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Fed Up With Perfectionism Holding You Back?

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Perfectionism can be the biggest blocker for growth and slow or stop any progress towards your goals. When you continually strive for perfection you put yourself under far more pressure than you need to, which can lead to increased stress, fatigue or even burnout.

As a new entrepreneur / coach this can be a killer of your enthusiasm and your success.

This blog is going to explore what procrastination is and how you can move from feeling stuck and uncertain to feeling confident and able to move forward and achieve your goals.

  • What is perfectionism? 
  • Things you can do to shift your mindset and increase your confidence
  • Becoming okay with you & your work
A Pinterest Pin. A woman focusing on lined up paperclips on her desk. The text "High Standards or Perfectionism? Are you ready to speed up your progress?" In front of the image on  a faded white background.

What is perfectionism? 

“the fact of liking to do things perfectly and not being satisfied with anything less” Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

It’s something that I have, and still do experience in my life as well as my studies and business. The underlying worry and fear of not getting something right and then being judged for it has always played a part in my confidence when it comes to completing projects or scaling my business.

It can be so ingrained that you don’t even realise it’s happening. 

Despite always doing well in my studies, I found it difficult to submit my work and would spend far too much time proofreading over and over. Never quite trusting that it was finished or good enough. Writing my Masters dissertation was no exception. I second guessed everything, I’d triple check references and I was constantly fact checking even though I knew that what I had written was correct! 

Can you relate to the feeling of “I just need to add this then it will be ready…” 

If you can, there’s a good chance that perfectionism is also holding you back and slowing your progress towards your goals.

What causes perfectionism?

This is where it may vary, but will usually come back to the same kind of thing. As a Gen X’er over here, ritual humiliation at school was the norm. I kid you not, one teacher who was considered “old fashioned” back then (and who had been teaching when the canes were still in use) would ridicule you if you made a mistake – in front of everyone. 

He was also known for making you do push ups as punishment at the front of the class if you called out or got the wrong answer. Honestly, when I say they were different times back then I’m not kidding..! Oh and not forgetting the heavy wooden chalkboard rubbers / erasers that would be launched across the room at you as well…

A lot of us had experiences of feeling ashamed or embarrassed in school settings, or more personally within the family home. These feelings and experiences stay with us. 

It contributes to this innate fear of screwing up, being called out on it and being made to feel even worse about yourself.

Despite all the growth and learning you may have done over the years, those memories and experiences from your younger years can still drive that need to do things perfectly and to never quite feel good enough.

What’s your story? Can you think back to when you felt similar to this? Do you think this could be influencing your drive for perfectionism?

Impact On Your Business

The impact on your business, especially at the very beginning could potentially be quite significant. If you have a drive for everything to be perfect, you’ll be more likely to waste far too much time on completing tasks which then slows your progress. 

It may mean that your focus isn’t where it needs to be and all of your energy and creativity are being spent on parts of your business that aren’t going to move you forward.

Full disclosure – I still have to catch myself with this and have introduced a time limit that I stick to when creating things like resources, lead magnets or social media posts. 

I cannot stress enough how much time I wasted across several months as I was starting out and what it likely cost me. Setting up my backend systems, growth, audience building and gaining those first few clients that took way longer than it probably should have!

Clients I’ve worked with whether as a counsellor, mentor or coach have all experienced similar things. Second guessing what they have created and needing to make things just right before they release or upload it. Spending so much time on it that other aspects of their business suffered. And the most frustrating thing, is whether it’s a social media post, a blog or a lead magnet, quite often it doesn’t have the kind of impact you were hoping for – a few likes here and there but nothing else. Because you were so focused on that you forgot to nurture your audience!

High standards v Perfectionism

This is an important distinction and one that can have very blurry lines! 

Yes it is great to have high standards; to want to ensure that you always produce amazing work and resources… But there is a line where this can become blurred. To be honest, if you are a perfectionist, or consider yourself a recovering perfectionist, the chances are that what you produce is of an extremely high standard. It will be waaaayyyy above being ‘just’ good enough. 

Understanding when your high standards have tipped over to perfectionism is key, and one way to do this is to make an agreement with yourself that you will only spend a certain amount of time on it. Then, when it comes to proofreading you can either ask someone else to check it, or you agree to limit yourself to only one or maybe two edits – again under a time limit!

Taking a break then coming back to it can also help, reminding yourself that you are capable and that your work is good enough just as it is! It can be heard when you’re in the moment to get that perspective, but stepping back gives you space to review and refocus. 

How do you stop perfectionism from holding you back?

Become aware of what’s going on. Take a step back and check in with yourself. Get to know any worries or doubts you may be feeling.

When you can’t get started, remove the pressure. Give yourself permission to complete the task at a ‘good enough’ level, instead of instantly trying to get it to the highest level straight away. I usually tell my students to aim for around 65-70% then you get to improve it after the first draft! It is so much easier to improve something you’ve already started than aim for perfection from the start.

Plus, if you’re a perfectionist, it’s highly probable that your 65-70% version is of a very high standard anyway!

Set yourself goals, and be strict with your timings. Use this as a way to limit the time you have to spend on it, however, be mindful that you don’t just ramp up the pressure if your tie limits are a bit scary!

Get support. Ask somebody else to check through it or proofread for you. The feedback can be very useful and helps to ensure that what you’ve created is relevant for your business.

To Recap:

Perfectionism can lead to slower growth – or possibly giving up on your goals because of the time spent improving your work or content.

It can lead to burnout, increased stress or lack of confidence in yourself & your work.

Perfectionism can stem from an underlying feeling of not being good enough, not believing in yourself, or fear of being judged / failing.

There are many reasons why people become perfectionists. For me personally, it stemmed from not wanting to be judged negatively by others – a long standing story from childhood. The fear of getting it wrong & looking silly, a result from my school days.

Whatever the cause of perfectionism is, you can move through it & learn to trust yourself & your abilities once more.

Learning to let it go instead of spending more hours rechecking, believing in yourself & valuing yourself as a person with nothing to prove to anyone else.

Learn to recognise when it's the self doubt nudging you to keep improving things, or when it's a safety behaviour helping you to ‘stay safe'.

Be compassionate with yourself, but also learn to hold better boundaries with yourself. Set strict deadlines for proofreading & improvements & allow yourself to move on.

Get support! If you still find it hard to move forward & know you're wasting your time & energy on things that shouldn't take as long, consider reaching out to someone for support. This could be a therapist, mentor or coach. Work on the things that are causing you to hold back, this is where the magic can happen!

You may also be interested in this post where I talk about Overcoming Procrastination.

Meet The Author

Lynsey Wall, Coach & Mentor at Coach Writes. About me - A headshot of Lynsey smiling. Wearing a black t-shirt, blue framed glasses. Office walls behind her.

Hey there! I'm Lynsey, a coach, counsellor, and mentor for low energy, introverted or low confident female coaches & small business owners. With over 5 years’ experience of running businesses, and over a decade as a tutor and trainer, I've learned the value of effective time management that energises you through working with your energy.

I've lived with chronic illness – ME/CFS since 2011 and since then I re-trained as a counsellor, and achieved a distinction for my MA in Counselling and Psychotherapy Practice; all while running 4 businesses! I want that for you as well & it is possible with the right support and pathway to success.

Improving your mindset, finding acceptance and developing a solution-focused approach to achieving your goals is my passion. Blending mental health support where needed, as well as a supportive space and methods to manage your work more effectively.

If you'd like to know more about working with me, you can email [email protected] or find me on socials (links in the menu)

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