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How to overcome perfectionism in 4 simple ways

If you have perfectionist tendencies, they’re likely holding you back in your business. Here’s how to overcome perfectionism to unblock massive growth.

January 15, 2021 by Cyn Meyer

Do you want to be perfect? 

Sure, we all do. 

Is it realistic? 

No. And, as human beings, we all know that. 

Even still, perfectionism is too common and has a tight grip that can hold you back from moving forward in your business -- in a big way. 

Don’t worry, though. There are ways to cope. 

We’ve got four trusty tips for you that will help you overcome your perfectionist tendencies, so you can turn that draining energy into fuel for growing your business. 

Before we dive into tactics, though, let’s quickly define perfectionism, so we’re on the same page. 

What exactly is perfectionism?

Perfectionism is much more than an overachiever’s lofty desire to be the best and finetune everything in sight. 

It’s an internal judgment you put on yourself to perform at a certain and, unfortunately, unrealistic level.

Sure, high standards are great. And perfectionist thoughts can motivate you to produce at a higher level. 

But the emotional vulnerabilities attached to perfectionism far outweigh any benefits of achieving success from it.

It’s toxic.   

For one, perfectionism correlates with stress -- like depressive disorder, chronic fatigue, a loss of adaptability, and a diminished problem-solving capacity. 

It’s also a cesspool for negative thoughts, hurtful self-talk, self-criticism, and self-doubt.

All very un-fun things that hurt your overall well-being. 

And not to get into the depths of morbidity, but perfectionism is even tied to a higher risk of death

Ailments aside, here’s how to tell if you may be a perfectionist. Look out for some traits of perfectionism, including:

  • All-or-nothing thinking
  • Procrastinating
  • Focusing only on the end results
  • Being highly critical
  • Setting goals and standards that are unrealistic

Another way to look at it is through the lens of perfectionist experts, Dr. Paul Hewitt and Dr. Gordon Flett

They categorize perfectionists into three types of perfectionism:

  1. Self-oriented perfectionism: You come up with an irrational desire to be perfect on your own and may think, “I have to be perfect, it’s my thing.”
  2. Other-oriented perfectionism: You place unrealistic standards of perfection on other people and may think, “Everything and everyone has to be perfect. Otherwise, they fail me.”
  3. Socially-prescribed perfectionism: You perceive excessive expectations of perfection from other people and may think, “They’re expecting perfection. If I don’t deliver, I’m a failure and I couldn’t do that.”

If any of these traits and thought patterns resonate with you, you’re not alone. And we’ve got your back.

In fact, perfectionism has been trending upwards across all three types for college students over the span of nearly three decades. 

The moral here is: 

The impact of perfectionism isn’t casual. It’s a real thing and creates a negative self-perception that takes a significant toll on your mental health. 

So, to help you manage the toxicity and battle the intrusion of perfectionism, we have a few tips for you today. 

Let’s dive right in.

How to overcome perfectionism in 4 simple ways

#1. Put your task into perspective

One way to overcome perfectionist tendencies is to reel it back and look at the big picture. 

When you go super micro, it’s easy to get stuck in the weeds and focus on tweaking the nitty-gritty details that don’t actually matter in the larger scene. 

Take, for instance, tweaking and finetuning a graphic asset for your website, like this ebook cover.

Let’s say you want to replace the teal color, but it’s a design element that’s intricately placed and needs a big chunk of time to update. 

Is it important to use your brand palette colors and be consistent across the board? Absolutely. Being consistent across your entire brand is totally a top branding tip

But, if you’re a solopreneur or entrepreneur without a big team to help you, tweaking that muted teal isn’t going to move the needle, nor is it going to speed up your product launch. 

The main reason why tiny details like this are too perfectionist, to the point of holding you back, isn’t because they’re not important, but rather because your audience simply won’t notice. 

The truth is, most of your customers won’t notice the difference between the off-brand teal and your brand’s exact hex color teal in your ebook cover.

Maybe later, after you’ve pulled in some sales from your ebook, you can hire out the design task or spend the time to update it. 

But before then, not so much. 

The main takeaway here is it’s important to see where your tasks -- especially those pesky time-sink ones -- fit into the big picture. 

Another helpful tool is the Pareto Principle, where you put your tasks into terms of the 80/20 rule, where 20% of your effort leads to 80% of your results. 

