I’m Maritta and this is my story of perfection

I have always been a perfectionist. And I have always been proud of it. It has been my greatest joy to make other people feel proud of me because of who I am and what I do. But it has also brought me a lot of fears and dissatisfaction in my life growing up. Over time I’ve come to realize that overworking and not living my life to the fullest might not have been the best choice. Have I lived for others? Or have I lived for myself? Am I driven by the pursuit of perfection? Or am I driven by the avoidance of failure...

This is my story. It is the story of overcoming my fears and empowering myself and others.

I grew up in a small town in Estonia, where everyone knew everyone, and the safe environment there provided an opportunity for a happy childhood. The school was right next to my home, I wasn't able to miss a day at school. Nor did I want it, because I was a good student. 

My family has played a big role in this. They have been very supportive my whole life. Looking back, now being an adult myself, I know that my parents did their best to make mine and my brothers’ childhood carefree and as long-lasting as possible. I didn't have to go to work when I was a teenager, because my parents always found a way to give us freedom. They worked hard for it so that we could have summer vacations. 

I truly liked going to school, studying, getting good grades, which made my parents proud. It was my gift in return to them. I appreciate the values I brought from home: love, warmth, support and security. My parents let me be myself, I had a voice. In our home, it was normal to show feelings and express love. 

I knew my only job was to study, and I wanted to be the best so that my parents would be proud of me. My goal was to achieve the best, my goal was to be the best: the best daughter, the best student, the best companion. School days were spent studying and I was very dedicated to it, weekends were for fun - fortunately I had a great social life! 

My goal was to finish high school successfully, to have fun doing that and I managed so. I had very good grades, I remember the feeling of satisfaction coming out of being successful for myself and for my parents. I also remember how it felt to be a failure when I had lower grades. This happened rather rarely, but still it upset me deeply. I wished I was better and more close to perfect, but nobody cannot be perfect.

Still now, my family is very important to me. Best thing that has given me strength and what I have kept with me during all my life - my mother always doubted the world but never me. She trusted me. All my life I have had this feeling inside of me that my parents were so supportive and built a perfect childhood. Being in my 30s now I still don’t want to let them down. 

My past gives me a smile whenever I think about it.

Although it was nice to live in the countryside, my soul longed for a big city. I dreamed of being an independent woman, so I left home when I was 18 to start my studies at a university. It is quite common in Estonia for youngsters from rural areas to leave homes to study at a university in the city. That's what I did, dreaming of a career as a journalist. What happened, however, was that I ended up studying marketing and advertising in Tallinn. I focused on my studies and graduated cum laude from the university, fulfilling my next dream.

I knew it was expected from me and I couldn't let myself or my parents down. After graduating from university, I was faced with the challenge of finding the first real job in my life. Without any experience. People around me warned me that without the right acquaintances and experiences I would not find a job in my chosen field. But I proved the opposite. 

I admitted to myself that I was at the beginning of my career ladder and just getting a foot in the world of advertising and marketing would be a great start. I got a job as the secretary of the advertising department of Estonia's largest weekly newspaper - the best start to dream of. While looking for a job, it became clear to me that in the meantime, positive energy, presence, willpower and great passion are sometimes a way closer to your dream and into people's hearts. And overcoming fears is challenging!

I was afraid of a lot of things - do people generally like me and even when I make mistakes, am I accepted. My circle of acquaintances grew rapidly and a lot of energy went into self-proofing. Suddenly I had to prove not only to myself, to the school teachers, and to my parents, but to my employer, to colleagues who were all older, more experienced and smarter than me. This is where my desire and will to prove myself to others began to grow more. It reduced my self-confidence, I turned beyond myself. At the same time, I did not have the skills and knowledge to look inside myself.

Finally, after 1,5 years as an advertising secretary, I applied for a job in a media agency. It was a life-changing step that brought me a lot of experiences. Once again, a whole new environment, new people, new expectations. But the fear of not being accepted by others and desire to prove was strong enough inside me that I continued to work with dedication. I learned through the hard way that being myself is the key, but this has led me to being committed, dedicated and passionate in everything that I do. Today I know that we all have to have a support system, tools and knowledge on how to be the best version of yourself for yourself. 

Biggest obstacle - fear of not being taken seriously.

Let me share with you a little bit more about my personal story, my biggest learnings, and why my job is so important to me personally.

