How ya holding up? Pretty wild, draining, unusual and challenging times, huh? I’ve been pretty up and down. I found something hopeful and fun and want to share it with you.

I was having a really hard time a couple months ago and watched some YouTube videos of adorable animals. They made me laugh, but I felt guilty. Distracting myself with silly videos – that can’t be helpful, right?  I’m just wasting my time, right? But nope! Research shows cute can equal a boost in mood.  I think we could all use some good news about our guilty pleasures.

Scientific studies demonstrate watching these kind of clips is a tonic for our brain and can increase positive emotions. We release all sorts of feel good chemicals when we see something cute and novel – we’re wired to positively respond to cuteness. 

My most recent ‘therapy session’ has been with Pluto the talking dog .

In an interview with CBC, University of Victoria neuroscientist Olav Krigolson explains  when “you are not expecting to see something cute and cuddly and then you see it, it’s perceived by the brain as a reward,” said Krigolson. The cute image triggers the chemical reward system and the brain receives a mini dose of dopamine. 

The benefit is even stronger when reward and emotions are paired together Krigolson explains. The amygdala (a part of the brain involved with experiencing emotions) is turned on when you stare at cute pictures or videos  But the trick here is that the image needs to be a surprise otherwise the reward system won’t get ‘tripped’.

Who woulda thought surfing for different cute puppy videos or getting new ones from your friends, wasn’t a bad thing after all? In moderation of course. Spending an hour watching the cute and cuddly isn’t what we’re talking about here. Mini-breaks of staring at lovable little cats or hedgehogs that you’ve never seen before is all that’s needed to grab a dose of dopamine.  

Findings in a survey of 7000 internet users revealed similar outcomes for improved mood and increased energy.  In an article for The Conversation, Jessica Myrick, Associate Professor of Media Studies at Penn State writes “some research suggests that taking short breaks for a mood-boosting activity, be it petting an actual dog or watching a video of one online, may not only improve your mood but also decrease stress or re-energize you when you do return to your work.” 

This Hiroshima University study shows watching cute animal videos improves focus and productivity too.

Cythnia Johnson a psychotherapist and social worker in Toronto, was pleasantly surprised to see the science behind watching cute animal videos. 

Johnson suggests it to her clients and explains to them “they may find watching cute animal videos a great “distress tolerance” activity. For my clients, such videos could be used as a distracting activity or as a means to replace emotion with another emotion.”

Distress tolerance, which is a key element in Dialectal Behavioral Therapy is defined by Psychology Today as “ distress tolerance is geared toward increasing a person’s tolerance of negative emotion, rather than trying to escape from it.”

My foray into viral videos of bears in hammocks, and the antics of dogs isn’t just fluff or wasted time. 

Let’s hear it: “Power to the Puppies”. Oh and if you’re a cat fan (I’m learning to be more of a meow buff), how about “Kudo’s to the Kitty”?. I thought about power to the pussy, but that just doesn’t sound right – at least not for this post. Now go ahead, click on a  couple or five. No need for guilt. Your brain will thank you for it. 

What are the cute animal videos you watch? C’mon, I know you watch ’em. From time to time at least. No shame in that. Remember, you’re doing something good for you and your brain.

© Victoria Maxwell

Anxiety Canada is presenting town hall meetings each week on guess what topic? Anxiety! And boy, the one I recently watched titled “Uncertainty during COVID-19” was so helpful! 

Knowledge is power they say. Getting accurate information about anxiety, how it works, and the tips to increase ‘uncertainty tolerance’ was anxiety reducing in itself. 

Most people are feeling more anxious than usual. A pretty natural response to a global pandemic, I’d say. For those of us with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), like myself, or other anxiety disorders, these times can be even more challenging. I know they have been for me.

Psychology Today describes generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) as a “chronic state of severe worry and tension, often without provocation. Those with GAD regularly anticipate disaster, often worrying excessively about health, money, family, or work. Merely getting through the day brings on anxiety.” Sounds comfy huh? Not.

Research tells us that people with GAD have difficulty tolerating uncertainty.1 In Anxiety Canada’s video, psychologist Dr. Melisa Robichaud, explains “intolerance of uncertainty means the person with GAD will worry about an imagined feared event as long as there is even the slightest risk of it happening.”

Most people are a little uncomfortable with uncertainty. There’s nothing wrong with that. But being VERY uncomfortable with it, is problematic. It can lead to extreme levels of stress, anxiety and worry and time-consuming behaviors.

Increasing our ability to tolerate uncertainty can go a long way to helping us feel more at ease when things are stressful. This is the case whether you have an anxiety disorder or not. 