The 80/20 rule helps you weigh the importance of perfectionistic tasks, so you can avoid burnout and see if they’re worth your investment. 

To help you clarify if your tasks are worth your resources, you can also ask yourself:

  • Is this going to add more revenue to my business?
  • If I invest the time or money into this, will my customers notice?

If you answer “no” to either of these, you should probably stop tweaking and refocus your attention on the bigger picture. 

In sum:

Figure out if the tasks you’re “perfecting” help move the needle. If not, focus on a more impactful task.

Once you let go of perfecting the minuscule details, it’ll help you ship your creations quicker -- which brings us to our next topic today.

#2. Release an imperfect creation into the world 

Another effective way to combat perfectionism is to send your creation off to your customers without it being perfect. 

In other words, be OK with sharing your imperfection. 

Whether it’s one published article or a big new product launch, try to see your creation release as a single step in growing your business and not the end-all-be-all move. 

Put another way, it’s a great milestone that your audience can see, which you can always go back and tweak to improve. 

Even prolific masters like Seth Godin release imperfection into the world. Check out this email I received where he openly addresses a typo and correction in his previous blog article. 

His mistake didn’t make me unsubscribe. If anything, it made me feel more connected to him -- an imperfect human being who also makes an error every now and again. 

If sharing imperfection with your audience gives you the jitters, here’s a powerhouse brand that exemplifies this tactic: Apple. 

Do you think Apple perfects its products before releasing them into the world? Heck no. 

They ship imperfect products all the time, and their customers are trained to expect updates and improvements post-purchase. 

I mean, just look at this gigantic list of security updates for all of their devices and products. 

And if you’re still wary of launching something into the world before it’s deemed “perfect,” try looking at it in terms of releasing a beta product to beta users. 

You can even offer it at a beta discount if you’re still experiencing self-doubt. 

The point is to get your creations out there to your customers. Release imperfect products that are milestones -- a.k.a., realistic goals -- into the world, instead of “perfect” finished products.  

Then, get your audience's feedback and iterate your products to make them better. 

Not only will you improve your product and make it “more perfect,” but you’ll also include them in the creation process. 

This is something that your audience is probably super receptive to, considering the whopping 77% of consumers who view brands more favorably that seek out and apply customer feedback.

And as a life coach myself, I constantly see people’s appreciation for just being heard. When people feel heard and understood, it does wonders and motivates people to take action.    

In fact, when employees feel heard, they’re 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to do their best work. The same thing applies to customers.

After all, you want your business to motivate people to take action, right?

So, back to releasing your imperfect project -- the last thing you want is to lounge around in the space of “perfecting” for so long that you never get started.

And in the words of Tiffany Williams, successful entrepreneur and creator:

“Perfect is for the broke. Launch where you are. Get it out there to the world and then correct it as you go.”

Which is exactly what she did to launch several profitable digital products, like her membership program, Rich Girl Academy:

So, the overarching point here is to ship off your imperfect products and creations and simply focus on helping your audience. You can always improve and update them after-the-fact.

Otherwise, you get stuck in the perfection zone, launch nothing into the world, and don’t help your audience. Not to mention, you don’t make any money when you keep your products to yourself.

To help you avoid this worst-case scenario, we’ve got another tip for you, which is to welcome your mistakes. 

#3. Allow yourself to make mistakes

This one’s simple but definitely not easy to do. A powerful way to overcome perfectionistic tendencies is to embrace missteps and mistakes with open arms. 

Why? There’s so much gold to learn from your so-called “wrong turns”. 

For instance, if you experience a product launch failure, you can run a post-mortem analysis to clarify why your audience didn’t buy. 

Even if it’s a simple survey that you send to people who didn’t purchase your product, the feedback can only help you with future product launches. 

The lessons learned from your failed launch allow you to finetune your next product iteration and release a more robust and improved product into the world. 

If you’re wondering how well post-mortems work, a significant 60% of businesses agree that they’re very or extremely effective at improving processes, and 0% think they’re ineffective. 

Besides, who do you know that experiences killer success straight out of the gate? No one -- that’s if they’re human beings, anyway.

