Perfectionism is one of the main killers of business growth. It’s like Kryptonite for your goals. The minute perfectionism shows up, your goals start to shrivel and die.
Here are 4 ways perfectionism kills your goals.
1. Perfectionism turns your inspired idea into a giant project, leaving you overwhelmed.
Say you want to write a newsletter. You’ve got a number of topics that you care deeply about and you want to share your ideas with other people. Great!
Then you start thinking about how you don’t have a newsletter template. And worse, you don’t have a BRAND. Where’s your logo? What’s your business name? What about a tag line?!
In less than 5 minutes, you’ve gone from an inspired idea to a huge project. You feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of tasks to be done.
Worse, you have no idea which one needs to come first. So you keep obsessively thinking about this problem, to try to figure out the answer.
Related: 10 Signs of Imposter Syndrome
2. You can’t start your project until you have the perfect amount (and quality) of time, plus the right supplies.
Which means you never start.
Let’s say you decide you want to create a newsletter template. To do that, you’ll want to research what templates are out there. That’s going to take some free time so you can really focus in on it.
And you’ll have to figure out how to get it into your email system. That’s going to take some more focused time. Plus you might have to contact customer support, which means more time.
You look at your schedule and realize you don’t have a big open chunk this week. Or next week or anytime soon. So you decide to wait until the “perfect” time arrives. Magically.
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3. Perfectionism prevents you from practicing your skills and getting better.
Perfectionism says that your action was not perfect and you are a failure.
You write your newsletter or you have a sales conversation. You evaluate how well it went and think “I did OK, but it wasn’t great. My newsletter kind of rambled. I wasn’t as clear as I wanted to be.”
Or “My prospect said No. Looking back, there are so MANY things I should have said but I couldn’t think of them in the moment!”
Your next thought: “I don’t know what I’m doing. I shouldn’t do this again. I’m a loser.”
Perfectionism will tell you that trying and doing anything less-than-perfectly equals failing. When in fact, trying and being less than perfect is actually PRACTICING. And practicing is the only way you can improve!
Perfectionists undercut their confidence and their abilities by not giving themselves permission to practice. Because practice is messy; it’s imperfect; and therefore it feels like failure.
Yet messy imperfect practice is the only way to improve and get to success!
Feeling like you’re a failure immediately creates shame. Not only will you feel terrible, shame will shrivel up anything it touches: your self-esteem, your passion for your work, your desire to move forward, etc.
4. Perfectionsim defines the “right way” as something so big and exhausting that it’s not sustainable.
So you quit, fast. I have done this many times with going to the gym.
For years, the only way my workout could be right was if I did at least 20 min of aerobic activity, then did 3 sets of all the weights on my list, then stretched all body parts. Which took well over an hour, plus travel time to/from the gym.
No wonder I dreaded going to the gym and often chose to drive home and relax instead! The option of going to the gym and just doing one activity for 20 min total – that option was always present but I never seriously considered it.
What’s so hard about being a perfectionist is that you’re hardest on yourself. You judge yourself as a failure for NOT doing everything exactly the right way. You give yourself an F a lot.
So you stop doing things at which you don’t excel. Or you stop doing things because, like my definition of the “right” workout, those activities are so demanding of your time and energy.
As a recovering perfectionist, I now see this as a kind of self-abuse. You hurt yourself. I’m confident you already know it’s not in your best interest to spend 5 hours looking at newsletter templates; or to harshly criticize yourself for not excelling at sales conversations.
And I know it’s hard to stop. You probably feel like you’re at the mercy of some inner force that’s compelling you to do things in a way that objectively you KNOW is not good for you.
Breaking Free of Perfectionism
Breaking free of perfectionism absolutely is possible. I’ve been dismantling my own perfectionism, bit by bit, over many years.
I sense it’s like recovering from an addiction, in that it’s one day at a time. I have to be conscious of my thoughts because it’s easy for me to slip back into making overwhelming demands on myself.
Is perfectionism holding you back? Or is it something else?
Learn what’s holding you back by taking my quiz. After completion, you’ll know exactly which fear is holding you back from success.