Robichaud continues, “uncertainty is a component of a situation where you can’t predict the outcome which is great fodder for anxiety and worry.” 

It’s important to differentiate. Worry is of the mind (those negative ‘what if’s’ that roll around in our heads). Anxiety is of the body (racing heart, shortness of breath, the physical feelings we get). 

In my personal experience of GAD, difficulty tolerating uncertainty drives my worry. 

In general, this is how it works for most people. Dr. Robichaud says “worry is a mental attempt to reduce the unknown and feel more certain by thinking through anything that could possibly happen.” Unfortunately, complete certainty is always out of reach and this feeds the relentless cycle of anxiety and worry. 

Recognize any of these behaviours? To feel more certain, do you:

  • ask for reassurance from others a lot?
  • get 2nd, 3rd, 9th opinions on things? 
  • do unending research and information-gathering? 
  • worry about negative events happening even if the likelihood is very low? 
  • make lists upon lists, maybe making multiple ones in a day?

On my ‘not-so-good-filled-with-worry’ days, yes I do. These and other thoughts and behaviors indicate an intolerance of uncertainty.2

There’s actually an assessment to measure it. It’s called, what else? The Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale (the IUS)!

Even though we will always live with uncertainty, there is good news. There are ways we can improve our ability to tolerate it and thus increase our everyday sense of ease.

6 Ways to increase tolerance for uncertainty:

1. Acknowledge and accept – First, it’s ok to be anxious about the current uncertain times. It’s not just ok, it’s understandable. Even without the pandemic, anxiety is ok. Yes – it’s uncomfortable, but it is also acceptable. Accept and acknowledge it’s natural to feel anxious – you’re not alone. This in and of itself can create space to relax.

In the video above, clinical psychologist Dr. Anne Marie Albano suggests we recognize and accept that “we can’t (ever) be completely certain, but we can do the best we can, for who we are. You do what you can to take care of yourself and to make (positive) outcomes more likely.” 

2. Knowledge – Education is powerful. Learning about uncertainty tolerance, understanding how anxiety works etc. can improve our ability to tolerate uncertainty. Watching the video and reading this blog can increase our understanding and decrease our anxiety. 

3. Flexible thinking – As Dr. Anne Marie Albano describes, it is learning to “roll with things when you can’t control them. The ability to make good use of accurate information”. Shifting our thinking when we get new information and allowing that to positively influence our behavior is what developing flexibility in our thinking is all about.

4. Create a healthy relationship to threat – Dr. Robichaud explains “a healthy relationship to threat (or uncertainty) is based on probability not possibility.” That is, I use my rational mind, not my anxious mind, to determine the likelihood of an event occurring. If it’s a low probability that it will happen, then, in Dr. Robichaud’s words, “I will not act as if it is a threat.”

5. Strategically gather information – Determine if the information gathering is helping and actually informing or is it another sneaky form of seeking reassurance? If it’s an attempt to find reassurance, then choose to stop. Intentionally choose when to gather information, and where to get it. That is healthy control. 

6. Problem solve from the rational mind – When there is a concrete issue (for example, job uncertainty) problem solve. Create a healthy plan using your rational mind not anxious mind. 

Dr. Robichaud describes a ‘wait and see’ approach. If you make a plan when you’re anxious, wait until the next day and review it. If it really is a good idea, it will still be a good one the following day when you’re less anxious. 

One of my favorite psychiatrists said to me “life is learning to live with uncertainty without being paralyzed by fear”. Uncertainty in life is unavoidable. The pandemic highlights this in neon. There are a lot of things in life that are out of our control. Fortunately, the way we choose to respond and relate to the unknown isn’t one of them.

© Victoria Maxwell


1 Boswell JF, Thompson-Hollands J, Farchione TJ, Barlw DH. Intolerance of uncertainty: a common factor in the treatment of emotional disorders. J Clin Psychol. 2013;69(6):630-645. doi:10.1002/jclp.21965).2 Lee JK, Orsillo SM, Roemer L, Allen LB. Distress and avoidance in generalized anxiety disorder: exploring the relationships with intolerance of uncertainty and worry. Cogn Behav Ther. 2010;39(2):126-136. doi:10.1080/16506070902966918

I’m struggling a bit right now with anxiety and depression. So I’m practicing what I preach. I’m being as kind to myself as I can and simplifying what I need to do. Instead of writing a full blog post and long newsletter, I’m sending out this mini-mental health memo to you.

A cute animal video. For your viewing pleasure, here’s Justin (baby) Beaver.

One of my tactics when I’m in this uncomfortable place is to watch cute animal videos as therapy. And guess what? It really is therapeutic. Scientific studies show watching cute videos is good for our brain and mood. We release all sorts of feel good chemicals when we see something cute – we’re wired to positively respond to cuteness. 

