Do It Badly: An antidote to perfectionism

Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.

– G. K. Chesterton


As an anxious person, I tend to think a lot. Often to the point where I don’t actually do the things I need to do. This is known as overthinking or perfectionism and is a hallmark of anxiety. It can impact all areas of life, and for me in particular, I believe it’s a major cause of my recent burnout at work.

Sounds like you? I’ve got good news. There’s a way past this.

Introducing Do It Badly

One year ago, I started treatment for my anxiety. While searching Youtube for videos on anxiety (as you do), I came across this TED talk:

How to cope with anxiety | Olivia Remes

It presents a strategy that really resonated with me. It’s called Do It Badly. (Skip to 8:02 for the good stuff.) It’s a mental trick – a productivity hack, if you will – to get you to start on a task. By giving you permission to make a mess, it lowers the barrier to entry.

The beauty is, once you start, you get a better feel for what you’re doing. The part you’ve done opens up new pathways that you’d have never thought of before you started. You’re still thinking (because you can’t truly stop thinking), but it’s a more productive kind of thinking: Instead of wondering whether it’s good enough, you’re thinking about how to do it better. It’s thinking on the fly, rather than stopping to think. You adjust as you go, and before long “badly” turns in to “not so badly” – and when you see this improvement, the doubts fade and it’s much easier to keep going. Hey, you’re not so bad at this after all!

This sounds great! How do I “Do It Badly?”

At this point I’d love to say, just put pen to paper (or equivalent) and the rest will take care of itself. While essentially that’s what it looks like, the truth is it didn’t come naturally to me. It’s a radical change from overthinking. It takes a leap of faith to shift from thinking to doing. It takes courage to keep doing rather than stopping to think. It takes constant reminding and practice just to remember to Do It Badly in the first place – I still forget, so I keep a note on my bedroom wall! But having seen the results, I wonder why I never tried it before. It’s hard to admit for a thinker like me, but doing beats thinking!

Are you sure about this?

This is a bigger topic than I can cover in one post, but for now: Trust me. Take that leap. And more importantly: Trust yourself. You’re more capable than you think 🙂

I can’t guarantee Do It Badly will work in your situation. But if you feel perfectionism is holding you back, give it a go – and let me know how it works out!

Summer Sounds: Hoobastank – Just Let Go (Who Cares If We Fall)

(Yes, I started this with two Hoobastank songs in a row. I do listen to other bands, honest!!)

Hoobastank’s 2018 release, Push Pull, was an acquired taste. Like Do It Badly versus perfectionism, this album was a huge shift in style from all of their previous works. But like Do It Badly, once I got used to it, I came to appreciate it for what it is rather than what it’s not.

It’s also on the whole more upbeat and uplifting than their past albums. Just Let Go is the best example of this change. This song is about taking a leap of faith and trying something new, with a bit of reckless abandon thrown in for good measure. It’s Do It Badly by another name. It’s uplifting, motivating, and liberating – and great fun to belt out in the shower!

Every day we spend playing it safe and secure

It’s just another day wasted like all those before

So can we just let go?

Who cares if we fall? At least we get to fly

Risk it all

Don’t worry about the where and the why

How do you do? Badly, Perfect, or something else entirely? What TED talk changed your life? Let me know!

5 thoughts on “Do It Badly: An antidote to perfectionism

  1. This is a really interesting post. One of the steps I am taking this year to ‘redesign’ my perfectionism is to aim for more failures, which I suppose is similar to doing it badly. I would hesitate to think of it as an antidote, as I don’t want to fight against what is essentially a part of me, but this is something I think I’ll reflect on!


    1. Thanks!

      Interesting point about the wording! I think you’re right; the point isn’t to fight it, but to find another way when overthinking doesn’t give you the best results. “An alternative to perfectionism”? Labeling perfectionism as a problem, or a “poison” with an “antidote”, is a bit harsh now I think about it!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s