Are you a perfectionist?
Maybe this sounds familiar to you...
You are about to send out a report to your boss and you think to yourself, I just need to read through it one more time (for the 50th time…). Surely I’m going to find one more typo or something I should phrase differently.
Or maybe you work all weekend tweaking the font on your presentation and making tiny adjustments. You want it to be perfect.
For me, perfectionism often takes the form of that voice in my head telling me “You should have said this instead of that. What you said was dumb.” or “You could have done that better.”
Perfectionism is about looking outward for approval. The story we tell ourselves is that if I’m perfect, I can protect myself from criticism and judgment. And there's the fear of failing, of not being the best, of looking awkward or...imperfect.
Perfectionism keeps our worlds small.
When that perfectionist voice is driving me, the things that I may be willing to try, or the risks I am willing to take, become fewer and fewer as my world becomes smaller and smaller. The perfectionist voice says, “I don’t really know how to do that, that’s new to me. If I try it I might not do it perfectly so better just not try.”
Do you relate to this?
I have a client who had been in her previous role for about 20 years. She was really great at that job and said to me, “I’m a top performer. I like to win.”
And then she moved to a new role. Though exciting and filled with possibilities, it was a difficult transition for her. She felt anxious. She had to learn new skills and processes, ones with which she was not familiar.
She was accustomed to being the best at what she did and with her new role it felt to her like she was starting over. The risk she was taking to learn something new felt threatening because the perfectionist was afraid of what others might think if she was imperfect.
If we let that perfectionism voice drive us, then we don’t allow ourselves the opportunity to learn, develop and grow.
It takes courage to try something new. It's vulnerable - there's potentially risk, uncertainty, or emotional exposure involved. And there is also the potential for joy, aliveness, and growth.
Try something new. Be imperfect. Be curious. Embrace being a learner and find out what’s possible.
Katie is a Certified Dare to Lead™ Facilitator and Executive Coach.