So go ahead, click on a couple or five. No need for guilt. Watching cute videos is scientifically proven to raise mood! Read this CBC article to learn how it happens.

I hope Justin Beaver brings a moment of joy to your day. Be kind to yourself my friends.

© Victoria Maxwell


Ok before anything. Let’s take a deep breath. I’m serious. Do this with me. Inhale 1 – 2 – 3. Pause. Exhale 1 – 2 – 3. A little better? 

Like many of you, if you subscribe to newsletters, many are focused on information about the unusual times we are in and what we can do to prevent the spread of the COVID-9 virus and the anxiety that surrounds it. 

I’m not going to repeat what you probably have in your inbox. Instead I’m going to share with you my experience and what I’ve unexpectedly gleaned from this collective situation. I realize many aren’t as fortunate as I am: a privileged middle-aged white woman, not working the frontlines, with some small savings in the bank, in my home country and healthy. The following “COVID19 Silver Linings” might not be relevant to you – but I offer it in the spirit of kindness and support.

1.It’s OK to go slow: I have felt strangely comforted by this surreal global experience. Let me explain. It’s put the brakes on my work – allowing the pace of my life to sloooooow down. Three of my speaking events have been cancelled and I expect more. Although this comes with financial consequences, I’m ok with this. Everyone is facing uncertainty. Businesses everywhere are having to make changes. I know I am not alone. We’re all going to be given time and wiggle room as we find solutions to support ourselves and each other. On my day off, like last Sunday, I made banana bread. For the life of me, I can’t remember the last time I baked banana bread! The more I slow down, the easier it is to breathe deeply and calm myself.

2. Perspective: A global pandemic puts things into perspective. Like any illness, it can help us reprioritize what’s really paramount and recognize what we thought was important (finding a better fitting pair of jeans for instance) maybe isn’t so important after all. I’ve phoned (yes, phoned not texted!) people I haven’t in awhile. A friend’s mother who I knew had fallen, a writerly friend (ok I did text her), good friend who’s been facing other life bumps.

3. One thing at a time tactic: What used to be urgent isn’t. I don’t feel the pressure to be busy-busy-busy and get my usual to do’s done. I identify the ONE thing I know needs to be done today. Then I take one slow, gentle step at a time to get it done. This ‘one-thing-at-a-time’ focus helps me soften into the present moment, allowing surfacing anxiety to pass on its own. If I get that ONE thing done, I identify the next one thing that needs to be done and so on. This is also a great antidote for fuzzy thinking.

I hope some of my experiences spark an insight or small gentle sense of ok-ness for you while we ride the waves of this. Share with me what you have discovered to help you stay grounded and connected. We really are in this together.

© Victoria Maxwell



I’ve noticed perfectionism hits me hardest at work. Or maybe it’s just easier for me to recognize it in that area of my life. I procrastinate tasks because I’m scared I won’t do it ‘right’. I start getting sleepy, not because I’m tired, but because I’m avoiding a job responsibility I feel has to be done flawlessly. 

When perfectionism is running roughshod all over me and my (now) mushy mind, one way I manage it is by creating my own mantras. These little reminders help put things into perspective, pivot my thinking and reassure me the sky isn’t falling. They help me get out of my head and into perfectly imperfect action. I write them on sticky notes and plunk them all over my desk. 

My current, self-penned “progress-not-perfection” prompts are the following. See if any help kick your perfectionistic paralysis to the sidelines.

1.Don’t overthink it

Sometimes I find myself rewriting and rewriting and rewriting AND rewriting blog posts, emails, even text messages. This ‘don’t overthink it’ quip tells me I can take things less seriously and trust myself (and other people). I’ve learned I can send off that email more quickly, do only one or two revisions of my posts (yes, including THIS one!) and trust my texts don’t have to be eloquent or even intelligible (not for friends anyway). 

2. Good enough really IS good enough

Those of you who’ve been reading my posts, or following me for some time, know this is my touchstone. It’s a comforting and truthful mantra. It reiterates what I often forget: other people don’t care as much about the mistakes I make, most won’t care at all, some won’t even notice them. Good enough, helps me get to done. Voltaire and Confucius are considered cool cats for a reason. They both understood the importance of good old ‘enough-ness’. Voltaire said, “The best is the enemy of the good” and Confucius, “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without”. Maybe it should be perfect is the enemy of done!?

