Wholehearted Wednesdays with Wendy from The Gratefulist
Hi Wendy! Please tell us a bit about you and The Gratefulist.
Hi there! Wendy here, a gratitude geek and personal growth junkie living in The Netherlands. Beaches and bright colors are my jam. I’m a book-oholic and a homemade pizza aficionado. Driving around in my bright red convertible car is my latest guilty pleasure.
I run a blog, resource, and online community called The Gratefulist where I’ve made it my mission to help soulful creatives and wholehearted women embrace their perfectly imperfect selves. I write about letting go of perfectionism, starting a gratitude practice, and dealing with issues related to perfectionism like procrastination, comparison, people pleasing, and approval addiction.
How has your journey been like from being a perfectionist to a gratefulist?
All through high school and college I was a proud perfectionist. I believed my perfectionism was what made me successful. All of that changed when I got my first job out of college. The job wasn’t a good fit for me and I felt out of place. For the first time, I realized that my perfectionism wasn’t really helping me. In fact, it was hindering me and it stopped me from doing the work that I wanted to be doing. My perfectionism also made me feel very lonely and cut off from other people.
I started searching for information about perfectionism, but I couldn’t find any resources to help me understand what perfectionism is, how it shows up in and affects my life, and how to let go of it. The little information I did find, didn’t ring true for me. And so, I had to do a lot of soul searching and dig deep into my own experiences to figure it all out.
At the same time, but unrelated to my efforts of overcoming my perfectionism, I started a daily gratitude practice. I was depressed and had hit my lowest point. I’d heard Oprah rave about the wonders of gratitude and I felt like ‘Okay, writing down three things I’m grateful for each day will take me about two minutes. This is totally doable. I can do this!’.
But then, it turned out that these two separate paths I was on in my personal growth journey were not so separate after all. One day, when I was in the middle of journalling, I realization hit me: practicing gratitude actually helped me deal with my perfectionism.
Perfectionism is fear-based behavior.
It’s a thought pattern that goes like this: 'If I do this perfectly or have a perfect life or look perfect, I am in control and therefore people can't hurt me or see me for who I really am.'
At the root of this thought pattern lies an assumption: that who we really are isn’t enough. No matter what we do. No matter how hard we try. When we’re in perfectionist mode we operate from a place of lack. We focus on all the things we don’t have, aren’t good at, have failed at.
What I realized in that moment was that the fastest and only way to snap out of perfectionism (that place of not enough) is to focus on enough. To focus on the things we do have going for us. And that’s the definition of gratitude.
So, my journey from Perfectionist to Gratefulist was sort of random and unexpected but totally worth it, haha!
What is it like building a community and empowering people to let go of their perfectionism?
The reason I started The Gratefulist was that I saw so many women struggling with perfectionism. I didn’t want anyone else to go through what I went through: feeling very alone in my journey, because I couldn’t find any resources to help me out. I felt like The Gratefulist could be that resource. And I felt like I could be the cheerleader, cheering on these brave women in my community from the sideline.
But here’s the truth. I call myself a recovering perfectionist and being in recovery is an ongoing process and an everyday practice. As such, I couldn’t stand on the sideline. I had to - as Brené Brown would say - step into the arena. I’m deep down in the trenches, right alongside my community. When I share my story, when I’m open about my struggles with perfectionism, when I share my many imperfect moments, I’m empowering not only myself but also many other recovering perfectionists.
Could you share with us a bit of your behind-the-scenes of The Gratefulist?
Right now, I‘m transitioning from creating resources to building a community around The Gratefulist. Over the last nine months, my focus was on writing inspiring and actionable blog posts, creating helpful free resources and developing paid products like ebooks and courses. My priority was to turn The Gratefulist into a profitable business. There’s nothing wrong with that. But, to be honest, I grew tired of constantly launching and selling.
My goal for the second half of 2017 is to pour back into the people that have supported me along the way and to create even more of a community of like-minded creatives and recovering perfectionists around The Gratefulist.
