Perfect English 🙅‍♀️ Stop Procrastinating & Start Speaking!

Lesson Overview

Lesson Summary 

Are you waiting for perfect English before you actually start speaking in conversations? Your confidence and fluency will improve if you focus LESS on perfection! Women learning English Check out – A place for international women to build their confidence and English speaking fluency!

In this lesson, I’ll share 4 Steps to help you worry LESS about being perfect so that you can get MORE speaking practice in English conversations (and become more fluent!!)

CLICK HERE to read the full lesson transcript.

Video Transcript
Section 1
Stop trying to be perfect! I’m Emma from mmmEnglish and today I’ve got a video for you in which we’re going to talk about perfectionism. Perfectionism. And why it’s holding you back. Your confidence and your fluency in English is going to improve if you can focus on being less perfect.

Now, of course, I’ve got my English students in mind but what I’m sharing here in this video today is relevant to all different parts of life. This video is full of advanced vocabulary, words that are going to help you to impress and inspire people if you can learn to use them.

Don’t forget to turn on the subtitles if you need to and then strap in and enjoy the ride!

On the surface, perfection seems like a good idea, right? It seems like a positive characteristic. Your aim is to be perfect. You’re meticulous, you pay attention to the details so that you don’t make mistakes. You like to do a good job. You really want to impress, right? But really, perfectionism is about control. It’s about being in control, being prepared and looking good, right? Knowing what to say, not looking stupid.

Of course, you know we all like to be in control. It’s where we feel comfortable, it’s when we feel safe. Right here inside our magical little comfort zone. Speaking in another language with other people in an actual conversation is probably one of the most out of control experiences that you can have. You haven’t mastered the language yet, you can’t be confident that you’ll always know the words to say or that you’ll understand the question correctly. It’s impossible, right? It’s impossible to be perfect in this situation.

And yet this is what so many of you expect. You expect yourselves to be perfect and if you’re not, then you shame yourself for it. You put yourself down and most often we fear our imperfection so much that we avoid taking action at all. You know days or weeks or months go past and we don’t do anything. We make excuses.

I’m just a little bit too busy right now.
I’ve got too many things on.
I don’t have anyone around me that I can speak English with so I can’t practise. That’s why I can’t improve.

You procrastinate! We make excuses that we don’t want to do something until we can do it perfectly or until it’s easy and it comes naturally so much so that sometimes we never actually get to the point of taking action in the first place, right? We’ve talked ourselves out of it before we’ve even got a chance to try. Does that sound familiar? Does it?

Or maybe you do manage to work up the courage to start something, to join a conversation but then after you pick out all of the things that you did wrong. It wasn’t good enough.

It is a really tough situation, you know? If you do something, well it’s not good enough. But if you don’t do something, well you can’t learn from it and make progress and improve it next time.

By not speaking, you compromise your opportunity to meet new people or to build your experience in conversations and broaden your comfort zone. So all of this is why I wanted to create this video. If you can focus less on being perfect accept that you’re gonna make mistakes and also that you’re going to learn from them, then you can have more real conversation experience and become more fluent and more creative when you’re speaking in English.

So let me share my four strategies or four steps to help you worry less about being perfect. If you know someone who struggles to speak English, they need to get more practice but they don’t have the they need to get more practice but they don’t have the confidence to join English conversations then please make sure you share this video with them.

You know we all need to be reminded that being imperfect is okay, that our failures are an essential part of our success. The failures that you experience today are going to create the success that you have tomorrow. It’s important to keep that in mind.

1. Relax your standards

The first thing I want you to do is relax your standards. The first thing I want you to do is relax your standards. So your standards is just another way of saying your expectations, what you expect of yourself. So I want you to relax your standards.

Think about what would be an acceptable outcome rather than the ultimate best possible outcome. What would allow you to leave a conversation feeling like you’d achieve something, that it wasn’t an awful experience. Of all of my English language students, one of the most common goals that they have one of the most common goals that they have “I want to speak English perfectly. I want to speak like a native speaker.” which of course is the ultimate goal, which of course is the ultimate goal, in another language.

But if you’re an intermediate level speaker, that expectation is too high right now. You can’t have a perfect conversation right now. Telling yourself or even thinking that you shouldn’t be making mistakes is really unreasonable and it’s stopping you from having conversations and the experience that you need to improve and become more fluent when you speak.

So are you holding back? Are you waiting until you can speak better? Until you can make fewer mistakes. Are you waiting until your English is perfect or at least at the level that you think it should be before you go to language exchanges or networking events or you start having conversations that you really need to improve your fluency. You can still have success without being perfect.

Now I know it’s a little cliche but I think it’s important to remind ourselves that no one is successful without failing first, right? Film stars have faced hundreds of rejections before they make it big. Top athletes train and train until they master their skill. Entrepreneurs on the Forbes 100 lists have failed and failed until they work out how to build a successful business.

