Women, we are more guilty of this more than men. We wait to start something until we’ve mulled over all the ins, outs, options, and worst-case scenarios.
We suffer from perfectionism. And not like in the “Congratulations to this year’s Valedictorian on having the best grades in the class” kind of perfectionism.
No, we tend to be perfectionists in the “paralyzed with fear” way that stops us from being our best and achieving extraordinary things. We often get stuck in “analysis paralysis” and don’t accomplish anything for fear that our next move will be wrong.
Why? Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves? We can all admit that no one is perfect, so why in the world do we expect ourselves to be?
Read on for help unpacking perfectionist feelings and rising above them to become the high-achieving babe you were born to be.
Perfectionism is Rooted in Fear
My mind keeps going to what Ricky Bobby’s dad told him in Talladega Nights, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” That thinking just isn’t true, and it holds us back from achieving great things.
Fear keeps us from starting because we aren’t sure we’ll get a perfect result. If we can’t do something the best, then the thing isn’t worth doing. It’s a useless coping mechanism meant to prevent judgment and mistakes, but it is rooted in fear, not truth.
Holding on to these perfectionist tendencies will lead to poor self-esteem, compromised peace of mind, more stress and stress-related health problems.
How to Adapt and Overcome
Sure, you can avoid judgment for a time if you refuse to do anything noteworthy, but does that sound like the right approach to life? Rather than listen to perfectionism’s lies, listen to the voice of reason saying that you deserve better. Use the following steps to guide you:
1. Start with Awareness
“The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.” This saying is well-known for a reason—it’s true. Own up to your perfectionist tendencies to get rid of them. Recognize when and how those thoughts get into your head, so you can change.
2. Practice Gratitude
When Oprah Winfrey had her daytime talk show many years ago, she devoted an episode to gratitude journals. At least once daily, you write down at least five things you’re thankful for from that day. For awful days, you can always use your five senses, she joked!
I tried it for months and found it so helpful. Now, whether you choose to do yours in this exact way is up to you, but get a journal or download a journaling app to note positive things that inspire you and spark joy or contentment.
3. Accept Mistakes are a Part of Life
Mistakes (and even failures) happen. It’s a normal part of life because…No. One. Is. Perfect. Fun Fact: Over 40 layers of paint lie underneath Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting, The Mona Lisa. See, one of the world’s most renowned painters wasn’t perfect, either. Treat mistakes as stepping stones and learning moments that help you grow stronger.
It’s helpful to take on a hobby that you aren’t necessarily good at (but enjoy) to experience the joy of noticeable progress.
Make SMART Goals
Now that you’ve addressed your perfectionist tendencies, break down goals into smaller tasks so you don’t get too overwhelmed by a big ambition. Make your goals:
For example, instead of saying my goal is to “get healthy,” I’ll make it SMART by saying that I’ll wake up at 6:00 am on Monday and work out before I start my work day. I’ll do this for a week and see how it works out.
And you know what, if exercising before work turns out not to be the best idea, that’s okay. I’m not a failure who must now trash my broader goal of getting healthy. I will just try another way.
Cope With Criticism
Everyone has an opinion. Take others’ notions of you with a grain of salt. Find whatever lesson you need in their words and keep it moving. I personally love to lean into disapproval with a sense of humor. “Oh, I’m enriching my life and my family’s by learning more about how to start a successful online boutique?! Yes, aren’t I just the worst!”
Cut Yourself (and Others) Some Slack
It’s worth repeating. No one is perfect.
Recognize and release unrealistic standards. Continue to motivate yourself to do your best, but recognize that you don’t always have to be the best to be remarkable.
And while you’re at it, don’t expect perfection from others. Give everyone permission to be their flawed, human selves.
Prioritize Purpose Over Perfection
If something brings you joy, do it. You have a greater purpose in life than to just muddle through. You were meant to challenge yourself, not simply take the easy road.
Turn your anxiety over doing anything less than perfectly into a fear of inaction instead. Just like indecisiveness killed the squirrel, inaction is its own action that will kill your drive, creativity, hopes, and dreams. If you want to improve your finances with a side business to make money, go for it!
Turn Off the Negativity
People, social media, TV shows—negativity could be seeping in from external sources. Look at your media use and the people you surround yourself with with a discerning eye. If anything or anyone leaves you feeling more negative than positive, it might be time to cut some of that out of your life.
Find your tribe fills you with positivity instead of self-doubt. Ensure you’re in a community of goal-oriented women who inspire and support one another with love, lessons, and motivation.
Seek Professional Help
It can be a long journey to undo what our brains have been practicing for a long time. Reach out to a mental wellness coach or therapist for help shifting perfectionism and the anxiety it causes to something much more productive.