What’s your biggest struggle when it comes to learning English?
One of the most common answers I get to this question is perfectionism
Perfectionism is “the wish for everything to be correct or perfect”
Is this you?
Do you feel like you can’t speak in English because your grammar isn’t perfect?
Or because you don’t know enough words? Or because you don’t sound like a native English speaker?
I totally get it.
I’m a recovering perfectionist.
I used to feel like this when I was learning French and German at school. I loved languages. I studied the vocabulary and I learned the grammar rules but did anyone ever hear me speaking French or German?
Not if I could help it.
I kept as quiet as I could because I was so afraid of making a mistake and my classmates judging me and laughing at me.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a bad thing to want to do your best, but if doing your best means “chasing perfection” stop right now.
Perfect English doesn’t exist.
And when we chase something that doesn’t exist it can only end badly.
“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.” ― Brené Brown
3 reasons to be less perfect when speaking English.
#1 Perfectionism makes us feel self-conscious
- This creates anxiety.
- When we feel anxious our brain shuts down.
- When our brain shuts down we can’t find the words we need to speak.
#2 Perfectionism holds us back
- We are so afraid of making mistakes we keep quiet.
- When we keep quiet we don’t practise.
- When we don’t practise, we don’t make mistakes
- When we don’t make mistakes, we don’t learn.
#3 Perfectionism kills enjoyment
- It stops us from experimenting.
- It stops us from being playful.
- It stops us from having fun.
- And when we don’t enjoy something, we don’t do it.
- We give up.
Success comes from motivation, hard work and commitment, not being perfect.
So instead of trying to be perfect:
- Focus on getting your message out there
- Make mistakes
- Learn from those mistakes
- Have fun
But how do us perfectionists do that?
2 ways to beat perfectionism
There are two main forms of speaking:
One person delivers the message: there is no interaction with other people.
It may seem a bit strange talking to yourself but producing monologues provides an opportunity for practice and self-reflection and can help you overcome your fear of making mistakes.
It’s an opportunity to practise all the areas of the language system, improve your practical use of language skills and build self-confidence.
On my programme YES to Fluency we do weekly speaking challenges to build confidence, beat perfectionism and improve fluency in English.
Why not give it a go?
Think of a topic you’re interested in, record yourself talking about that topic, listen to your response and reflect on your performance. What did you do well? Are there any opportunities for improvement?
Do this regularly and review your previous challenges. You’ll be amazed at your progress.
Not sure what to talk about? Drop me a line and I’ll send you my 52 speaking challenge ideas. That’s one a week for a whole year!
Every speaking challenge takes you one step closer to Your (best) English Self.
There is more than one person and the speaker needs to speak in turn to communicate i.e any conversation with another person/people.
Joining a conversation group or club with other learners like you is a great way to stop procrastinating and take action.
It’s an opportunity to practise in a safe space with people who understand your challenges. It’s a space where mistakes are welcome, where experimenting is encouraged and where having fun is unavoidable!
An essential part of my programme YES to Fluency are the live sessions where we get together and say no to perfectionism!
1 brilliant piece of advice (definitely watch this!)
“Instead of looking at a foreign language as an art to be mastered and perfected, we should think of it as a tool you can use to get a result” – Communication skills trainer, Marianna Pascal.
Watch her talk:
Learning a language? Speak it like you’re playing a video game.
If you wait until you think your English is perfect, you’ll miss out. You’ll miss out on amazing experiences, connecting with fantastic people and on making the progress you deserve to be Your best English Self.
Go ahead and make mistakes, but don’t make the same mistake as me: Don’t let perfectionism beat you!