As some of you know, I’m a recovering perfectionist. Someone should really consider creating a PA (Perfectionists Anonymous) group for folks like me; trust me, we need support. I’m finding it really hard to unwind a lifetime of trying to be really good at everything, and most of my clients are struggling with the same thing. I suppose the PA group doesn’t exist yet because all the potential organizers are trying to figure out the perfect structure, perfect number of attendees and perfect location for the first meeting before launching it. You couldn’t just put a Perfectionists group out there and not have it be perfect, right?
And that, my dears, is exactly the point. I have seen time and time again in my own life and that of my clients that we are PARALYZED BY PERFECTION. It stops us dead in our tracks. We don’t take Step 1 because we don’t know what Steps 2-9 will be and we want all of the Steps to look really good but we can’t prepare for that … so we really shouldn’t start yet. Sound familiar?
There was a woman in our MBA program who told us she is really frustrated at not yet finding the right job - she left her last job six months ago and expected to have found “it” by now. And when we went deeper, it turned out that she was putting a tremendous amount of pressure on herself to find the “perfect” job. The job she would have for the REST OF HER LIFE. First of all, how on earth could she even know that today?
Recently, I decided it was time to “put myself out there” more publicly with my business, to share my wisdom and, hopefully, inspire even more people. And yet, when I thought of putting pen to paper (ok, who are we kidding, fingers to keyboard), I was completely daunted. Why? Because I had decided that my blog needed to GO VIRAL. Yes, my very first blog submitted to an outside source needs to “go viral” and be so incredible that people forward it on to all of their friends, just like the recent snarky Whole Foods blog or the one from all my mommy friends about “if mama ain’t happy.” I need a blog that is worth forwarding, that is unforgettable, that won’t just languish in the ether. Otherwise it’s not worth doing. Right?
Well, guess what happened? Nothing. I didn’t do anything. It’s been over a month and I haven’t submitted a single blog to a single outside source because I didn’t have “the one.” Sound ridiculous? Of course it is.
And in what way have you been playing the same game? Are you waiting for the "perfect" job to come along before you make a change? Are you avoiding a second date with that guy because you’re sure he isn’t “the one” – even if he did invite you to a concert you really wanted to see? Or maybe you haven’t hired someone for a project because you haven’t found the “perfect” person? Or you won’t dance in public because you think you look weird … it’s all related.
Take A First Step:
Here’s the deal with Perfection Paralysis, the only way to get out of it is to TAKE A STEP. Any Step. In any direction. And to remember that we’re not expected to be perfect on the first try. Think of a baby learning to walk. They didn’t just stand up and walk to the counter to order a latte. There is a very slow and purposeful developmental process. They fall down, A LOT. And get lots of feedback on what to do differently.
Reframe Feedback as a Gift:
Once you take your first step, you will get feedback. You will learn if you are on the right track or need to course correct. If you don’t get started, you don’t get feedback and feedback is how you learn. This is why you first need to take a step, and then be open to feedback. View the feedback as a GIFT. Feedback isn’t bad, but many of us have grown up taking it personally. When someone says “maybe you should do xxx,” we hear “you’re not good enough” or “you are fundamentally flawed.” Part of overcoming the perfection paralysis is to notice the stories you’re telling yourself – instead of what others are actually saying. Recognize that you are not going to shrivel up and die if you receive some constructive feedback. Although a part of your ego might … and that could be a good thing.
Talk to Yourself as You Would a Friend:
And, when your Perfection Gremlins come calling, practice self-compassion by saying to yourself “I’m only human, I’m doing the best I can.” Cut yourself some slack, be kind. We all have enough critics without the one in our head. It can help to picture a good friend and talk to yourself the way you would speak to that friend in the same situation.
If you follow these three steps, I guarantee you will overcome your perfection paralysis. So, to all you recovering perfectionists out there, think of something you’ve avoided doing because you think it needs to “be just right” and get out there and TAKE THAT FIRST STEP! I’m here writing this blog with no guarantee that you’ll like it or even bother reading it and guess what? Now that I’m finally taking action, it feels good! I’m proud of myself and I no longer feel guilty about not getting started. In fact, I’m feeling lighter, more at ease, just by writing these words.
Here's to being perfectly IMPERFECT!