In the past, being a young woman in industry has made my professional life harder in some aspects. There have been moments where I have felt undervalued as a woman, especially by some male clients. It has required a great deal of work and extra effort to be perceived as a specialist. Often I have had to tell my age, and work extra time to prove my worth. And I have come to realize that this is something that has pushed me to work harder, to give more value, and to achieve more. This feeling that I have to give way more to be taken seriously has haunted me for many years.

My passion for marketing has remained the same

For now I have been in the marketing business for almost 13 years working with different companies and people. During my professional journey I've been blessed with co-workers, customers, friends - they have helped me to see in which direction I should go, whether to take the easy or the hard way. 

I have learned a lot through my experiences. The field of marketing is always filled with challenges and everything is changing rapidly. I have learned and practiced to be open-minded and curious. Marketing is very versatile and competitive - survival and success have always depended on my own development. No one will push to develop you unless you want to. It is impossible to get by somehow without any systematic development plan and consistent learning. Passion to grow and self-development have helped me immensely. Otherwise I would have burned out mentally and physically.

What I have experienced also is that you need to get to know other people quickly - their features, unique skills, knowledge, differences, what they are very good at, how to approach them and so on. Ability to listen is a powerful skill, which supports the ability to lead. I believe that every marketer who wants to work successfully with others needs to have leadership skills. It takes time and effort to do that, I have felt overwhelmed and stressed, but never gave up the desire to achieve and to become a better version of myself.

How I came to live with passion?

I have been told that one of my specialties is my authenticity, my strong commitment and skill to make others feel important. I believe that being empathetic, connected and able to bring the best features out of others is definitely very beneficial for team work. Building trust in relationships doesn’t come overnight -  I’m continuously working on my ability to make an effort, deliver more than expected, by giving some extra value. I believe that performance cannot be consistent without trust.

I think it is important to know my own strengths and weaknesses, to acknowledge and develop those constantly. I haven’t always been self-aware and motivated. I have been close to burn-out, been struggling with lack of self-confidence, overwhelmed with difficult tasks and situations. Looking back, those times I did everything that I could to be perfect and I was afraid of making mistakes. Now I appreciate the mistakes as they are opportunities to grow personally and professionally. This attitude comes from my mindset change and my decision to work systematically on myself. And I accept that work on myself is a process with ups and downs. I feel that the most important decision is to start making changes and to commit to them. I hope to continue with passion and to never allow fears hold me back.

I have been in constant battle with the decisions and motivation to complete certain things. I have avoided taking on challenges that may cause me to fail. And I have been afraid of being judged by others. But I took one real challenge just lately: I left my career in my home country and moved to live in Spain and started to work for a new project I strongly believe in. This decision came as a shock as well as for my employer and for my family. Even to myself but the feeling was so strong that I had to take the leap of faith! I just felt I couldn’t be 100% happy where I was, although I was very successful with a cozy position in my work with a lot of trustworthy clients, etc. It just felt so strongly that I needed to do this! My life in my comfort zone didn’t satisfy me any longer. And maybe I just wasn't mature or confident enough earlier to understand that it is okay to live by your own dreams, not by what others think of me.

I knew this opportunity would force me to develop more skills and abandon my comfort zone. Of course, this was scary and usually I would have likely turned it down. I would have been afraid that I'm not smart enough to tackle a new learning curve and maybe I would be seen as a failure or let someone down...I wouldn't have allowed others to see my flaws and most likely I would have talked about my achievements, but never about my failures.

So, here I am – living in Spain since January 2020 and as I went through the Powerful Marketer Program myself, I started to see so many answers to myself. Studies show that perfectionists aren't actually trying to be perfect. Mostly, they are avoiding the feeling of not being good enough. 

What I have come to realize is that you don't have to feel perfect. It is okay to make mistakes. Everything does not have to be perfect. But everything needs to be in process. You should accept and celebrate your success.

Can you overcome the seemingly never-ending pursuit of perfection?

Today I can assure you - there's nothing we can't overcome if we put our minds to it. What I have learned now is that the awareness itself will help you get to the core and figure out what it's really all about. I truly believe perfectionism is a risk factor for everything in life. You can't finish tasks, you can't live without stress either personally or professionally - you never feel good enough… 

But life is not about being perfect, life is about living to the fullest. Start with developing your mindset from being perfect to being in constant progress and I promise to you  -  it will make life much easier and more rewarding!      

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