Stop calling yourself a perfectionist and admit it: You’re Afraid
Talk about getting a taste of my own medicine!
I just finished re-reading the first chapter from my book STEP 0 about how I’m being my dream's biggest obstacle, and man it was sobering.
It’s SO much easier to give advice than it is to live it out.
And with all lessons in life, if you keep pursuing growth, you learn these lessons over and over at deeper and deeper levels.
Here’s a BIG obstacle for me that I've been forced to confront: PERFECTIONISM.
How many you have called yourself a perfectionist before?
It’s almost like a badge of honor. We wear it around as the most impressive reason why we can’t get anything done or make progress towards our goals.
It’s like the kid in movies/tv shows/real life who is always bragging about how good he is at something but when he finally gets called out to do it, he totally bails and says some crap like, “Nah. I wouldn’t want to embarrass you guys by how good I am.”
Nobody likes that character because we can see right through him. We know that he’s actually not as good as he says he is, either that or he’s afraid to lose or embarrass himself.
We know this, and yet we do the SAME thing ourselves!
We give all of these reasons why we can’t accomplish what we want/need to accomplish, but we keep lying to ourselves that the reason behind it is because we have too much of a good thing.
Here are some examples:
I would finish my course, but I have to make sure I have an air-tight plan for every step first
I would start my Youtube channel but I don’t have the right kind of camera
I would start my own business, but I need to get more “real-world” credibility first so that people will listen to me
I would perform my music in front of people, but I have to practice more before I do it so I don’t embarrass myself
I know I’m already 3 days past my client deadline, but this has to be absolutely perfect before I send it off
Perfectionism sucks because it causes us to overcomplicate things that we are completely capable of doing and turn them into a giant cluster-cuss just so that we can feel justified being afraid.
Perfectionism, at it’s core, is FEAR.
And I think that it’s high-time we started calling it what it is.
Unless we define our fear, then the illusion remains and it keeps its power over us. ALL of fear’s strength lies in the unknown an undefined; the “WHAT-IF?”
It’s not good enough
I don’t have what it takes
I embarrass myself
They think I’m a fake
They think I’m greedy/ trying to take advantage fo them
They find out I don’t have it all together and then jump ship on me
They find out I’m new at this
They find out I’m not an “expert”
Perfectionism is just a mask. It’s fear disguising itself as a virtue.
Perfectionism is NOT a virtue.
Because it cripples us.
It hinders us.
We have to battle it every step of the way in order to make progress.
It keeps us paralyzed.
It causes us to compromise our responsibilities/commitments
It constantly attacks our self-esteem
It causes us to doubt ourselves
It creates unrealistic expectations.
It results in guilt and shame when we can’t measure up.
I’ve recently had to confront this reality. I’ve had multiple goals that I’ve felt absolutely paralyzed to take action on for months because I was afraid that I was going to forget something critical and then people would think I’m an amateur and bail on me.
I’ve been afraid, but I’ve been telling myself a different story to justify it:
“I WILL finish it, but I just have to make sure I’m not missing anything.”
This alleviates my guilt enough that I can make it a little longer until the next time I freak out, but it doesn’t solve the problem OR help me achieve my goal.
But until I’m brave enough to admit that perfectionism is just a sugarcoated way of avoiding the true fears and insecurities standing between me and my goals I won’t be able to actually achieve them.
Perfectionism is somewhat of a paradox:
You try to mitigate risk by not taking any risk at all, but by doing so, you end up fulfilling your own worst-case scenario.
It’s the, “I can’t fail if I don’t try.” approach, only we strip away the guilt by calling it a "strength”.
If you've read my posts in the past, I've shared how perfectionism has been a mask for me, a way of protecting myself from risk or pain.
It's been a coping mechanism, but also a "tool" I've used to get things done.
The main problem is that perfectionism is an imperfect tool.
It helps make things look incredible, but it also hinders the creative process of actually completing a project. It hold us a high standard to aspire to, but it's an impossible standard, which results in either disappointment or procrastination.
Thankfully, perfectionism is not an incurable disease.
I believe that obsessing over perfection is actually the virtue of EXCELLENCE, but tainted by fear.
I believe those who have perfectionist tendencies are actually designed with a naturally high drive for excellence, but that drive/gift has been hindered by fear.
Often that fear stems from a very simple lie/wrong belief that we have about ourselves.