So I would argue that you need to put yourself in situations where you fail in order to learn lessons and move past them faster. Failing or making mistakes is a part of your success.

Hey ladies I’m talking at you for just a minute! I know that it’s really hard to find genuine speaking partners to practise English with, especially online, so I’ve created The Ladies’ Project to help women learning English to make international friends and practise speaking English often, no matter where you are in the world. If you’re living in an English-speaking country but you’re not getting the practice that you need or you expected, if you need your speaking confidence for your job or because you want to travel more independently or just to immerse yourself in a safe and supportive English-speaking community, then definitely check it out.

The Ladies’ Project will help you to develop your speaking confidence and fluency through your speaking confidence and fluency through real conversation practice. You’re gonna make friends in different countries, learn about different cultures and lifestyles and build your confidence and your fluency in no time at all.

And the best part is the experience is totally flexible. If you haven’t got a lot of time but you want to keep moving forward with your English practice or you simply want to maintain the conversation skills that you have, The Ladies’ Project is the perfect place for you to do it.

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2. Focus on mini goals

Okay my next tip is to focus on mini goals. Instead of expecting everything to go perfectly a hundred percent of the time, a hundred percent of the time, focus on just one aspect of your conversation.

At first, it might be:
If I can introduce myself to everyone and they smile back at me, I’ve succeeded.

Tick that off the list. You nailed it, right?

Next time it might be: Politely interrupt someone and ask them to repeat their question again.

If you do, that that’s awesome! That’s a really useful, functional thing that you can learn and practise to do in conversations. You could simply aim to make the other person smile or laugh at a joke and allow yourself to feel really pleased when you achieve just that one thing. The rest of it, you can deal with all of the other mistakes and other things that happen next time, right?

3. Practise acting without thinking

Practise acting without thinking. Okay now this one’s pretty tricky because it takes guts.

How many times have you been part of a conversation and you’ve hesitated just a little bit too long to share your thoughts and then suddenly the conversation’s moved on and you’ve missed your chance.

So what if you were to start speaking before you knew where you were going and you just winged it? I’m sure that lots of you have been in online classes or conversations and listening really intently, thinking about the topic but never saying anything unless someone directs a question to you. In which case, you probably freeze and I know what you’re thinking:

Emma, are you crazy? Speaking before I know what I’m gonna say is like conversation suicide. What are you telling me to do?

To that I would say: just make sure you’ve got a couple of expressions ready to help you for when you get stuck and I’m saying when you get stuck because you will and that’s fine.

Sorry! I’ve lost my train of thought.
Or… I’ve completely forgotten what I was gonna say, sorry!

Scary I know, but what’s the worst thing that could happen?

I was talking to one of my students the other day, Miko. Miko you’re probably watching, hello! But she told me that she had a parent-teacher night at her son’s school and when she got there she realised that everyone else was a native English speaker, all the other parents, the teachers and at that moment she wanted to leave back out the door but she forced her feet to take her into the room before she could think about all of the things that could go wrong. She was already inside. She acted before her mind convinced her not to and you know what she said?

She said “It really wasn’t as bad as I was expecting.”

Often in our head we prepare for the worst possible outcome so naturally, our body wants to protect us and we end up avoiding the situation. We put it off. But by acting before we think, this is a little trick that we can use to overcome fear and actually take action before our minds have had a chance to convince us that it’s a bad idea. This is a little trick, I want you to try it out.

4. Take your fear into the everyday

This is so important. Expose yourself to your fears as often as you can and they’re going to become as dull and mundane as hanging the washing on the line. Now it’s definitely gonna take you a few intense, sweaty conversations to get you to the point where a conversation is as simple and easy as riding the bus. But exposing yourself to impromptu discussions will be a very important part of your practice and it will help you to reduce your fear around speaking.

So I hope that my main message is clear here. Be brave enough to take action even when you’re worried or you’re afraid. Even the tiniest little action will make it that tiniest littlest bit easier next time when you try again. You are not perfect and the world is totally cool with that. It’s only you who tells yourself that you need to be perfect in conversation and it’s only you who is stopping yourself from making that progress.

So that’s what I think but what do you think? Are you a perfectionist? Do you think that your expectations for yourself are a little too high? Are you going to take any of this advice and use it Are you going to take any of this advice and use it because I love seeing the unexpected success because I love seeing the unexpected success of my students, when you know, and they realise that actually it wasn’t as bad as they anticipated and they were able to learn from real experience and also because I hate seeing my students miss out on opportunities to experience conversations and speak with others because they demand perfection or they tell themselves that they’re not good enough and they’re not ready.

You are ready and with the right attitude, you can start today.

For more lessons like this one, make sure you hit that subscribe button down there. You don’t need to keep watching grammar lessons today, you need to find a way to practise. So if you’re living in an English-speaking country, then check out this lesson here for some tips on how to get started and if you are not then head to this one right here. And I’ll see you in there!

Links mentioned in the video

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