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Perfectionism holding you back? Read this.

joy less stress positive impact productivity self-care Aug 08, 2021

Do you ever struggle with perfectionism? Me too! Or rather, I did. Now I call myself a “recovering perfectionist.” 

For the majority of my life, being a perfectionist was a major part of my identity. It was something I took pride in and I found a lot of evidence that I could achieve it:

  • I got straight A’s from the moment I set foot in kindergarten until I graduated college. (Except for the brief period when I pretended I couldn’t tell time because I wanted attention from the teacher.)
  • I proudly told anyone who would listen that I’d only failed two things in my entire life: swimming lessons and the first time I took the Charleston Tour Guide licensing exam. (And the second time I took the exam, I not only aced it, I also found an error…)
  • I almost never made mistakes with my client work. I wasn’t fast, but I was nearly perfect with my execution.

Way to go, Past Mel! Way to never make a mistake… and also… never try anything you might fail. 

I played it safe to keep my perfect record.

It took me until I hit 30 to realize maybe my perfectionism was… ummmm… holding me back? I mean, I had book ideas but I hadn’t written one. I had course ideas, but I hadn’t created one. 

Why?

If it wasn’t going to be perfect, I didn’t want to waste my time on it.

So, I knew my perfectionism was holding me back, but I couldn’t figure out how to overcome it. I tried setting fake deadlines (which I ignored). I tried telling friends that I was writing a book to get some accountability (but I didn’t actually care what they thought). I tried telling myself to “just do it,” which turned into a great exercise in beating myself up for not working on my dreams (oops. More perfectionist tendencies.)

I heard that progress beats perfection, but it didn’t resonate because in the end progress would eventually lead to finishing something and then that something WOULDN’T BE PERFECT SO WHAT THE HECK WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH IT???

But one day the lightbulb went off and I realized…

My perfectionism was selfish.

My parents instilled a lot of great values in me and being selfish definitely wasn’t one of them. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure I heard, “stop being so selfish,” a time or ten thousand.

Was my perfectionism really masking selfishness? Ew.

In insisting on perfection from myself, I was withholding a lot of good stuff that could help people… things like my weekly emails to you, my DIY Coaching Program, and all the courses and classes you’ve seen from me over the last 7 years… all because I knew I wouldn’t be able to make them perfect.

I was only able to get over myself when I took myself out of my own shoes and put myself in your shoes. 

When I stopped thinking so much about myself and started thinking about how I might be able to explain something in a way that could help you. That I might be able to ask you just the right question at the right time to give you a breakthrough.

I realized I had the power to help people, but I was withholding it out of fear.

Ew.

I like helping people. And I bet you do, too. 

In all the times I’ve asked my coaching clients or my students or anyone attending one of my classes, “do you like helping people?” I’ve never gotten a single “no.”

That creative thing you do… it helps people.

That pottery you’re making… it’s going to bring someone joy.

That outing you’re planning for your family… it’s going to create happy memories they can lean on in the future.

That book you’re writing… someone needs it. Have you ever had a book help you through a difficult time? Me too. What if that author hadn’t ever published that book because they needed it to be perfect?

That would’ve been awfully selfish of them, don’t you think? To withhold that book from you just because they couldn’t get it exactly right?

THIS WEEK’S CHALLENGE

If you find yourself weighed down by your perfectionist tendencies, ask yourself this:

Is it better to help someone imperfectly or not at all?

How is that thing you’re avoiding doing imperfectly going to help someone else? 

Put yourself in their shoes. Do you have the opportunity to make a positive difference in their life?

I decided it was better to help than not, even if it meant making mistakes. If you want more ideas on how to overcome perfectionism, make sure you join me for tomorrow’s Mondays with Mel at 2pm Eastern! I go live on zoom every Monday to do a short training (25 minutes or so) and answer questions. I hope to see you there! Click here to get the link.

You’ve got this!

Love,

Mel

Your 5-Star Life Coach ⭐️

P.S. My podcast is coming along!! I’ve recorded a handful of episodes and I hope to have them up for you before Labor Day. 

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