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Overcoming Perfectionism: Managing Expectations and Embracing Uncertainty as a Coach, Therapist or Entrepreneur

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I’m sure you’ve read a lot of information around perfectionism and how to move past the blocks often caused by self doubt

This post will explore some simple ideas around how you can finally say goodbye to perfectionism, increase your confidence and become more comfortable with uncertainty.

If you’re a coach, therapist, entrepreneur trying to find your way in the busy online world, my guess is you’ve experienced some doubt or confusion about how you should be doing things in order to stand out.

The competition is tough out there. There are so many fabulous women also building their business, seemingly with ease and confidence. For some this can be inspiring, but for others it can add to the pressure felt, to show up and be and do everything you possibly can to achieve your own success.

Social media has always been a place that can kick off those insecurities and doubts. It’s human nature to compare yourself to others, and for many, the comparisons are rarely positive in your favour.

This constant comparison can kick off a strong desire to create the perfect posts and the perfect programmes, and to show up looking perfect and full of confidence and authority.

If perfectionism is something you’ve experienced before, it’s likely that in this scenario, your confidence and self belief will have been impacted along the way.

I'm excited to share some simple things that you can take on board to help you let go of perfectionism and self doubt, and increase your confidence and productivity.

*Affiliate Disclosure: Some links in this post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something via this link then I may receive a small commission. This doesn't affect the price you pay for the product.

If you have any questions, reach out for a chat [email protected] or check out my other blogs

What is Perfectionism?

Definition:

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

I also found a great explanation of perfectionism in an article by Berkeley Wellbeing.

In the article it explains two different aspects of perfectionism – 

Perfectionist Striving – The need for exceptionally high standards, and for things to be flawless.

Perfectionist Concerns – Being critical of yourself based upon those high and unrealistic standards.

Perfectionist striving, when linked with a mindset of possibility for success, can lead to improved levels of performance. However, when it’s mixed with a fear of failure, because you become worried that you won’t achieve those standards, it can just lead to you feeling stressed out and full of doubt.

This can then lead to you becoming stuck in the loop of needing things to be perfect, or for you to be flawless in everything that you do. While at the same time being highly critical of yourself for not living up to those impossibly high standards.

What Causes Perfectionism?

The root causes of perfectionism tend to be based around a fear of failure, of shame, feeling unworthy, or from setting yourself unrealistically high standards.

If you live with mental health conditions like anxiety, perfectionism can be common as it’s linked to a fear of doing something wrong, being judged by others or excessively worrying about what could happen if you made a mistake, or you didn’t meet the expectations you believe that others have of you.

If low confidence and low self worth are things that you can relate to, perfectionism can again be triggered by these thoughts of not being good enough. To avoid being judged it becomes much easier to not complete something.

Perfectionism can also develop as a result of parents who place unrealistic expectations on their children. Or, who are overly critical when their child doesn’t meet their own standards.

Common Perfectionist Behaviours

Thinking distortions – 

  • Fear of failure
  • Very high / unrealistic expectations of themselves
  • Over-critical of self and others based upon these expectations
  • Not feeling good enough
  • Basing value and self worth on performance
  • Fear of making a mistake – no matter how small
  • Fear of judgement of others
  • Difficult to bounce back after any sort of perceived failings
  • Excessive worrying about whether it’s right
  • All or nothing thinking – “if I fail this I will never achieve anything in life”.

Behaviours – 

  • Procrastinating – avoiding work / showing up
  • Not completing projects to avoid judgement
  • Over checking things
  • Excessive fact checking 
  • DIsturbed sleep due to worry

It can look different for everyone. A student that I've supported for around 4 years, initially had this level of perfectionism. When it came to submitting their work for assessment they could not complete the task. At times they couldn't even begin them. They were extremely capable, but the discomfort and worry was so strong that they would simply not be able to complete it.

This had huge consequences for the student and resulted in them having to repeat their first year. But, once their anxiety was better managed, they were able to recognise when something was done to a ‘good enough’ level.