3. What if… I let myself be happy? 

When I start to spin my wheels, or launch into a whirligig of negatives ‘what ifs’, I ask myself this: ‘what if… I let myself be happy?’. I think about this. Really think about it, just… letting myself be happy. Relaxing and letting myself trust I can do whatever is in front of me while letting go a bit. Whatever the task, I can experiment doing it without fear or worry. When I do this, I start to feel a little lighter, a little happier even. I also forget about why I should hang on to my white-knuckle control. Try it. It’s not a question we often ask ourselves. See what happens when you do. This little glimmer of happy helps me be more productive with less emphasis on doing things impeccably.  *Note: this isn’t when I’m in an arm wrestle with depression or acute anxiety – that needs a different approach and sometimes an appointment with my therapist or doctor.  

4. Leave it ugly. Let it be messy. 

I have a hang up about making documents look pretty. Documents that don’t need a design flair. Documents that don’t even get seen by the public. Like colour coordinating my brand colours in my on-line to do list I share with my virtual assistant, or neatly entering data just so with proper punctuation in my CRM. Yes, it looked nice. But it took me forever and to what end? I fretted over bolding titles, changing font colours instead of just getting the task done. It was a sneaky way to feel productive. Now I leave things ugly and let them be messy. 

5. Try it and see what happens

This one really took me a long time to really get in my bones. Indecision has been a comforting friend and way to avoid uncertainty in an ass-backward way. But the experimenting approach has brought the most fruit and a lot of relief. Indecision masked my fear of failure and belief that one wrong move would collapse my career. “Trying it” simple as it sounds, wasn’t exactly simple. Not for this ‘risk-adverse-need-a-guarantee-it’ll-all-turn-out-ok’ kinda girl.  I started by taking micro-sized healthy risks and seeing what the outcome was. Then gradually took on bigger and bigger ones. This is all relative. For example, first it was writing a cold sales email to a potential client. Then it was choosing to do a follow up phone call (egad!) to a client instead of another email. Instead of postponing my webinar again until I knew exactly what topic people wanted, I chose to do one that I was excited about and tried it out. 

These action steps might be easy for others but for me they were huge. Perfectionism is an insidious, heavy and often sneaky culprit. What were the outcomes? Phone calls were nerve racking but effective, and actually welcomed by some clients. The “Catalyst for Creativity and Courage”: Intro to Storytelling webinar was…well it WAS! It happened and was a success.  

With these aphorisms I experience less anxiety and self-criticism. They help me get my work done, get more done and get it done more easily. The momentum of caring less about perfection carries me to a place of completed good work rather than almost perfect but never done work. 

Now that is pretty perfect. Not that it needs to be. 

© Victoria Maxwell


I took several mental health days off this past week and will take one today, too. 

I didn’t even lie to my boss and say something like, “I think I’m coming down with a cold”. My boss is pretty understanding. I work for myself.

After a nudge from my lovely husband and gentle curiosity from my new psychiatrist, I gradually recognized what they already saw. That, yes, I’ve been depressed and I needed a bit of a break. I’m usually pretty good at knowing my warning signs, but this occasion, not so much. Sneaky little *bleep* — this depression beast. It still can do a doozie on me.

Taking time off and practicing self-care made me think. How can I take care of myself, but still honor my work responsibilities? I have emails to return; this blog post and a newsletter to write; clients to follow up with. I also need to keep it simple for myself and keep the pressure off.

Solution: pare down to only the essentials. There’s only one pressing email I need to return. Even while experiencing this brain fog and insecurity, I can manage one email. My client follow-ups aren’t set in stone. Waiting a day and a half won’t collapse my business. Refusing to rest and practice self-compassion just might. For my newsletter, missing my deadline will make me more anxious, meeting it will create some relief. I’ll make it easy and share a piece I wrote a while ago but never published. I won’t, on the other hand, set myself up for failure and attempt what currently feels like the herculean task of writing completely new content. It’s about kindness today.

To boot, this post I’m using is meant to bring some laughter. Another self-care tool I use.

If you’re feeling good, well this will hopefully just make your day that much brighter.

If you’re fighting the dynamite of depression like I am right now — I’m about two-thirds of the way out of the woods — well, I hope it does at least one of three things. It might, a) make you smile a teensy weensy bit, or b) distract you from any negative self-talk if only for a couple minutes (depending on how fast you read), and/or c) help to read something positive in nature as opposed to all the crap the news has to bring.

Side note: I want to make my opinion known. It shouldn’t be called ‘news’. It should be called ‘BAD news’. That would be accurate. Then it would also make it clearer what we’re actually feeding our minds when we peruse it. But, I digress.

