How to overcome your inner perfectionist, get more visible (and get more clients)

| reading time – 4 mins |

Hands up if you’re a perfectionist? Yep, me too. In fact I call myself a “recovering perfectionist”!

If you can tick off a few of these then you too, my friend, are a perfectionist.

  • You spend copious amounts of time on a task (more than necessary to get the job done).
  • You often work up until the last minute before a deadline.
  • You tell yourself “I’ll just tweak this email/copy/[whatever] before I send it out/press
  • publish”. (This one is my personal favourite!)
  • You get carried away doing more research/learning before finalising your product.
  • You procrastinate and then do thing like the laundry/tidy up the house.

I bet you struggle to press “send” on an email. “publish” on your website or promote your work. And that mean you’re not growing your business as fast as you’d like.

When I was younger I wore my perfectionism like a badge of honour.

I thought it made me really good at my job, because I was thorough and I kept track of important details. I pride myself on doing a good job. I didn’t want to let people down by submitting sub-par work. I did well, because I was lucky to have a series of amazing managers (you know who you are) to support and encourage me, set deadlines and help me get unstuck.

And that was ok, whilst I was quite junior – my latent perfectionism was able to hide. As I got more senior roles, my perfectionism became more of a ball and chain. I started to see that actually it was holding me back more than helping me. I sometimes struggled to finish my projects and usually worked until the last minute before my deadline. This can be the killer of your business if you’re an entrepreneur because you never finish anything, which means you don’t put yourself in front of potential clients, which means a big fat zero in your bank account.

Fear often shows up as perfectionism

Guess what? Fear often shows up as perfectionism! When I was younger, I seemed confident on the outside but on the inside I didn’t feel like I was good enough. I was my own harshest critic and I felt like I “could” or “should” be better. I was worried that upon completing that report or sending that email, people would pick it apart and I would get shown up for not being as good as people thought or hoped. So I was afraid that I would be humiliated.

But why does this happen? It happens because our limbic brain – the most primitive part of our brain – controls fear (you’ve heard of the “fight or flight” response?). David Eagleman explains it really well. He explains that we have two parts of our brain – the rational part and the emotional part – fighting it out to control the same output, which is our behaviour. And our behaviour, you guessed it, is whether or not we press send or publish our work.

The problem for us perfectionists is that we can attach too much of our self-worth to the reception or recognition of our work. This means that we can often present a watered down version of ourselves or our work, because it’s less risky for us. And then, if the reception of our work isn’t what we expected, we can feel crushed. We take it personally and then it’s even harder to put ourselves out the next time because we tell ourselves “you should have known better” and “real “xyz” don’t struggle like this” (Insert your own job title for maximum shame effect …)

So, sharing something that we’ve created makes us vulnerable, but it’s essential to be vulnerable if we want to grow (and we already know that growth only happens outside the comfort zone, right!?). So, we have to be vulnerable if we want more courage. But we need courage if we want to be vulnerable! It can be a bit of a catch-22 situation.

How can we separate our self-worth from our work and the recognition and success that we get (or not)?

  1. Firstly – and I say this often – acknowledge the fears and the triggers for those fears. Your primitive brain is only trying to keep you safe (fight or flight, remember? It doesn’t know the difference between the fear caused by a cave lion chasing you and the fear that pressing “send” has on you)
  2. Share your fears and worries with someone compassionate, empathetic and understanding. You’ll discover self-compassion too, which is vital because it helps you be more gentle on yourself.
  3. Know you are FAR more than just your work/art/product – this is about what you DO, not who you ARE (yes I know – the two often seem inextricably linked).
  4. Sometimes you do need to find a way through the disappointment and try and try again. Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb, famously said “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”
  5. Know what your values are – make sure they are what drives you, not recognition or success.
  6. Know that with everything you do, if you reach just one person, what you’ve done is helping.
It’s my job to be that empathetic and understanding person, who listens as you acknowledge your deepest fears in a safe and non-judgemental space.  And then it’s my job to help you move on and then DO THE THING anyway. And I love it! I love hearing the excitement in my clients voices when they tell me they’ve done the thing that they’ve been putting off for ages.
If you only take away ONE thing from this, please know that you don’t need to be perfect to be amazing.
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I’d love to hear from you in the comments below or via email – what things do you tell yourself? And what strategies do you have in place to beat your perfectionism?

IMAG0100What to do next:

Ready to have EVEN better results, but worried about how you’re going to do it all (or even if you can?) I’ve got you. Hop on a quick complimentary call with me to see if we’re a good fit. You can do this, and I know I can help.  >>

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