Perfectionism: Enemy of the Good and Killer of Confidence

Have you ever had a moment of clarity so profound that it hits you like a tonne of bricks? Like a real Oprah-style "aha" moment? I experienced such a moment when I first heard the famous Voltaire quote about not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. In hearing this quote, the many unseized opportunities, unlived experiences and untaken chances in my life flashed before my eyes and suddenly made sense. I would never have described myself as a perfectionist but, in that moment, I realized that perfectionism had always been lurking in my life behind self-descriptors such as prudent, careful and conscientious. There is nothing wrong with being prudent, careful nor conscientious in and of themselves. The problem arises when we constantly use these "character traits" as reasons or justifications for not doing things in our lives that can ultimately help us to grow or even just have a lot of fun.

In the book "The Confidence Code", authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman dive into the complex topic of confidence. Their overall conclusion is that confidence is a choice that requires less people pleasing, more action, more risk and more failure. They also state that the pursuit of perfection is the most crippling thing women do to undermine their confidence. They say that perfectionism keeps us from action. If confidence equals action and perfectionism equals inaction, then the natural conclusion to me is that perfectionism is a confidence killer.

Many of us hold off on doing things until the conditions are perfect. However, we all know that things are seldom perfect so this often results in us never taking action. We wait to join the gym until we can clear our schedules to go four times a week and we've saved enough money to buy a brand new workout wardrobe from Lululemon. Or maybe we won't launch our website until we've completed our online marketing course, have the perfect photos, logos and design and we have 20 blog posts written and ready to go. While we wait for all these perfect conditions to be in place, time is passing us by and we may never actually get around to doing the things we want to do. If the choice is between doing an okay or good job versus doing no job at all while waiting for things to be ideal, is the better option not to just take action? Especially now that we know that it's not just missed opportunities and learning experiences that are at stake (which are reason enough!), but our confidence itself.

When we see perfectionism described in black and white like this, it doesn't seem to make any sense that we'd ever choose to be perfectionists. But there are many good reasons why we make this choice. One reason is that perfectionism is a wonderful invisibility cloak for our gremlins. Gremlins are our inner critics whose job is to keep us safe, small and protected from all the scary things in the world that they fear we can't handle. If our gremlins doubt our ability to succeed at our endeavours, they try to protect us by preventing us from even making an attempt. But they are tricky and mask themselves behind our supposed desire to be more prepared or they even tell us that we're being much more realistic and reasonable in not taking an action we may fail at.

I know that it's easier said than done, but let's make it our intention to stop focusing on being perfect. Instead, let's do what we can now with what we have at the moment. I'm not saying that we settle for mediocrity. We can and should always strive to improve and grow but we have to start somewhere.

I want to leave you with something you can do to get a quick confidence boost right now. Think of one thing in your life that you've been procrastinating on doing because you have not quite worked out how to execute it perfectly. It could be a decision that you'd like to make, a conversation that you want to have or something that you'd like to do. You've got it? Good! What is one small action that you can take today that will bring you a bit closer to getting this thing done? Okay, now do it!! Remember, taking action is the key to building confidence and that's something that you have the power to do today if you choose to.

Please leave a comment and let me know what action you took today and if you felt any effect on your confidence!