Hello, my name is Susie Fowler-Watt. I have tinnitus, am fighting middle-age spread, lose hair when I get stressed, sometimes get cross with my kids just because I am tired, and try to pack far too much into my life. Why am I telling you this? Because my New Year’s resolution is to be imperfect. 

Perfectionism is often seen as harmless, almost something to be proud of. When asked in a job interview what your worst quality is, you answer “I’m a perfectionist”, and the prospective boss can think “Great! Someone who will work hard and not settle for anything other than good results.” But actually, perfectionism can be very destructive.  

Both my children have perfectionist traits, which cause them unnecessary worry and distress. I have consistently told them that all we care about is their happiness, that being kind is the most valuable talent of all, not to compare themselves to others, that grades are not important – it is just about trying their best.  

But it has not worked. Why? Because what matters is not what I say, but what I do. They have a mum who has been exhibiting perfectionism all her life.  

For me, it’s not about wanting to be perfect, it’s about wanting to prove myself. The best definition I have ever come across is from the renowned social scientist Dr Brene Brown, who says perfectionism is about trying to gain acceptance and approval from others.  

It’s primarily about avoiding feelings of shame and vulnerability. So, whether you want to get the best grades, be given the biggest bonus, or seek the most “likes” on social media – it is because you care too much about what other people think of you.  

Being on live TV is not ideal for a perfectionist, because everyone does have an opinion about you, whether they admit it or not. I used to scan the emails that came into BBC Look East, on alert for ones that were critical of me – what I was wearing (“dowdy”, “too revealing”, “can’t she get some new clothes?”) or what I asked (“biased”, “aggressive”, “the wrong questions”).  

They would stay in my mind, while any that were complimentary would just disappear. If an outfit had been criticised by one viewer – bearing in mind that hundreds of thousands watch the programme - I would find it hard to wear it for a while. 

But, as a therapist-in-training, I’ve had to do a lot of ‘work’ on myself. This is so I can be completely conscious of what I am carrying – my own tendencies, judgments, baggage – and can therefore be far more open to my client and what they are bringing. I thought I already knew myself pretty well, but it’s amazing what you can still drag out of your unconscious in your sixth decade! 

I won’t bore you with all my personal discoveries, but what I have realised is that being 53 does not mean it is too late to change. I am already doing so, and it is transforming how I feel.  

On a very basic level, I no longer look at personally critical emails. It is not actually my job to go through everything in the Look East inbox, and anything I should see will be forwarded to me by a colleague. If I make a mistake on air, I no longer dwell on it. That is the nature (and joy) of live TV – we move on. If my boss was worried, he would tell me.  

On my MA course, I am no longer fretting about my essay scores, and how I compare to others. I need to pass, that’s all. And as for my tinnitus, middle-age spread and all the above – it is all part of ageing and I embrace it! I think about how authentically beautiful my mother was right up until she died – despite losing her memory, having gone up two sizes in trousers and being unable to walk. We are all works of art. 

Bring it on 2023, I am ready for you!  

Wishing you all a perfectly imperfect new year.