Releasing Yourself from Perfectionism

In an ironic and twisted way, your perfectionistic tendencies are actually restricting your potential! ~Deborah Goldstein

As part of DRIVEN’s yearlong exploration of founder Deborah Goldstein’s 2019 Word of the Year— “Release”, one of the area’s that Deborah has been focusing on is how to release perfectionism, which is something she is personally learning to do. Today she shares some more tips on what’s she learned.

Laughter IS the Best Medicine.

laughter is the best medicine

Self-Compassion is an expression I would have scoffed at as my former perfectionist self. “I don’t deserve pity, comfort or kindness.” Part of me used to just say, “suck it up”. Another part believed that if I were good to myself, it would make me weak, lazy and an unfit business person. But as I’ve become self-compassionate, life has gotten FAR sweeter! And it all began for me with laughter— specifically, learning to laugh at myself! Once I made the effort to see things with perspective and ask myself questions like, “How important will this be in a week, a month, or a year from now?” and acknowledge that it may not have been the best, but was it my best at the time, I can then devise a punchline for the future. Even in the most ridiculous, high-stress situations, we can ALL find humor.

I put this challenge into practice last November, as I stood in front of a team of 80 marketing professionals, delivering a workshop for which I had only 3 days to prepare. My work was tailored to the specific client, and this client had supreme aspirations for the session. As I walked into the meeting space, I said to myself, “This will not be the best workshop I’ve delivered, but I certainly did my best to make it what it is”. It was a fortunate mindset to be in, since at one point in the delivery, there was a disconnect and the audience lost me. As a result, I began losing them, and in that moment, I could feel my heart racing, my stomach beginning to knot and a bead of sweat rolling down my spine. I paused, took a deep breath, and on a dime, shifted the energy in the room. I began asking questions, I said something funny, and then I had an insight— an analogy to help regain a connection with the group.

I left the building a bit embarrassed that day, but with a promise not to beat myself up. After all, I had done my best. I learned some lessons and thought about how I could deliver the same material more effectively in the future. Before I knew it, I had that laugh with myself!

Leaning Into Failure

Concerning the question, “How can I do better in the future?”, this sort of curiosity gets straight to the heart of the Growth Mindset. It demonstrates how once your defenses go down about not being perfect in the moment, real growth is possible. In an ironic and twisted way, your perfectionistic tendencies are actually restricting your potential!

As Carol Dweck, the architect of the concept of the Growth Mindset suggests, you failed but you’re not a failure, and you’ll do better next time. This was valuable insight for me while I was seeking council from a colleague before I launched DRIVEN. I was consumed at the time by the fear of failure. My aspirations were immense, which didn’t mix well with my healthy dose of risk aversion. At the time, I grew vulnerable to the fear, and my confidence was waning. That’s when my colleague shared the fact that Israeli entrepreneurs are more likely to get a loan from a bank if they’d had a failed enterprise than if they are new to business. Wow! What a psychological boost that gave me!

Today, as the Growth Mindset has seeped into my DNA, I find myself leaning into multiple mistakes I make daily, hungry to learn how to pivot into a strong and long-lasting success. “Look for the lesson” is now my default, and I invite you to try it on for size. You have absolutely NOTHING to lose. And as Dweck elaborates on in her TED Talk, people with a Growth Mindset have increased electrical activity in the brain when addressing an error compared to those with a fixed mindset. The former brain can engage deeply, and because of this, the person is able to process an error, learn from the error and correct the error. To me, that means they are getting better— not perfect, but better.

In order to make this self-compassion more palatable, I’ve developed a couple of mantras. I invite you to use them as you find yourself coming up short in your mind: “I’m not perfect. I am perfectly human!” and “I’m doing my best, even if it’s not the best.”

In my follow-up article, I’ll offer great resources to continue your research and learn about how to Release Perfectionism!

If you enjoy what you’re reading and are considering living life more fully, schedule a complimentary consultative session with DRIVEN HERE.


Deborah Goldstein is the founder of the Driven Professionals, a community driven to support the health, well-being & success potential of NYC professionals. Deborah is also the founder of Goldie’s Table Matters, providing education and entertainment to both corporate and private clients nationwide.

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