F**k “Perfect”

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photo by Marc Royce

photo by Marc Royce

Hello my name is Helenna and I am a perfectionist.

I’m not recovering…yet…I’m trying to be “recovering” but perfectionism still has it’s hooks in me.  I’ve been this way for well, forever.  If I’m not able to do something well, I don’t usually like to do it.  That is, unless I’m so bad at it that it’s just funny to me and therefore I embrace the suckage and enjoy the horribleness with laughter and a giddy smile. But for the most part, if I set a goal, make a commitment, am depended on by someone else, I will do everything to complete the task or whatever it is, to the absolute best of my ability.

Now it’s great to have high standards for oneself, but it can also be debilitating and anxiety inducing.  I’m pretty Type A… obviously, but I’m also full of life and freedom and the two are sometimes completely at odds. As a producer, perfectionism is golden.  As a creative it can stifle me in the middle of when catharsis and expression could be at its peak.  I’m developing my ability to breathe through the dangers and grips of perfectionism, but every day can be a struggle.

Why am I discussing this here on Ms. In The Biz?  Well, a few reasons.

With the release of the book and the press that it’s starting to generate, there is that moment that happens when you realize that the thing you’ve been working so hard on for so long is now out there to be judged by the world and have opinions openly talked about and shared.  This is with any creative endeavor.  Heck, it’s practically the same thing as putting up a facebook post and waiting for the “likes” or lack of “likes.”

Where is my perfectionist self having problems?  Well, it’s all about letting down the guard of “how I’m seen by others”.  I pride myself on being genuine, real, and open as much as possible in interviews and online in social media.  But I have a deep dark secret… well aside from the perfectionist thing.  I’m a complete “people pleaser” and because press is all about “spin”, and I’ve done a zillion branding and marketing courses out the ying-yang,  I’ll sometimes give into the “spin” of something more than the “imperfect truth”.

Now, I’m bringing up all of this now because I was recently a guest on the Inside Acting Podcast Actor’s Roundtable Series that just came out with Part 2 of 3.  In my opinion, I think I sound like a “manic overly enthusiastic passionate happy go lucky chick on speed” who just needed to puke a rant out of her face by way of her vocal chords.   Was I excited to be there with these other amazing artists? Yes!  The energy in the room was awesome and I told myself to just let it all go, say whatever I needed to say in the moment, and share my journey as honestly as possible.

The truth is that I usually have the “sound bites” prepared when I go into interviews.  I have all my talking points lined out so I make sure to hit as many as possible.  I purposely do my best to TALK SLOWLY (well, slower than my usual fast a zillion miles an hour pace) so that I’m easily understood and make sure that what I’m saying actually lands on the person I’m talking to.  But you know what?  I just let myself be free at this roundtable. I let myself just talk and let stuff out and it was a great feeling.  I purged out 2014 and ushered in 2015.   I know that when people listen to this they might just in fact hear a “manic overly enthusiastic passionate happy go lucky chick on speed” like I do.  Or perhaps they’ll connect with me and think I can totally relate to her journey.  But I have to let the “people pleaser perfectionist” in me just not care.  Because life is too short.  If I was careful about every word I spoke during this discussion then I wouldn’t have been real and who wants fake? Not me.  Could I have spoken more slowly, been more mindful?  Sure. But that’s not what happened so c’est la vie.

Back from 2008 to 2014 I did 100 episodes of a vlog that was called “Helenna’s Tinseltown Tuesdays”. (All of the vids are now loaded onto Youtube so that the vlog is in one place).   At the time I was really careful to keep everything positive and upbeat because well, that’s generally how I am, positive and upbeat.  But there was also a lot of struggle and hardship that I didn’t share because it wasn’t “the brand” that I was “putting out there”.  And you know what?  It was exhausting to try to keep up the constant happiness, but at the time that’s what people wanted to see from me – the ball of positive energy.  For me though, if I don’t let my dark brooding side out to play once in awhile for fear that my “perfect” self will be seen as less than “perfect”, then I kind of feel like exploding.

So 2014 became the “year of real” for me, the year where I stopped worrying about this fictional “perfect” and where I embraced the many sides of what makes up Me.  I let all of the dark and the light come out to play and it has felt amazing.  I feel whole.  I also stopped doing what I thought my LA agent “wanted”, what I thought the industry wanted from me….I started doing what I (with a purposely capital “I”) wanted for the first time.  If you listen to the podcast you’ll hear that I left my LA agent and didn’t look back.  I started really educating myself in the world of producing.  I rocked out a bunch of my own projects and worked with a ton of awesome people and collaborated with dream teams.  2014 became the year that I stopped trying to “people please” the entertainment industry and I found my true self in the process.  It became all about being approached by awesome collaborators who wanted to work with me as an actor, singer, producer,  writer….or any combination thereof!  