If you’re feeling the twinges of any mental health issues, this is my wish: that you take care of yourself like you would if you had the flu. Take it easy on yourself; adjust your expectations for a bit; celebrate the little wins; see a doctor if you’re really ill and reach out and connect with a friend or partner. Let yourself be helped. And, read this post to feed your mind and soul with something that’s on the lighter side as you pass through this tough patch. Because, as the cliché goes: this too will pass. And it will. Meet you on the other side.article continues after advertisement

If you know someone who might need a boost, please forward this to them.

© Victoria Maxwell

The holiday season is here, but the joy of it may not be, especially at work. Maintaining good mental health on the job can be a challenge at the best of times. Maintaining it during the holidays can seem impossible.  

The pressure of the holly jolly season along with regular workload can give rise to feeling even more behind than usual and increase anxiety and poor mental health. Like I’m sort of feeling right now. 

Can you relate? Strategic planning for the next year, year end reviews for this last year. Project deadlines that were due…oh like a month ago. Those damn people who take vacations during December (how dare them?!). The obligatory staff/client/shareholder events that mean you get home after the kids have gone to bed and spent more time with your co-workers than your family – again. Add your own to the list.

To find a little relief and decrease triggers for anxiety and depression, I suggest capturing mini-moments of joy. Think of moments of joy like moments of silence – but without the focus on dead people. Personal, brief and meaningful. 

Now after you finish rolling your eyes and before you click another link, wait. I promise this hack is doable and effective. It won’t change your life. It might not even change your mood. But it will give you momentary relief from the hell-bent chaos and burden you may be feeling right now at work. The more often you do this simple exercise, the more it will build upon itself.

Finding these mini-moments of joy goes deeper than intellectualizing gratitude. It moves into a mind and body experience of micro-sized feelings of appreciation and simple pleasures. 

First, what is joy? See if you can guess.

Joy is…

1.Not a feeling in response to a fortunate event, but a condition of spirit. 

2. The name of my neighbor 2 blocks over who has 11 cats & wears big hats.

3. A brand of perfume. 

4. Extreme gladness, delight, or exultation of the spirit arising from a sense of well-being or satisfaction.

5. A mediocre movie with Jennifer Lawrence about some Tupperware woman.

6. Sorry, what? I nodded off. I need more coffee

The answers are 1, 3, 4 and 5 (and potentially 6 if I’ve caught you before your morning coffee). Joy is: a feeling, spiritual condition, perfume and a movie. Now THAT’S what I call versatility!  

The American Psychological Association defines it as “a feeling of extreme gladness, delight, or exultation of the spirit arising from a sense of well-being or satisfaction.”

I like Existential philosopher James Park’s take on it: joy is “not a feeling in response to a fortunate event, but a condition of spirit”. It is the basis of our being. Often latent it is our basic nature. Now isn’t that optimistic? 

The mental health benefits of joy are real.  

When we experience joy, the brain releases the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. People with depression are known to have lower levels of serotonin.1 

Positive emotions, like joy, can decrease stress hormones and build emotional strength.2

But how to bring this joyful nature out? The easiest way is to become aware of the tiniest feelings of joy that arise naturally while you’re at work. I’m not talking about feeling states extending for a period of minutes. I’m talking about seconds or nano-seconds of joy that occur throughout the course of a day. Focusing on these tiny slices will ‘prime’ your body and mind to see and feel more of them. I take a deeper dive into joy in my workshop “Creating Wellness and Reclaiming Self-Care” with some fun, interactive exercises.

The Hack: How to Capture Mini-Moments of Joy to Improve Mental Health at Work

1.Make a conscious decision to be open to itsy-bitsy bits of joy at your workplace for one day (or even a half a day). 

2. Define what joy feels like for you. What does it feel like in your body, your mind and your spirit? Typically, these are small bubbles of positive emotions or sensations of relief or comfort in your body. 

For me, I know I’ve hit a blip of joy because the corners of my mouth give rise to a slight smile. I feel a little lightness in my body like my muscles have relaxed. The stream of (often negative) thoughts and worries stop for a split second and I am in the present (for like 1.5 seconds). 

3. When something triggers an inkling of joy, pause. Experience it. Notice it. Breathe with it.

4. Note what, if any, physical sensations go along with it and where those sensations occur in your body.

5. Notice what triggered said moment of joy. You can track it to see if it consistently elicits joy for you.

6. Take another gentle and conscious breath and go about your business.

It’s that simple. 

Example of mini-moments of joy are: 

  • Completing a task on your to do list
  • Petting your co-worker’s dog (that is of course if you like dogs. I’m a sucker for them.)
  • Laughing at a joke said in the staff meeting
  • Seeing the winner of the staff’s ugly cookie decorating contest
  • When your computer screen unfreezes
  • Seeing birds fly by your office window
  • Sipping coffee or tea on your break
  • Getting through to the tech department within a minute

Being open to and paying conscious attention to the mini-moments of joy can, even in the most stressful day, bring you out of your head and into the present moment. This gives both your body and your brain a break before you dive in the flurry of work that’s waiting for you. 