I’ve recently started a Facebook group and I hope that together we’ll create a conversation around perfectionism that leaves us inspired and encouraged to let go of our perfectionism. I see us unraveling the myths surrounding perfectionism and getting down to the deep, dark roots of why we feel this compulsive need to make things perfect.
As women, I think there’s a lot of topics we’re afraid to talk about. What’s something that has been on your heart recently?
Have you ever noticed how, when you try to comfort a friend by saying ‘You messed up, so what? It’s okay, you’re only human after all!’, they roll their eyes at you? To be honest, I’ve been the eye-roller on more than one occasion: ‘Yeah right, I’m only human! *sigh*’.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Since when is being human something to be exasperated about? When did being human become not good enough?
Is it because we have this deep fear about being ordinary or, heaven forbid, average? I know I feel the pressure to be extraordinary or else I won’t stand out, reach my goals, or be successful.
Is it because we see all these tv shows and movies about superheroes and, as a result, we think we have to be superhumans ourselves? I know I secretly fantasize about being Wonder Woman.
Is it because we equate being human with being flawed and imperfect, whereas superhumans and superheroes are perfect? I know I’ve been chasing perfect and avoiding imperfect for the most part of my life.
Or is it all of the above?
As you see, I have more questions than answers at the moment. But what I do know is this: we’ll never lead a wholehearted, perfectly imperfect life if we roll our eyes at being human.
The online world can be a noisy place sometimes. How do you stay authentic and true to who you are?
Oh boy, this is such a struggle for me! I see other people do amazing things online and in creeps the comparison monster telling me that who I am and what I have to share isn’t good enough. Talk about a devastating feeling!
In the past I’ve let this turn into procrastination and me staying firm in my comfort zone, but what I’ve learned over the years is that the only way to move through comparison is to face the fear and show up as myself. I’ve learned to tone down my inner critic and tell myself that who I am and what I have to share is good enough. I’ve learned that who I am and what I do matters. I’ve learned that my imperfections make me authentic and relatable and my work meaningful.
What’s the best life advice you’ve ever received from someone else?
I’m a highly sensitive introvert, so I’m both a deep thinker and a deep feeler. As a result, I have this tendency to stay stuck in this place of thinking and feeling and not move forward. A dear friend once told me that all this talking, thinking, pondering, feeling, listening to my intuition etc isn’t worth much of I don’t put it into action. Since then I’ve been trying to be more of a do-er.
Can you share your own nugget of wisdom with our readers?
We don't need to be perfect to thrive in your work and life. Repeat after me: we don’t need to be perfect to be successful.
I know giving up the pursuit of perfect is difficult. I know it feels like we’re giving up our edge, our competitive advantage. But that's simply not true. Perfectionism keeps us stuck in comparison and has us procrastinating on our dreams.
Letting go of your perfectionism simply means that we can stop caring so much about what other people think and finally take on those dream projects that we've been putting off for so long.
What’s next for you in your journey? How can we support you, and where can we find you online?
Like I said before, I’m super excited about this new community-focused chapter for The Gratefulist. If you’re a (recovering) perfectionist in need of support, encouragement, and accountability, I’d love for you to join our Facebook community.
If you’re at the beginning of your journey of letting go of perfectionism and you have no idea where to start, my Perfectionist Profile Quiz will give you great insight into how perfectionism shows up for you, how it affects your work and life, plus a few very targeted resources for you to take your first perfectionism-free steps.
Thanks so much for letting me interview you, Wendy. One last question before we leave, what does being a wholehearted woman mean to you?
Wow, what a question! Well... being a wholehearted woman means embracing my perfectly imperfect self. It means listening to my inner voice over outside expectations. It means showing up for my dreams and showing compassion toward myself when I don’t succeed. And it means holding space for both pleasant and unpleasant emotions.
Rapid fire q’s:
1. A woman who inspires me: Caroline Kelso Zook
2. Favorite place to hang out online: Instagram
3. Best book I ever read: Nightwanderer by Swedish author Marianne Fredriksson
4. My core values: growth, gratitude, imperfection, worth, inner voice, courage, and vulnerability