourselves to do things well. No wonder we feel pressured and stressed.

What we often don’t realize is that we have the power to create less stress for ourselves and to actually enjoy the process of getting things done by giving ourselves permission to do badly.

As my client discovered with her class projects, just because we permit ourselves to do badly doesn’t mean that things will turn out badly. It simply lifts off the pressure that we put on ourselves to do things perfectly and minimizes our stress.

Where in your life can you give yourself permission to do something badly?



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Manuela Pauer

Manuela Pauer

Career and Life Happiness Coach. Former Executive Director of Strategic Planning and Product Management at AOL.