Their high results reflected this, and they were able to see the discrepancy between their ultra-high expectations v what was actually expected of them.

How To Overcome Perfectionism

1. Mindset – The most obvious one to begin with is to focus on inner work. Creating a mindset of acceptance, compassion, self belief and growth is key.

This may mean seeking support from a therapist or mentor to help you work through some of the reasons why you are a perfectionist. I’m not saying this is the case for every perfectionist, but if there is significant distress, stress or worry, then seeking support may be the best course of action.

When you can identify the root cause, you can begin to unpick those beliefs and work on improving your self belief and self worth.

If fear of failure or of being judged are the main causes of perfectionism, learn to embrace a mindset of growth and learning without judgement. Understand that we are all beginners when we first start something – and that’s okay! Learning to give yourself and others grace, and to recognise that it’s not the end of the world if things aren’t “just – so”. 

Learning to tolerate feeling discomfort is a great way to work through these fears. Discomfort and disappointment are two of the feelings that many of us will try to avoid. Becoming okay with things not always being exactly how you picture them to be, will be so freeing.

There are lots of self help tools and resources available if you don’t want to seek help from a therapist or mentor. I have a free thought shifting worksheet  that you can download to help you challenge those unhelpful thoughts.

2. Set yourself realistic goals. – This is a great practical tip. If you know that your perfectionism means that you often make huge and often unrealistic goals, or goals that put you under unnecessary pressure; change them! 

People worry that this means they won’t achieve their big goals if they “downgrade” them. But that’s not it at all!

Have those big goals – Do DREAM BIG!! But, when it comes to creating an action plan to make those dreams your reality – be realistic. There are lots of ways you can do this. I have a free planning worksheet you can download to help you break your goals down.

The secret is to take that big dream, then do a rough outline of what you’ll need to do to achieve that dream. For example:

Scenario:

A woman has been growing her coaching business alongside her daytime job. She ultimately wants to leave this paid role and work only on her business.

Big Dream:

“I want to earn enough money to buy my dream home, work only a few hours per day and pay for my children's education without needing to worry about finances again”.

Big Goal:

To grow my business through building an audience and developing my online store and hit a minimum of £7000 per month. I want to achieve this within 3 years.

Now there’s a goal deadline, it's time to break down everything that she needs to do and achieve in order to hit that target.

Goal:

12 month goal:

  • 5k email subs
  • 10x 1-1 clients
  • Membership launched with first paying members
  • Online store growing

As you can see from that, her big dream is still there – but by breaking it down, you can begin to work out exactly what needs to be done to get there. 

There are other ways you can do this (backward planning etc.), but this is just a quick example of how you can set yourself realistic goals that will reflect where you are at the different stages. 

If you set yourself the goal of having 10 x 1-1 clients within the first month of setting up, and without spending time growing an audience or email list, how likely would it be?

It’s the same with written work – if you’re a student or if you’re working on writing a book. Trying to get it final-draft ready right off the bat, is just going to mean high stress and little progress.

Clear and achievable goals reduces the risk of perfectionism as it builds your confidence as you move along.

Take Action to Grow Confidence

Perfectionism can mean it’s hard to even make a start. It can feel so much easier to avoid and put it off, even if it’s something you really want to do. Avoiding it helps to remove the discomfort.

Once you adopt a growth mindset, you give yourself permission to mess things up, or get things wrong without shame!

You’re not going to be perfect at anything the first time you do it – think about surgeons – they wouldn't be working on patients from the beginning. They need to learn and develop their skills. It’s no different for you.

Learn how to become more reflective, and allow yourself to be vulnerable. When you show yourself grace and compassion, you can learn so much. Get used to asking for feedback from others so that you can continually develop and improve your skills and your confidence.

Get used to receiving feedback that identifies areas for development. It's not an attack on you as a person or on your ability. When feedback is done right, it's just a way to support your learning and development. It's incredibly valuable, so getting comfortable with not always getting it ‘right' is essential.