2015 for me is all about grabbing life by the horns and saying “fuck it.”  I am who I am, and who I am is pretty dang cool.  The perfectionist in me is freaking out even as I type that line saying “but….but….but….” and just “butting” a million things.  But the Me, the real core of who I am is saying “who cares?”  It’s time to let the handcuffs of perfectionism go and allow myself to sound like a idiot sometimes. And yes I get the irony that even that phrase “sound like an idiot” is bathed in perfectionist judgment and is possibly offensive.  But I’m not going to judge that either because “perfect” is a myth anyways….  As my poetic hero Leonard Cohen states “there is a crack in everything, that’s how the lights gets in.” 

P.S. My husband usually reads all my posts to check for grammar and any nonsensical-ness.  But….he didn’t read it this time, so take that “perfectionist insecurity” fairy. Take that!

Helenna Santos

About Helenna Santos

Helenna Santos is the Founder of “Ms. In The Biz” and a producer, writer, and actor with Mighty Pharaoh Films. She can often be found on panels and appearances at conventions such as San Diego “Comic-Con”, and has been interviewed by major press outlets including CNN and FOX News. ​Her work as a contributing writer has been featured in MovieMaker Magazine, Backstage Magazine, and IndieWire, and she co-authored the book "Thriving in Hollywood! Tenacious Tales and Tactics from Ms. In The Biz". She is currently in post-production on 2 feature films that she produced and stars in, the adventure/thriller "At Your Own Risk" and the sci-fi/thriller "RESOUND".

  • Paul J Porter

    Go Helenna!

  • William J Beaumont

    Helenna,

    I really like this post, thanks a lot for sharing. As someone who has never met or spoken to you and who just listened to part 2 of the podcast, I can assure you, you don’t sound like a chick on speed.

    I find it truly remarkable how we see reflections of our lives everywhere once we know what to look for. I’m going through what sounds like a similar personal journey at the moment and since I’ve started taking it on and engaging with it, I’ve noticed echoes of the same process in other people everywhere I turn, which is both very encouraging (in that I’m not alone) and a little discouraging (what do you mean I’m not special?!?).

    Anyway, just wanted to let you know that I’m very much in the camp of people who can “totally relate to her journey”.

    Happy New Year and I wish you all the best for 2015!

    • Thank you so much for writing William. It means so much that you took the time to listen to the podcast and read this article…and that you can relate. It’s so nice (as you mentioned) to feel like you aren’t alone. THANK YOU and Happy New Year!!!! ooxxooxox <3

  • Abby

    Love it, girl!! You are awesome. And I can totally relate!! Thanks for the inspiration. Keep on shining, woman! <3

    • Thanks Abby!!!! Sidebar: are you on facebook? I can’t find you!

  • Rob

    Hello Helenna,
    I kind of stumbled upon this article, and I’m not familiar with you or your work. But I do relate to your feelings.
    I am currently in the middle of a burn-out and depression, which is affecting both my work and private life. A lot of that has to do with the people pleasing behaviour. You give yourself completely away in your work, which is often the case with creative work.
    I my case, I gave myself completely away, but in big part of helping and pleasing another person, this all backfired on me and got a feeling that noone was ever thankful for everything I did. Instead of saying “fuck it” and move on, I have all these feelings of resentment and anger, and am also being scared to death not being asked for this person’s next project, which isn’t something I should care about. All of this comes from extreme people pleasing behaviour, and after a couple of months (!) I finally crashed down.
    I’m sorry to dump this story on you, but you seem to be 20 steps ahead of me, and you are on a point where I need to be. I think it’s very brave and courageous that you fight against your perfectionism like that, it’s not something that will ever go away, but you can weapon yourself againt it, and that takes a lot of energy, something I severly lack at the moment.

    All the best for 2015!

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m so glad that you got something out of this piece. So often I’ll write something and wonder if I’m the only one who feels a certain way. So yes, you are definitely not alone. I’m constantly battling with the “people pleasing perfectionist” side of me and I can absolutely relate to crashing down. Sending you strength and healing vibes and wishing you an amazing and gloriously free from guilt and anger 2015 😉 – Helenna

  • Lewis Lewis

    Very like it

  • Nicole Fong

    Hi Helenna,

    Just finished listening to your part 2 of the amazing Inside Acting Podcast, and I was very inspired by what you said. Never thought you were on chick on speed, just a insanely motivated, passionate, go getter that I think we should all aspire to be more like! I love that they brought you on (along with all the other incredibly talented actors at that table!), and it was great to hear your story, and piece of your journey.

    I met you briefly, when I first arrived to LA, at your Ms.In the Biz women get together at the end of 2013 (I think) – where I also met the ninja queen, Bonnie Gillespie for the first time. It’s great to hear the bounds and steps you’ve made in your career and relationships since then, and I know you’ll find success in whatever you do – keep rocking on!! 🙂