Letting Go of Perfectionism

By Janine Graham

Perfect doesn’t exist—and mistakes are where the growth, change, and learning happen.

I received an email from a fellow coach yesterday. I was thrilled to receive it, as it was a woman from the United States who was going through the same challenges that I had in regards to starting my own business. And any opportunity for me to assist another person on his or her journey is a gift to my heart and music to my ears. She told me that she was inspired by a post I wrote on a coaching page that we are both members of. She asked if I had any tips on starting up her own business; she is suffering from perfectionism and fear. Let’s call this coach Lisa. This was my response…

Hello Lisa,

Thanks so much for your email and thanks for reaching out! It’s very encouraging to hear that I’ve been able to inspire based on what I found really difficult. There’s always a silver lining for things we struggle with, hey?

I did an incredible amount of work on “trying” to get myself out there and, yet, still went around and around in circles and felt like, although I’d spent so many hours, I was going nowhere fast.

I discussed and bounced ideas off my sister, who has her own small business. I wrote pages and pages about my aspirations. I even took it to my counselor at the time, and I thought about what my life would look like as a coach, a hell of a lot. The bottom line came down to asking the question: What is holding me back?

For me, it was several things including the fear of what might happen, the fear of the unknown, and certainly a long list of “what ifs.”

  • What if I put my business page out there and everyone realizes I’m a fake? Not smart enough?
  • What if I’m not cut out for this?
  • What if I decided I don’t want to do this?
  • What if I/my page/my business isn’t perfect enough?
  • What if everyone laughs at me?
  • What if everyone thinks less of me?
  • How could I ever compare to the other coaches out there?
  • What if I get a client and can’t help them?
  • What if all of this hurts my pride?

The list goes on…

I identified that my biggest fear was the fear of what other people think of me tied into the fear of not being perfect enough. I have done a lot of personal work on perfectionism and have come to understand that it is one of the biggest forms of self-abuse. I also realize that perfect doesn’t exist; it’s just a fantasy. I remember someone asking me years ago, “What does perfect actually mean?” I struggled to answer this question, and I realized that I was actually striving for something that was not only unachievable, but was also something I didn’t actually know how to define. How can I achieve something when I don’t actually know what I’m striving for? There begins the never-ending merry-go-round of perfectionism and mental torture.

Nowadays, when I notice these debilitating thoughts come up, I can catch myself and use positive self-talk. This is GOOD ENOUGH is what I tell myself. I can come back to it another time and improve on it later. I am almost lying to myself or tricking my brain because I often don’t come back to it, but that’s more than okay. I have also realized that it’s like a muscle or habit. The more I practice this habit of positive self-talk, the easier it gets to kick perfectionism’s butt. The more I see that the world didn’t end or I didn’t become the laughing stock of the town based on my lack of perfectionism, the more I am coming to not only accept but—believe it or not—value and take pride in mistakes or tasks which could’ve been done better (in my eyes). Mistakes are where the growth, change, and learning happen!

Remember, whatever you put out there can always be changed later. You simply need to start somewhere. Even the big hotshot coaches started where you are right now. Interesting thought, hey? For me, it was starting a Facebook page, putting up a photo, a background, adding some bits and bobs about myself, and simply taking charge.

The “pull the trigger” moment was when I was working with a coach through ReciproCoach. It was our third session, and I had talked a lot about my fears, doubts, and insecurities around putting my vulnerable and fearful self out there. She caught me off guard and bluntly said: “You’ve been talking a lot the past few weeks, but you’ve taken NO action.” I was taken back and a little offended (at that moment), as I had taken so much action! Well, maybe I’d taken action in practicing perfectionism. I just had to bite the bullet. Being a bit stubborn and frustrated with her comment (or challenge), I got off the phone, I went to Facebook, I spent 30 minutes going over a few things and created my first ever post. I’m very thankful for that daring coach!

And can I tell you something? Not one of my fears has come true. If anything, it has been the very opposite. I was inundated with love, comments, likes, and emails that night, and I struggled to sleep from overwhelm! I do believe the first step was the hardest.

Imagine a very large rock. It may be stuck in the ground and extremely difficult to move. You may need help and support from others, you may need some strategies on how to tackle moving this rock. But when this rock eventually starts moving, it builds up momentum. It starts to roll. It rolls faster and faster and with less resistance and less struggle. This rock analogy can be you.

Janine Graham is an adoring mum, a dedicated primary school teacher, and a motivated, solution-focused Wellness Coach. It was not until Janine was bedridden with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, completely consumed by physical and mental exhaustion, that she began to listen to herself and contemplate her purpose in life. Through her dedication in mentoring and furthering her studies at the Life Coaching Institute of Australia, her business Free To Be Me—Wellness coaching was born. Gaining strength from her personal battles and victories, Janine is passionate about many women’s issues, particularly those around body confidence, relationships, fertility, parenting, life balance and unconditional self-love. Follow more of Janine’s story on her Facebook business page – Free To Be Me – Wellness Coaching at http://www.facebook.com/Freetobemewellness/ and her blog at http://freetobemewellness.com.au/.

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