I can’t have what other people have.
I don’e have what it takes.
I’m not as good/valuable/credible as other people.
I have to be perfect so I can be safe/secure/stable.
Here’s a personal example:
I’ve been SUPER frustrated lately because I have been in the process of building an online course, and have felt 100% paralyzed with fear.
I literally convinced myself that I had to have some kind of SECRET, never-before-seen knowledge in order for people to think it was valuable enough to invest in.
I’ve been doubting myself, my knowledge, experience, skill, and even past victories. I’ve had a pretty low view of myself.
And yes it’s possible to have a low view of yourself while still demanding impossibly high standards.
This combination works rather well to make me feel like crap for not making progress that should seemingly be easy.
I have all the knowledge.
I have a tried-and-tested idea that people have already paid me money for.
I have over a decade of experience doing this.
I have tons of experience teaching others.
I ENJOY teaching this.
I even know how to bring all of this together on the technical and strategic sides.
BUT I’ve still been stuck.
Why am I stuck? Because I’m a perfectionist?
NOPE. Because I’m afraid.
I could (and have) convinced myself that, “I just care about quality so much that it needs to be the best it can possibly be”.
But really I’m scared that it’s not going to be good enough; which is totally irrational, given the fact that I’ve had people tell me how amazing it is, and I’ve already had people pay me money to learn from me.
That fear has even spilled into other areas of my life, like this blog.
I have been hung-up on strategies and tactics, rather than writing simply because I love it and because it makes me feel alive.
I’ve been holding off on bringing my ideas to the light because, “It’s not the right timing.”, or “It doesn’t fit my strategic marketing schedule.”
And because I buy into my perfectionist rationalizations, I convince myself that it’s better to not Create anything than to create something that’s not perfect.
It sounds ridiculous, but maybe you can relate?
A few lessons I’ve learned in the past came to mind while writing this:
This quote by Leonardo DaVinci,
“Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
This fantastic podcast with Brooke Castillo and Amy Porterfield that talks about how,
“B-minus work can change the world.”
This quote by Sarah Doody:
“Stop making excuses as to why you aren’t qualified to teach, set a deadline, and commit to that deadline.
Do not let yourself get distracted by trying to make everything perfect. It will never be perfect. Strive for professionalism, but don’t derail yourself in the chase of perfection.
You can’t fix what you don’t launch. So launch it, learn, tweak, and repeat.”
And literally everything I’ve read in Jon Acuff’s book,
I’ll admit that I got lost in the details.
Stop putting “Perfect” before “passion”.
I overthought my plan to the extent that I was afraid to take action.
And if I’m being honest, I’m STILL kind of there. This problem is NOW thing, not just something I’m sharing after-the-fact.
But I’m getting better. I’m taking one step at a time. I’m affirming myself. I’m changing my beliefs about myself.
I’m dealing with my fears directly.
I’m deciding that i’m not a victim of my circumstances, emotions, or thoughts. I get to decide what kind of man I’m going to be.
I want to create because I love it FIRST and foremost.
I want to do what I love in the way I love it. I want to be MYSELF when I’m writing or designing, rather than pandering to an invisible audience of critics. I want to be motivated by passion and joy rather than fearful of people leaving me.
Stop gold-plating your grit.
This basically means that if we mask ourselves by calling our fear “perfectionism”, then the story stops there.
Our fear becomes a good thing in our eyes (ex: “I’m not doing XYZ because I’m a perfectionist.”), and therefore we lose all motivation to overcome it, because we’ve convinced ourselves, “Why would we need to fix a good thing?”
A great example of gold-plating grit shared in this podcast with Amy Porterfield and Jasmine Star is this:
Our tendency to only share about our personal struggles AFTER we’ve overcome them, or only share about our failures AFTER we’ve distanced ourselves from them (either by letting time pass or by racking up successes), INSTEAD of sharing about our struggles while we are STILL GOING THROUGH THEM.
It’s SO much easier to share about how hard it was to be poor once you’re rich.
It’s SO much easier to share about being depressed when you’re stable and happy.
It’s SO much easier to share about being out of shape once you’re fit.
It’s SO much easier to share about being a clueless amateur once you’ve got years of experience under your belt.
It’s SO much easier to share about your failures once you’ve got success.
We gold-plate our grittiest seasons and experiences because it’s SAFE.