I use this hack on a daily basis at work. Even during my most stressful work days, noticing mini-moments of joy clears my head and reduces my anxiety. It re-energizes me even when I’m in a rotten mood. Try it and see what happens for you. Happy joy hunting at work for a little bit better mental health.

© Victoria Maxwell

  1. Carrie Murphy https://www.healthline.com/health/affects-of-joy#9 
  2. Create Joy and Satisfaction https://www.mhanational.org/create-joy-and-satisfaction 

December is almost here and the pressure to have the perfect holiday experience can come along with it.

Not only that, but we live in an aspirational, Instagram-curated world. Maybe we always have (minus the social media bit). The “great American dream”, “the pursuit of happiness”. Capitalist culture is based on the quest of bigger, better, MORE. 

Because of this, I didn’t recognize the part perfectionism is still playing in my life. I thought I was a rather “recovered perfectionist”. Oh, our blind spots! I thought I had left most of those tendencies behind or at least were aware of them when they popped up. Afterall, one of my most popular posts on Psychology Today is “How To Escape the Vicious Triangle of Depression, Anxiety and Perfectionism”.

My favourite quote is: Good enough really IS good enough.

I actively use it to remind me to send that email after revising it only twice – instead of 11 times; to finish that (or this) blog post even when I have the urge to do just one more rewrite; to NOT research 15 different types of dog beds before choosing one.

Perhaps because I got some distance from my perfectionistic patterns, I started to think of perfectionism as harmless, like an annoying party guest. “Oh, yeah, I’m such a perfectionist – I have to have everything just so or I just can’t relax.”

But in his TEDMed talk “Our dangerous obsession with perfectionism is getting worse”, social psychologist Thomas Curran explains perfectionism has been on “an astronomical rise over the past few years.” It conceals, he goes on to say “a host of psychological issues that can lead to depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation”.

It erodes good relationships by setting unattainable standards. It cuts accomplishments, never allowing any celebration or feelings of gratitude. The very feeling of which in fact supports good mental health.

Far from being merely an annoying party guest, if left unfettered, perfectionism can become a destructive live-in monster.

Interestingly, perfectionism kept me sane and safe when my world as child wasn’t even close to that. When things around me were exploding, it was easier and less terrifying to (unconsciously and erroneously) believe it was my fault.

The belief gave me hope. If I could just behave better, be better, do whatever it was more perfectly then maybe I could stop the chaos around me. In essence, my striving for perfection as a child and youth gave me a sense of control, even if it never worked.

As an adult now, my drive for the ideal, works against me. Knowing that, however, doesn’t mean it’s a simple decision to let it go.

There’s some hardwiring that needs to get well, rewired. The good news is our brain is like a neurological Gumby, flexible and malleable. Rewiring our thinking and re-routing past patterns of behaviour is possible.

Slowly (and I mean very slowly) I have started that rewiring and begun to embrace the perfectly imperfect.

 How? Here are 9 Strategies I use:

1.  Take it seriously. That’s actually the biggest one.  Realize perfectionism, as much as I scoff at it, dismiss it or even laud it as a motivating force in my life, has a corrosive and potentially devastating nature. That way it’s on my radar and I’ll attend to it as part of my self-care.

 2. I choose to recognize that perfectionism, NOT me is the problem. It’s a learned habit that served me when I was young, not a sign of irreparable damage. Note, I use the power of choice (over and over again) to see this problematic habit is not who I am. 

3. I bring my awareness to my patterns of perfection, particularly the negative self-talk that accompanies – or more likely precedes and drives – my perfectionistic actions. Notice when this type of behaviour is triggered and what activities are most involved with it. Examples for me are: writing blogs, emails, even texts sometimes! Decision making about my simple steps in my career, resistance to celebrate accomplishments.

4. Honour process and progress over impeccable outcomes. Yeah – sort of a bumper sticker ‘the journey is the destination’ kind of thing. But it’s a good mantra and reminder.

 5. Make choices that feed my soul, instead of fuel the ‘flawless’. I don’t use Instagram much. I watch “The Ellen Show” because she celebrates being human and laughs a lot. I go for runs in the rain and splash in puddles so I get muddy.

 6. Allow myself a temper tantrum when it’s not perfect. Paradoxically, it helps me realize it doesn’t need to be.

 7. Make my own decisions when normally I’d ask for help and see what happens. It builds trust that I can depend on myself even when I’m uncertain I’m making the ‘right’ choice.

