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Perfectionism Sucks: How Coaching Can Help

Overwhelmed and struggling with perfectionism. Surrounded by ideas without follow through. Sad, frustrated, disappointed, desperate, giving up, stuck, needing help, support, guidance, direction

When I started drafting this blog, I initially wrote "Perfectionism Sucks" at the top of the page, fully intending to come up with a better title before posting. However, in the spirit of what this post represents, I decided to stick with the original title and not wait for the perfect inspiration to strike to keep me from posting it.

As a private and executive coach in Salt Lake City, Utah, working with emerging leaders and people striving to find their "right" path, I see how often perfectionism stops my clients from taking action. The most common ways I see it manifest in my clients are:

  • Procrastination: Delaying tasks or projects because they’re not sure where to start and feel like they need to know all of the details before they can begin. 

  • Negative Self-Talk: Being hard on themselves. 

  • Avoidance: Avoiding challenges or situations where failure or mistakes might happen.

  • Overworking: Spending (wasting) excessive time on tasks to ensure something is flawless. 

  • Fear of failure or fear of success: Focused on what will be lost in the process of failure or success. 

  • All-or-nothing thinking: There is no middle ground. There is either complete failure or perfection. 

  • Comparison: Constantly comparing self to others and feeling inadequate for not achieving the same level of success or perfection.

To help you deal with perfectionism, I work to shift your perspective on a few things, starting with how you see yourself. There's usually a combination of being really hard on yourself mixed with this idea that your value and worth come from achievements. When you live in a constant state of being hard on yourself, naturally, it’s hard for you to do anything. Imagine trying to accomplish something while someone else has you on the ground, holding your face to the floor, saying to do better and try harder. You tend to do better and try harder when you have the proper support you need, and in this case, you will learn how to pick yourself up, apologize for being a bully, and start providing for yourself the support you need. And your value doesn’t come from your accomplishments or the experiences you’ve had. It comes from other stuff like being a good human, sharing your gifts with the world, and doing your best in the areas of life that are important to you.

We also need to change the way you think about failure. I’ve noticed that for a lot of my clients, just the act of saying their fears out loud will immediately allow them to start reframing their thoughts around fears. Some clients will literally laugh right after stating their fears because it “sounds kinda silly when you say it out loud.” I’m not saying all of your fears are silly, but you might be surprised that some of them are. The fears that aren’t silly will, of course, be taken seriously but will be seen as learning and growing opportunities. If taking action on something comes with fear, then to me, that’s an indicator that this is important to you. So let’s talk through it and think of an approach that will honor your needs while challenging you so that we’re not hanging out in stagnation.

Quote about the fear of success.

Lastly, we focus on taking action, even if it's not perfect. You'll be encouraged to try new things and embrace imperfection. We will set realistic goals, practice self-compassion, challenge any all-or-nothing thinking, take baby steps if we need to, focus on progress, and practice mindfulness. These tools combined with the accountability from a coach will help you take the action you need to take without the burden of perfectionism dragging you down. You can do great things, even if you make mistakes or don't do it the right way the first time, or the second time, or even the third time… You will get there. But it starts with being willing to look at things a little differently. 

In all honesty, it took me a lot longer to write this blog than I'd like to admit. I myself struggle with perfectionism from time to time. As a private and executive coach who has helped hundreds of people tackle their mental hurdles to achieve success and fulfillment, telling you how much I overthought this blog is an understatement. I put a lot of pressure on myself to word everything just right, to do my research, to be an expert on perfectionism (which I am certainly not) and it kept me from completing it for a while. So, I'll be the first to admit that this blog doesn't 100% hit the mark, and there are probably things I've missed. If you think I should have added something else, please leave a message in the comments below. If you think coaching could help you or your business overcome perfectionism, schedule an introduction call and get the conversation started.

mage depicting standing at the edge of a cliff, looking down at a vast landscape below. The person appears hesitant and fearful, symbolizing the fear of success and the unknown that comes with stepping out of one's comfort zone

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