See setbacks as learning points. If you’re a perfectionist, setbacks can be highly triggering, with that all-or-nothing thinking convincing you it's all over! Instead, accept that things happen, and take these things as lessons to help you perfect your skills!

Embrace Imperfect Action!

Try to not wait until things are all lined up before you make a start. Go into things with the attitude of “I am aiming for good enough. I can improve it once I’ve finished this draft”. 

I share this nugget all of the time with my clients and students. Honestly they all love it, and those who have implemented it say that it was what helped them move past the block and make a start. 

It’s also what helps me whenever I start writing anything – this post included! I often edit things at 2 or 3 times before I publish. I am quite strict with this now though, because as a perfectionist in recovery – it’s something I could keep going back to and editing over and over. (Update – this is now my 2nd edit..!)

It's a good idea to make sure you have some boundaries in place for this though. Limit yourself to around 20 minutes to make any changes. Only allow yourself 2 or 3 edits, and then step away and let it go.

I can guarantee there will still be things in this post that I am ridiculously tempted to edit again. But, the only time I may ever break these boundaries is if there’s a glaring mistake or if I was to realise there was any kind of misinformation.

Once you become okay with making mistakes and accepting where you are in relation to your knowledge and skills, imperfect action becomes easier.

I would love to know what perfectionism means for you and what you’ve been able to do to move past it.

Prompts & Affirmations:

Below are a collection of prompts and affirmations to help you journal around perfectionism, and think about what you can do to improve your confidence and belief in yourself.

Prompts:

1. Reflect on a time when perfectionism has held you back from taking action. What did you learn from it?

2. What perfectionist behaviours do you notice in yourself? How do they impact your productivity and well-being?

3. Describe a situation where you felt overwhelmed by unrealistic expectations. How could you reframe them to be more realistic?

4. What self-care practices can you introduce into your daily routine to help you cultivate more self-compassion?

5. Think about a recent setback or failure. What lessons did you learn, and how can you use them to grow?

6. What opportunities would open up for you if you weren’t held back by perfectionism?

7. How would you feel differently about yourself and your abilities if perfectionism wasn’t a thing for you?

8. Reflect on the fear that drives your perfectionism. What can you take to overcome your fears?

9. Think about a recent accomplishment. What strengths and skills did you demonstrate in achieving this goal?

10. Consider the expectations others have of you. Are they realistic and fair, or do they reflect your perfectionist tendencies? 

11. Consider the language you use to talk to yourself. Is it supportive and encouraging, or critical and judgmental? How can you change this to a more positive dialogue?

12. Reflect on a time when you received feedback or criticism. How did you feel and how did you respond? Is there anything you could do differently next time to be more open and receptive?

13. Consider the impact of comparison on your self-esteem and confidence. How can you shift your focus from comparison to self-acceptance and appreciation?

14. Imagine giving yourself permission to be imperfect. What would change in your life if you embraced this and didn’t worry about what others may or may not think?

15. Consider the idea of striving for “good enough” instead of aiming for perfection. How can you continue to strive for high value and success, without falling into the perfectionism trap?

Affirmations:

1. I am worthy of love and acceptance just as I am.

2. I release the need to control every outcome.

3. I am resilient and capable of overcoming setbacks with grace and courage.

4. I choose compassion and kindness to myself and others.

5. I celebrate my progress, no matter how small.

6. I let go of comparison and focus on my unique self and embrace my strengths.

7. I am enough just as I am.

8. I release the need for perfection and embrace authenticity and vulnerability.

9. I choose to focus on progress over perfection.

10. I allow myself to learn and grow through trial and error.

11. I am grateful for the lessons that challenges and failures teach me. I approach them with curiosity and openness.

12. I trust in my ability to adapt and grow when faced with change and uncertainty.

13. I let go of the need for external validation and find validation within myself.

14. I am resilient and capable of overcoming obstacles that may come my way.

15. I am enough, just as I am. My worth is not based on my achievements.

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Meet Lynsey

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)

Have you seen my online store Your Coach Tools? Find DFY templates & more!

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