Do you have something that you really want to do, but your self-confidence is in the toilet? Sounds like perfectionism! Let me help you work on that.
In this episode, we’ll talk about perfectionism, and how to let go of it.
Here’s a quick look at this episode:
- What exactly is perfectionism?
- How perfectionism kept me from succeeding at my other business, Always Brighter
- How to reframe perfectionism and live the life you really want
- Perfectionism from Psychology Today
- Always Brighter (I’m not currently posting there, but the site is still live if you want to check it out.)
Well hello there! Welcome back to the redefining Bold podcast. You're listening to episode number 13 and I'm your host Gwen Whitfield from theboldabode.com, where I guide warm-hearted women in their quest for a more organized, cleaner home and a more productive and vibrant life.
Let’s talk about perfectionism.
Boy oh boy. I am intimately familiar with perfectionism. And I also live with a perfectionist. If you listen to the podcast with my husband, Morgan, he found out that he is a 1 on the Enneagram. And if any Enneagram number deals with perfectionism, the 1’s have it in spades. I guess that's why I have struggled with it my entire life, because I have a one wing. If you're not familiar with that Enneagram, there are nine types and each type can have traits of the numbers next to them. Since I have a strong one wing, I can easily move into my one wing, which is all about what is right and just, or occasionally and somewhat painfully move into my eight wing, which is more assertive, straight-talking and decisive. But honestly I think that any number or any personality type can deal with perfectionism.
Let's first talk about what exactly perfectionism is. I want to read you a bit of an excerpt, an article from psychology today about easy perfectionism is. So we have an understanding of what it's definition really is.
Perfectionism is a trait that makes life an endless report card on accomplishments or looks. When healthy, it can be self-motivating and drive you to overcome adversity and achieve success. When unhealthy, it can be a fast and enduring track to unhappiness.
What makes extreme perfectionism so toxic is that while those in its grip desire success, they are most focused on avoiding failure, resulting in a negative orientation. They don’t believe in unconditional love, expecting others’ affection and approval to be dependent on a flawless performance.
So perfectionism can be good, I guess, if your desire coming from a healthy place. But I just think that the term perfectionism is dangerous. Because perfect it doesn't exist. Trying to be perfect, always, always, always end in disappointment, in my opinion.
And the toxic side of perfectionism is crippling. Right? If you're focusing on avoiding failure, perfectionism is going to really limit your ability to achieve what you want to achieve.
So when I think of perfectionism, I think of the constant need to be perfect. No making any mistakes. And living in constant fear of disappointing yourself or someone else.
And that is really debilitating place to live. And I know that because I have lived it. A few years ago I started a business called, always brighter. And my goal with that was very similar to what I'm doing here with Redefining Bold. But I wanted to teach women like myself how to build their own websites with Wordpress. I made several videos, I built out an entire site dedicated to always brighter, I started an email list and an Instagram account. I even outlined the entire course I was going to create. But I could never get the course made. I was so afraid that I didn't have enough experience and therefore, I wasn't going to show the perfect way to get the site set up.
I was afraid that I didn't know enough, or wasn't good enough and I would fail. Total imposter syndrome. When in reality I know a heck of a lot about Wordpress, about designing child themes for Wordpress, all the plug-ins you need to know and have, how to set up convert kit, which is email client and how to create automated sequences. In hindsight, it's really ridiculous that I got stuck. Especially when all the videos I was producing were so positive, believe in yourself, you can do it theme-ology.
No there's a bit of a caveat with this because of we were also going through some personal financial struggles at the time. And I had a lot of anxiety regarding that. And I just kind of crumpled inward. And honestly my body just started giving out and I couldn't function at all.
so this is where I draw from what we talked about in episode 2, cultivating self-compassion.
I'm going to talk about how we got through that really difficult time in an upcoming podcast coming up, so I don't really wanna go into that so much right now, but I think that also had a big part of not being able to be successful with Always Brighter.
But the honest truth is is that I was so afraid to fail, I couldn't succeed. I never gave myself a chance to succeed because I was so afraid of failure. I even wrote about seven episodes for a podcast that I wanted to do called the always brighter eBiz podcast.
This need to be perfect is always going to end in a pile of steaming hot excrement.
But how do you overcome perfectionism? How do you let go of the need to be perfect and the fear of failing?
If you've lived with this for a long time, it really is ingrained very deeply. It’s pretty much a way of life, an emotional bff. I think it's probably one of the hardest things to do… to step back and realize that you’re having this problem, plus be being aware enough to change.
But I just gave you the clue. It's in the awareness. The first step towards any kind of change, it's simply being aware of a pattern or an issue. I didn't realize what I was doing, when I stopped working on always brighter. I didn't really understand the reason I couldn't get my course made was fear of failure, perfectionism.
But, and I know I keep saying this but it’s true, knowing my personality type on the Enneagram, has been a real game changer for me. To be aware of patterns in your life, you really have to begin to learn to know yourself better. The Enneagram isn't perfect by any means. But for me it's given some perspective about how I am under stress and what I need to do to be healthy.
