There are few modern authors I cherish as much as Zadie Smith. A North London native, Smith is the child of a working class white Briton and a Jamaican mother. Zadie first came on to the literary scene with her novel “White Teeth” and has since has a range of other titles published. Lately, the writer has been shifting gears as a new mother and literary reviewer for Harper’s.
Late last night, I cam across an interview Harpers conducted with Zadie about her new role reviewing the magazine’s “New Books” column. During the course of the discussion, Zadie discussed feeling pressured to produce as a writer saying:
It’s easier when you are reading dead men to assume perfection. And also, you give them perfection in retrospect.
Though her thoughts were on the literary world, Zadie makes a point that is relevant to us all. So often as women we critique ourselves apart to death, doubting ourselves and our potential produce or be something great.
New research looking at women and self-esteem seems to indicate that it’s this kind of thinking that keeps us from achieving it in the first place. In a new study, Dr. Jacqueline K. Deuling at Roosevelt University says that women who practiced ‘adaptive perfectionism’ were more likely to have higher self-esteem.
So what is adaptive perfectionism? According to American Psychology Association, it is when a person has “high standards for themselves, persistence in the face of adversity, and conscientiousness.” Choosing a better way of thinking does not mean you can do no wrong, it simply giving yourself enough credit to be believe in your capability to do something right. Assuming perfection means being able to envision being great and being willing to keep working towards it even when voices outside whisper that could be nothing more than a mistake.
There will always be voices that can make us doubt our ability to be great. But like great authors, we have to be able to withstand the critics if we’re ever going to get the flattering review we’re due.
Don’t wait for someone to lavish praise on your story before you allow yourself to believe it is unfolding as it should. Today, instead of falling prey to self-doubt, walk into the world and assume your perfection.