Case(s) in point: 

Even Richard Branson went through a few failures, like the launch of Virgin Cola, Virgin Vodka, and Virgin Brides (admittedly, this one was not on my radar, and rest assured, was part of the bridal wear industry), before hitting it big with the numerous other Virgin brands.   

I get it, though -- with the launching of Virgin Orbit (yes, pun intended), it seems like Virgin-anything is a go. 

And for another shining example, Evan Williams cofounded Twitter, Medium, and Blogger, but his startup ventures weren’t always a smashing success. 

Before collecting his billions in wealth, he founded Odeo, which was a podcasting platform that quickly went obsolete after iTunes announced its podcasting platform.

Evan put Odeo on the market back in 2007 to focus his attention on other projects like Twitter. 

You get the gist. Businesses don’t start out as glittery unicorns with rainbow manes. 

It takes experimenting. Trial and error. 

Speaking of which, here’s one more consideration. 

Try treating your path to your goal like a multitude of experiments. 

In an experiment, you don’t expect every method to strike gold, so you try an onslaught of ways to get it right. 

Such is the life of giants, like Amazon, Google, Intuit, and Netflix, who can afford to run thousands of experiments around the clock. 

They’ll gladly pay a shocking sticker price knowing that less than 50% of those experiments will help their metrics. 

Why? Because what they do know is, of the many failed experiments, one will strike gold. 

In a nutshell:

Embrace mistakes in your business. Not only are they inevitable, but the learning lessons will lead you directly to the right path for growing your business. 

And it’s a path, by the way, that you shouldn’t take for granted, which brings us to our fourth and final tip.  

#4. Enjoy the process 

Finally, a powerful way to overcome perfectionism is to enjoy the process of building your business, every step of the way. 

If you can learn to enjoy the process of creating, instead of focusing on the end result, your world will change. 

You’ll experience less procrastination and less overwhelm because you’ll feel less intimidated by the daunting big picture. 

All of this motivates you to take action. 

Personally, I’ve seen this “perfecting” thing happen only in people’s heads, where they dream up ideas and set goals that never see the light of day because the stars are never aligned.

Sidenote, here’s another life coach nugget: When you break down your big goals into bite-size mini-steps, it’s easier to take action and focus on the present.

Motivation and action-taking aside, though, if you think the old adage “life is a journey, not a destination” is hokey, think again. There’s some helpful substance to it. 

So much so that being mindful -- by being present and savoring the moment -- leads you to positive emotions and a bright lift in your psychological health.

Who wouldn’t want those emotional benefits?

Another positive side effect of learning how to enjoy the process of working toward your goal -- coupled with our previous tip of embracing mistakes -- is adopting a growth mindset.

This is a potent mindset, but be warned, adopting it is no small feat. 

Dr. Carol Dweck paved the way for a lot of the work on the growth mindset vs. fixed mindset. In case you’re unfamiliar, a growth mindset is when you believe you can learn skills and talent throughout your life, whereas a fixed mindset believes you’re born either with or without them. 

The reason why adopting a growth mindset is challenging is people tend to hide behind perfectionism to avoid judgment.

No one wants to be criticized. It hurts the ego. 

But, there’s so much growth and goodness on the other side of this habit.

Getting out of your comfort zone to do the things we’re preaching -- like embrace criticism, savor the process, and adopt a growth mindset -- not only helps you avoid perfectionistic thoughts to move forward in your business, but it also helps your overall mental health.

They all go hand-in-hand. 

See how that cycles into a positive loop? It’s worth the effort. 

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Don’t let perfectionism stunt your growth (for both you and your business)

If you have a hard time letting go of perfection, you’re not alone. Criticism doesn’t feel good. 

But, sadly, the external criticism you’re trying to avoid by being perfect ultimately gets internalized and drains your sense of self-worth.

Overcoming perfectionism is doable, though, especially with our four tips:

  • #1. Determine if the tasks that you’re trying to perfect are worth it by looking at the bigger picture. 
  • #2. Don’t be afraid to release imperfect products to your audience. Focus on helping them instead. 
  • #3. Look for the golden learning lessons in every mistake and misstep. This will help you cringe less when things aren’t perfect.
  • #4. Learn how to savor the building process and path toward your goal, rather than the end result.

Now that you’re armed with these tools, get out there, combat perfectionistic thoughts, and grow your business and life. 

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