 8. Similar to #6, take small, safe imperfect risks to prove the sky won’t fall. My friend, Leah Goard, calls it taking “inspired imperfect action”.

9. Finally, I repeat my mantra “good enough, really IS good enough” when I’m stuck in perfectionistic procrastination paralysis.

 These steps build my tolerance for perfectly imperfect imperfection, for uncertainty, and eventually cultivate more and more acceptance for myself, just as I am. Because like the quote I have on my vision board says “We were born to be real, not perfect.”What do you do when you notice you’re caught in perfectionism? I’d love you to send me your tips. Put them in the comments or email me at victoria@victoriamaxwell.com. I’ll put them in a future post so we can all live more comfortably and compassionately with imperfection.

© Victoria Maxwell


Indecision can fan the flames of anxiety and really do a doozie if you have an anxiety disorder. We live in a society that reveres the ‘just do it’ mentality. Allowing confusion to be part of an effective decision making process just doesn’t jive with our ‘expert-self-reliant-I’ve-got-it-together’ kind of attitude.

But here’s the secret. It’s ok to not know; to live in ambiguity. Yikes, you say. Oh god, no. Has your anxiety spiked? I know mine does sometimes when I consider this. As counter intuitive as it may seem to our society’s mandate about always being in control, it’s ok to live in uncertainty. It actually can be much more beneficial than pressuring ourselves to make a choice when we are in fact, in doubt of that decision or don’t have enough information to feel good about our choice. It’s a valuable skill to be able to recognize when we are not in a position to make a wise choice.

But how do you live comfortably with ambiguity so it doesn’t drive you into a panic attack or analysis paralysis? Make it official (the indecisiveness, not the panic attack). That is: choose to be indecisive. With that very statement you’ve made a decision.

But don’t stop there. Instead pick a date, say in three days, a week or a month to revisit the conundrum. Consciously choose to postpone a decision.  Leah Goard, a fab business coach and friend, calls it ‘delayed decision making’. I call it the ‘just park it’ process (and pick up later).

“Basically,” Leah says, “we don’t realize that like physical things in our lives – our thoughts, ideas and decisions need a specific time and ‘place’ to rest so we can let go of them while we literally and intuitively information gather. If we don’t have a way to set them aside and trust that they will wait there for us, our minds will continue to kick that decision back into the forefront of our minds repeatedly because we are afraid to forget about them. Then the swirl of inner chaos ensues”.

Inner chaos, monkey mind, self-eviscerating self-talk. Can you relate? I certainly can.

During this ‘park it’ time (sort of like a kindergarten nap for unsolved decisions), let new information unfold organically AND also do the concrete research gathering that’s needed.

At that next date, see where you’re at. If you still don’t know, but know you must make a choice, make the best decision possible with the information you have. Then take ‘imperfect action’ and remember the mantra: ‘good enough is good enough’. Read more about ‘good enoughness’ here.

Surprisingly or not (I can’t decide – just kidding), when you commit to a particular option knowing you did so to the best of your ability with the information you had at the time, you will find the results are always pretty darn good; great even.

It’s an on-going, moment to moment process really, to relax with muddlement. I have however come to understand each and every thing in life has its own unique wise timetable and often, if not always, it’s not the one I would impose on it. This is particularly true when my scheduling is propelled by fear. Part of learning to be at ease with my own ambivalence is deeply trusting Life’s flow. Rather than trying to push the river; direct the river, I am slowly (oh so slowly) learning to trust the river.

The ‘Just Park It’ In/Decision Making Process Cheat Sheet (or kindergarten naps for unsolved decisions)

1. Remind yourself it’s OK (wise even) to not know
2. Make it official: choose to be indecisive
3. Park it: pick a date to revisit the choice
4. During ‘park it’ time: allow information to unfold and/or gather research
5. At the next date: park it again or take ‘imperfect action’
6. Remember: ‘good enough is good enough’
7. Practice trusting the river

© Victoria Maxwell

If you’d like to read more about the ‘Good Enough is Good Enough’ mantra and create your own, click here to download my free CRAZY NAKED TRUTH e-guide.

Leah Goard is a soul-searching business and life strategist, serial entrepreneur, professional organizer, writer, speaker and independent mom. To learn more visit www.leahgoard.com.

Wabi-sabi. (Whah-bee/Saw-bee). C’mon say it with me. I know you want to. 

Just saying it makes me feel a little better. These two strange words and the concept it encapsulates, has changed the way I look at failure, my mental health, my life, humanity. Seriously. I was introduced to it by the same dear friend who sent me the link of the Thich Nhat Hanh recording about bringing kindness into mindfulness which I wrote in this post.