The problem is that we deprive other people of the encouragement, example, and inspiration we would be living out when we do this.
I don’t know about you, but it’s SO inspiring to hear a successful person talk about their biggest failures and struggles.
It’s even MORE inspiring to see someone share about their failures and struggles while they are STILL in the middle of it.
Why is it so much more inspiring?
Because then we get to come alongside the person’s journey and see their ups and downs, their wins and losses, and ultimately we have so much more respect and admiration for these people as they grow and succeed.
And they have so much more credibility with us when they speak or ask us to do something because we KNOW what they’ve been through and we can relate to them at the deepest levels.
I’m committed to stop wearing phony perfect masks that hinder me.
I’ve learned that the way to overcome fear and insecurity is to confront it. And the way to take off a mask/false persona is to have the courage to be RAW.
I’m going to own up to some of my biggest fears right now because I’m hoping that my bold step will encourage you to stop pretending that you are perfect or have it all together.
It might be scary (And its taking a LOT of guts for me to be this transparent with you), but it’s WORTH IT, because it’s the only way to break free and be our true selves.
To be honest, I’ve been petrified to share with people that my personal design business has been going through really hard times for about two years. I took some really big hits a few years back and things just haven’t been the same since.
It’s been two years of catching up, trying to close the gap, sacrificing, Hustling, struggling, fighting for every step, praying for our basic needs to be met, and feeling totally deconstructed to my core.
It feels similar to recovering from a big injury, in that you have to take it one day at a time and one step at a time.
I’ve been afraid to admit that even though I’m very experienced, talented and knowledgeable, that my own business has been difficult to run.
I’ve been afraid that I would lose all credibility to admit that I don’t make 6-figures yet, and that we’ve had times when we could barely afford rent because self-employment can be so volatile.
I’ve been afraid that people would jump ship on me if they found out that we need food stamps to afford groceries, or that we lost our apartment a year and a half ago because we couldn’t afford to stay there, or that we maxed out our credit cards when my business got hit two years ago because we needed to buy food and pay bills, and we’re still paying them off.
I’ve felt like a failure because I haven’t been able to break the 500 subscriber mark for my blog.
It’s felt like an insurmountable hurdle for me. Which is frustrating because it’s such a small hurdle. I’ve felt like there’s nothing I can do to grow my audience because I’m already doing a TON of what I know but nothing is happening.
There’s all these things I’ve been scared to share with the Frontrunners Community and with my community as a whole because I’ve felt that in order to be respected, to lead, the be credible, to be safe from criticism, I need to be perfect.
But I’ve discovered that the complete opposite of my fears is true.
When I’ve decided to be raw, real, transparent, and admit my screwups and fears, the people around me respect me MORE, not less.
I asked one of my closest friends what he respects the most about me recently, and he told me that it was when I admitted to him a ton of my struggles and fears.
Isn’t it ironic that admitting weaknesses would be viewed as a strength?
He said that he thought, “Whoa. He’s NOT perfect!” and it was so refreshing to him to hear that I experience similar struggles that he did because from the outside it’s easy to think that I have things all-together.
He said that what makes him respect me is not what I face, but my attitude, decisions, and actions as I walk through my challenges.
This was huge for me:
To hear that I’m not defined by my circumstances, but rather that I am valuable and worthy just as I am.
I’m not respected because I’m perfect, but because I’m imperfect yet I choose to grow and learn and persevere.
This changed my whole mindset on perfectionism.
The fear at the core of perfectionism is that you won’t be good enough, or will be rejected; but the opposite effect happens when you open up.
It’s worth it to take off the mask. I’m doing that in this article and I’m committed to be more real and open and raw from now on.
NOTE: It has been SO HARD to not try and counterbalance all of my transparency by sharing things that make me seem awesome. So. Flipping. Hard. Because I want to be perceived as being awesome by everyone who reads this. I don’t want people to think that I’m a total mess.—BUT, I’m committing to overcoming perfectionism, so I’ve resisted my own attempts to stay safe and not be so vulnerable.
The only thing you lose by taking off the mask of perfectionism is a false picture that wasn’t you in the first place.
Whether it’s one person, a group of your friends, or sharing it with your whole online following, take your first steps forward without the perfectionism/fear mask on.
Complete the story. Don’t stop halfway through. Bring it full-circle and admit you’re afraid so that you can open up and be imperfect and start LIVING and THRIVING.