Are you A Perfectionist?  Do you Have a Plan for Treating Your Perfectionism?

Ever found yourself wanting an opportunity, but stalling on submitting your name?

Why is that?

The simple answer is negative self-talk. Negative self-talk leads to self-sabotage, and can interfere with the best-laid plans and goals.

Recently, I unknowingly fell into the trap of sabotaging my success.  I was doing this by convincing myself that I needed to have all the boxes checked before I could move forward.  In essence, I was dealing with the trap of perfectionism. Rather than marching toward the opportunities right in front of me, I was (unknowingly) stalling.

As it turns out, women are far more likely to fall into this trap than men. As noted by Tara Sophia Mohr in this Harvard Business Review article, “Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% [of the skills listed as required].”

Ladies… we need to have more faith in ourselves!

Why Do Men Seem To Treat Perfectionism as Just Another Part of the Process?

Men have a built in “I’ll-figure-it-out” weapon that we women would do well to imitate.Treating Perfectionism: Checklist

I say “imitate” because men don’t actually have anything women don’t have. They more often seem to just trust that the right resources will surface. Based on that, they believe that they’ll figure it out. Tara Sophia Mohr suggests that women are more likely to be challenged by the self-talk associated with perfectionism.

Women (generally) seem to want to wait while seeking more training.  Women try to get everything in perfect order, before they jump in.

But whether you’re a woman or a man, practice jumping in. Don’t wait.

For Treating Perfectionism, Make the Time For Introspection

Part of the reason we get so enamored with the idea of getting something perfect (which often leads to negative self-talk) is that we (often unknowingly) create a catastrophic mental movie of what might happen if we don’t get it just right.

For example, we tell ourselves, “If I mess this up, I might… ruin my reputation, lose my status, go bankrupt, lose my job, miss out on future opportunities, fail to ever get picked again, and end up alone, hungry, directionless, and miserable.”

With those kinds of thoughts (and we all have them to varying degrees, which is a good reason to go easy on others who are taking risks), it’s no wonder that so many of us have to fight hard to put ourselves out there and take risks.

That said, when excitement (or even intrigue) surfaces for a particular opportunity, notice it.

Then allow yourself to explore what good could come… if you let it.

Introspective Questions For Treating Perfectionism

To help yourself “let it happen,” write down your answers to these questions (when you notice yourself getting excited):

  1. What is the specific opportunity that is exciting me?
  2. Why is it exciting? (Bring it to life by painting a picture in words for yourself.)
  3. How might this opportunity challenge me (and help me grow/evolve in my career)?
  4. What specifically can I bring to the opportunity?
  5. Who can I help as a result of being picked for the opportunity?

The more often you take time to understand yourself, the better prepared you’ll be to:

  • learn,
  • build relationships, and
  • reach success (which may not always look the way you think it should).

Perfectionism Tells Us What We *Should* Be Able To Do

For example, I thought I should be able to complete my first marathon with an eight-minute and thirty-second pace for each mile (the pace you need to qualify for the Boston marathon).

Before I started training, I hadn’t run more than six miles. And those 6 miles were painful.

Running hurt my body, and yet I (unknowingly, at first) believed I needed to complete that marathon in just over two hours, or else my accomplishment would somehow be less meaningful. I think I was afraid of missing out on the praise and adoration I would get from accomplishing such a feat (on my first marathon, which is a one-time deal).

Making Goals Smaller

Somewhere along the way, I had heard that the per-mile pace required to qualify for the Boston marathon was 8:30. Realizing the magnitude of that accomplishment (along with the bragging rights), I made it my goal. What had started as “turn impossible into IamPossible,” (just by completing a marathon) grew into a drive for the highest levels of performance, praise, and recognition.

I had talked myself into believing that just finishing a marathon wasn’t enough. I don’t know where this idea came from, but it certainly sucked me down a rabbit hole of fear and pain before I finally realized that my goal was absurd (for me) based on my body, and where I started.

Overcoming Perfectionism Through Introspection

By answering the questions mentioned, and getting to the truth of what was driving me, I was able to shift my thinking.  Because of this shift in thinking, I was able to open up to suggestions, learn, alter my training, and right-size my goal.  Ultimately, I reconnected with my initial goal… to complete a marathon (something I once thought was impossible).

Now that I’ve gone through the process (and learned a ton), I can use the lessons to get better results in other areas of my life. I can also offer helpful suggestions to others struggling with perfectionism.

The better positioned you are in your career (and the more experiences you have under your belt), the better you can help others rise into their potential.

Treating Perfectionism Is An Ongoing Process…

There will probably always be a drive in you to get things just right. The good news is that by making the time to ask questions of yourself, you can know yourself better. Through introspection, you enable yourself to take the risk which comes with not having everything perfect from the outset.

So, put your name in for the opportunity, and then notice as resources surface, success mounts, and you advance in your career.

Just remember, at least at first, “You don’t have to get it right, you just have to get it going.” Mike Litman

Here’s to your greatness,

Misti Burmeister

Misti Burmeister has been helping companies and leaders create a culture of engagement for more than 15 years. Help your team reach its highest potential at