So understanding that I deal with the perfectionism and fear of failure in a very deep way, because I do believe that even very successful people struggle with their self-confidence, but they may be better equipped to move through that self-doubt. And I think that is wonderful. But for me, it has been a constant ball and chain in my life. I was planning on going to pharmacy school when I was in college. I took so much science, I could be Mr. Nye’s assistant. I had about two classes left before I could apply to pharmacy school and I quit. I didn't completely quit school but I changed my major to music, because somewhere inside, I felt like I wasn't going to a) get into pharmacy school, and b) get through pharmacy school.
And that was completely ridiculous, in retrospect, because I made really good grades. I just didn't think they were good enough. And there, right there, is the ugly face of perfectionism.
So now that I'm aware of this problem, I can change. And this podcast is evidence of that. So I want to encourage you that if you have been like me and have had struggled with achieving things that you want in life, that it is possible.
So let's talk about some specific steps that you can take to move through this debilitating perfectionism.
So like I said, it's just being aware of it. Knowing that you struggle with wanting to be perfect and having a deep fear of failure, is really the first step to overcoming it and letting it go.
There is no such thing as perfect. No matter what you see on social media, no matter what your friends are talking about, no matter what you you see those around you doing, there is no perfect. It doesn't exist. Period.
The end. Forever and ever amen.
And thank goodness, right? Really understanding that, it's freeing. Knowing that no matter what you do, no matter how good you are, no matter how much you succeed, no matter how beautiful you are, no matter how immensely talented you are, no matter how much education you have, no matter what college you went to, no matter what job you have, no matter who you have married, no matter how great your kids are, no matter what they achieve, no matter what you do, ever, in your entire life, in the history of the planet, nothing will ever be perfect.
Humanity is humanity and humanity is not perfect.
I don't have to be perfect, because there is no being perfect. Whew.
Isn't that incredible? Doesn't that take a huge load off?
Doesn’t it make you want to pick up that guitar? Or paint that canvas? or run that 10 miler? or write that novel?
So now that we know and have accepted that there's no such thing as perfect, we are free. We are free to try, to experiment. TO JUST GO FOR IT.
Once you truly understand deep in your bone marrow, that there's no such thing as perfect, the next thing is to practice.
When I found yoga 20 years ago, I fell in love. I was never into sports, because I thought I was an athletic. But it was really truly that I really never tried because I didn't want to fail. But when I found yoga, every teacher talked about practicing yoga. Yoga isn't something that you achieve at, or compete at, and that was such a relief for me.
And it started me down this road at looking at life in this way.
Anytime you want to do something new, or different, or some thing that scares you, that you really want to achieve, think about it in this way… what you need to do is practice at it. That's such a an easy way to look at your goals. If you don't feel like you have to win at life, you take the pressure off.
Practicing is the journey.
For example, my youngest son, Brendan.
He’s a competitive swimmer and honestly amazes me. But the one thing that putting him in swim has done for me is show me what it takes to perform at a really high level. It's not just being fast, and getting time cuts for National meets, it is the practice. It is the getting up of the every day, diving in and taking stroke after stroke after stroke after stroke. Sometimes you're working on sprinting, and getting there as fast as you can. But sometimes you have to slow and work on your technique. You have to take it one stroke at a time and and create this muscle memory.
I just love that visualization of muscle memory. Because that's what practicing every day really does for you. It creates this response, this automatic response, so that when you get up on the block and you hear the starter your body just knows what to do. And you don't have to think about it when that buzzer rings out. You just do it.
So Brendan had this breakout year when the the summer he was 14. And at the Virginia age groups he placed second and third and some of his best events. And went on to win the 50 Free at the Eastern zone championship meet. And after that, I asked him what he thought had changed. And he said “my mind. I just don't get nervous of these big meets anymore.”
And it's because he learned how to rely on the skills from practice. And he got out of his own head.
So today, I still wonder about success. But I don't worry about it. Instead every day, I get up with the intention to move forward even just a tiny bit towards what I want. Knowing that whatever I do, even the tiniest step is going to me me closer to my dreams.
Being aware of this tendency in myself, and acknowledging there's no such thing as perfect, and focusing on one thing at a time by creating tiny goals within my big goals has allowed me to shed the shackles of perfectionism.
And honestly, life is so much more fun. One of the instructors that I watch on YouTube remind me today to not take myself so seriously. Sometimes there's a lot at stake, but sometimes the only thing at stake is pride. When you can get out of your own way, get out of your own head, and realize that and make your life a practice towards your goals, you will, little by little, get there without stress and anxiety.
If we sit around waiting for the conditions of life to be perfect, we're going to lose opportunities. It is better to go for it now and fail, then to wait until your plan is perfect because then it will probably never happen.
Embrace failure. Learn to use it to your advantage. May your failures be stepping stones that lead you to your success. If you fail a big and fail often, you create a tolerance for it and that is how you get to where you want to be.
Thank you so much for listening! I’ll catch you next time on the Redefining Bold Podcast!
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.
Rate, Review, & Subscribe on Apple Podcasts
“I love Gwen and the Redefining Bold Podcast!” <– If that sounds like you, please consider rating and reviewing my show! This helps me support more people — just like you — move toward the home and life that they desire. Click here, scroll to the bottom, tap to rate with five stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then be sure to let me know what you loved most about the episode!
Also, if you haven’t done so already, subscribe to the podcast. I’m adding new episodes to the feed all the time, and, if you’re not subscribed, there’s a good chance you’ll miss out. Subscribe now!