Yes, she is one wise woman, this friend of mine! You know who you are. 

What is wabi-sabi? Contrary to what I thought it was, it’s not related to wasabi or sushi. Though it is of Japanese origin. 

Derived from Buddhist teachings and ancient Japanese philosophical ideals, wabi-sabi is a world perspective centered on the acceptance of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”. 1

Doesn’t that bring you a little bit of relief just reading that? 

Another term for it is ‘flawed beauty’. The modern translation might be ‘perfectly imperfect’. 

The Japanese art form, Kintsugi reflects it brilliantly. Kintsugi is the process where cracked pottery is repaired with gold lacquer to highlight the beauty of the imperfection or damage rather than hiding it. 

Why have I found this idea so powerful? Because in our curated Instagram lives, it celebrates imperfection that inevitably is part of life. That’s my kind of world view. 

When recovering from mental illness, or an addiction, or let’s face it, just plain living life, mis-steps are part of the process, not an exception to it. Like the saying goes: Progress not perfection. Its approach to beautiful messiness is a pragmatic and compassionate one. An approach that, particularly with the creative process or the onslaught of depression, can be sorely absent.

I introduce this concept in my creativity playshops. You’ll also have a chance to experience it in my *FREE* webinar Catalyst for Creativity and Courage: Intro to Telling Your Stories on October 25.

I partner wabi-sabi with an improv exercise that underlines the very essence of it. No, we don’t thwack each other with blobs of gold paint or break glasses and put them back together again with glitter tape. It’s called the Failure Bow.

The Transformative Power of the Failure Bow

The ‘failure bow’ hails from the world of improv, but has wider applications than just on the stage. It, along with understanding wabi-sabi, can reframe failure as part of success and the creative process.

The idea of celebrating mistakes has taken off even in corporate settings. You can find variations of it at MomsRising’s “joyful funerals” for failed projects or FailFest as organized by DoSomething.Org. Beth Kanter’s article explains them in more details. 

Innovation and creativity die if stifled by the fear of failure.  Recovery can be stopped in its tracks, and the joy of living can too if perfectionism isn’t tamed. 

Here’s the exercise. Do it and I guarantee you’ll feel a little happier.

 ‘Failure Bow’ (takes less than 30 seconds) 
1. You can do this alone or in a group.

2. Stand in a ‘super hero’ pose. You know, we all have one – even if we haven’t done it since we were 10. Feet hip width apart; hand on hips, chest out, head up and an ear to ear grin.

3. Then lift your arms in the universal “V” victory position and happily, shamelessly, proudly say: “I failed!”

4. And… you guessed it…take a bow (don’t shy away from it – full on bow, bending at the waist – several times if the spirit moves you).

5. Then if you’re in a group, everyone else around you claps, whoots, and hollers for you, celebrating your gaffe with you.

Variations: 

In the Moment Failure Bow

As soon as you’ve noticed you’ve made a mistake – immediately do the failure bow to counteract any self-judgment that might rise. The smile alone will help.

Intentional Snafu Surrender Bow 

  • Before you get into your super hero pose, think of a mistake you made that you’re still hanging onto (big or small doesn’t matter). 
  • Get in your super hero pose holding that mistake in your mind.
  • As you lift your arms, imagine the energy of that snafu running up your arms to the tips of your fingers.
  • As you yell “I failed” and bend over to take a bow, imagine all the energy and emotion of that mistake drain out of your hands and surrender into the earth. 

Why does it work? 
1. It helps us redefine failure, Ted DesMaisons, Stanford University instructor, suggests, it can “(lead) us to more productive action or more empowered choices going forward.”

2. According to a Beth Kanter’s 2013 Harvard Business review article it “alters our physiological response to failure by removing the demons of self-doubt and self-judgment. Without those holding us back, we can be more flexible and improve results and learning.”

3. Both the wabi-sabi ethos and the simple failure bow exercise gives a positive view of mistakes preventing us from falling into immobility and self-condemnation.

4. They offer a psychological and physical approach to fully embody failure as part of creativity, success, work and life. 

Through wabi-sabi and the failure bow we can learn, flub by flub, to take ourselves and our mistakes less seriously and increase our self-compassion.

Here’s a filmed version of me explaining the Failure Bow. Send me YOUR failure bow videos.

Let’s unite in the love of our failures and create a FAILURE REVOLUTION! The world will be a kinder, softer, more perfectly imperfect place because of it.

© Victoria Maxwell


1 Koren, Leonard (1994). Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers. Stone Bridge Press. ISBN 1-880656-12-4.