5 Signs Perfectionism is Sabotaging Your Career Goals


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Do you have big dreams that you want to make happen, but you’re just always waiting for the ‘right time’ to get started on them {which never seems to arrive}? 

Or perhaps you’ve found yourself stuck and unable to move forward because you constantly doubt whether you / your work is good enough? 

Or maybe you’ve just been driving yourself crazy overthinking the ‘right way’ to move forward and because you can’t make a decision, you stay where you are?

If you answered yes to any of these, then you may be standing in the way of your own success and letting perfectionism get the better of you.

On the surface, striving for perfection in our life may feel like a worthwhile pursuit. But the dark side of this pursuit is when we avoid doing the things that are truly important to us out of fear of failure and the not being able to live up to the expectations of other people.

Brené Brown aptly likens perfectionism to a “twenty-ton shield that we lug around, thinking it will protect us, when in fact it’s the thing that’s preventing us from taking flight”.

Here’s the thing: it’s easy to get caught up in cycles of self-doubt, overthinking and being stuck in analysis-paralysis, but unless we become aware of it, we can end up wasting our precious time and energy on thoughts that simply do not serve us and hold us back from reaching our true potential.

As a recovering perfectionist, I’m all too familiar with these cycles and patterns of thinking. 

And do you know what I’ve learned?

When we spend so much of our time (and ultimately our life) second guessing ourselves, we end up missing out on the joy of doing what we love; not to mention the constant state of stress and anxiety that plagues our thinking!

The truth is, you will never be ready. There will never be the perfect time and the decision fatigue that’s causing you so much angst, frustration and overwhelm is costing you your life and your big dreams.

So today, I’d love to invite you to bring some greater awareness to your thoughts and begin to reflect on whether these are serving you or if in fact these are signs that perfectionism is holding you and your dreams hostage.

01. All or nothing / black and white thinking. 

When we let perfection get in the way, it’s often because we think there is a ‘right way’ and a ‘wrong way’ for something to be done and that things need to look or be a certain way for them to be ‘right’.

But the truth is that this kind of thinking is too simplistic and doesn’t take into account the varying shades of gray that make up our life.

Art and music is a great example of this – some people think Metallica is the greatest band of all time. Others (myself included) cannot stand to listen to this kind of music! 

Can we both be wrong and right at the same time? Yes!

Here’s the thing: there is no right way or wrong way – there is only your way. Everything in life is subjective. And no matter how hard you try, you will never please everyone!

In our western culture we are conditioned to learn (what I think are) some flawed ways of thinking. We’re taught that there’s a right way for things to be done and a wrong way, and if we don’t fall in line then we risk being different and not fitting in!

So, our unconscious mind begins to develop the pattern of thinking that equates being right and wrong as being essential to our survival. We create habits around this way of thinking and start towing the line; or we risk being an outsider! 

You are not flawed and there is nothing wrong with you! All that is happening here is that your brain is simply trying to keep you safe.

In my view, this is a terrible thing to teach children and it takes a lot of unlearning and reprogramming at a subconscious level to unravel these deeply entrenched patterns of thinking.

The truth is: you get to choose whether something is right for you at any point in time – and you also have the power to change your mind at any time!

What if you began to treat all decisions like an experiment?

Choosing a mantra to say to yourself like “it’s just for now” can help to release the pressure of you getting a decision ‘right’.

Because the truth is: you’re the captain of your ship and you have the power to adjust your sails as you go.

02. Overthinking. 

Overthinking and decision fatigue can keep us stuck and spinning our wheels. When we’re in this state, our minds are on a never-ending loop arguing cases for and against; and the relentless mental chatter causes constant stress and anxiety. 

Problem is, this sustained over a long period means you’ll never find out what you’re capable of and never reach your full potential. Isn’t that a depressing thought?!

Now I know what you’re probably thinking: surely not all thinking can be bad?

Here’s the thing: there is a difference between useful analysis (the helpful kind of thinking) and over-analysis AKA the overthinking that keeps us stuck, playing small and never reaching our dreams.

Here’s how you can make the distinction:

Useful analysis always leads to some kind of outcome and action taking place.

Over-analysis is when you find yourself in a never-ending cycle of staying stuck and never taking action.

So, what if you allowed your life to be a work in progress and gave yourself some breathing room to take some detours and wrong turns and see where the path leads you?

The truth is there is no one destination in life: all of life is a journey and there are a million paths you could take.

Our final destination is the moment we take our last breath – and wouldn’t it be nice to know that once you’ve reached your final resting place that you’d given your dreams your best shot?

03. Fear of failure.

How many times have you talked yourself out of doing the things you *really* want to be doing because you’re worried about failing and fear it won’t turn out the way you hoped?

In school, we’re taught that making mistakes should be avoided at all costs! Problem is, we begin to develop unhelpful patterns around our thinking and when we can’t predict the outcome of something, our solution becomes to avoid it altogether. 

When we fear failure, what we’re basically craving is certainty for how things will turn out. 

So when you think about it, fearing failure and never moving forward is our brain’s way of trying to keep us safe. It is basically trying to help us out so we avoid the pain of failing and therefore keeps us stuck in inaction.

But here’s what I’ve come to realize: after countless failures of my own (or experiments as I call them!), failure is an important part of success because without giving something a go, there’s no way you could ever find out if it would work, or if you even wanted to fully commit to a certain path.

So what if you chose to flip the switch on failure and instead used it as feedback?

Feedback to discover what feels good to you and more importantly whether it’s something you care enough about to invest your future time and energy into.

Question is, if feedback was the only outcome; would you take a chance on your dreams?

The only real failure is if you choose to give up on your dreams altogether – and that is your choice to make.

What will you choose?

04. You procrastinate on your goals.

When broken down in its simplest form, procrastination is simply putting off something we know we need to do that will move us forward.

And why do we do this?

Because we:

  1. Have no idea what we need to do – AKA a skills or knowledge gap
  2. Have no idea what the outcome will be AKA we avoid the uncertainty of how it may turn out and the subsequent fear of failure or the rejection we’d have to feel (or that it may turn out even better than we could imagine!).

So if you’ve been making excuses like waiting for the right time to start; or you have a lot of ideas but you just don’t take action, ask yourself: are you avoiding your goals because you’re not sure of the outcome?

Do you want to know the good news?

Cultivating our tolerance for uncertainty and developing resilience is like a muscle that we can build. We can get better at handling the uncertainty that comes from stepping out into the unknown AND we can identify the skills or knowledge gap we need to fill that will help us reach our outcome.

This is why I love tools like hypnotherapy as it helps to retrain our brain and rewire our mind at the unconscious level to create new patterns of thinking that help us reach our goals.

It’s empowering to be able to step back and recognize that you’re the one in charge of the outcome – no one else, but you.

05. Worrying about what others think. 

For many of us, we spend our days living out the “shoulds” of our life, because we’re trying to meet other people’s expectations for fear of not being accepted.

We risk showing our true selves to the world, because we fear that if we’re not ‘perfect’ and we don’t meet their expectations, we’ll be rejected.

So what happens?

We end up trading our lives away to feel safe, out of the fear of getting it wrong and somehow messing things up. So we choose to save ourselves from the shame of putting our dreams out into the world and never take action on them.

Want to know the truth?

Most people couldn’t care less what you do, or how you choose to live your life – trust me they are much more concerned with their own life.

So what would happen if instead of focusing on what other people think, you focus on what YOU think of yourself and fuel yourself with the belief that you’ve totally got this!

Here’s the thing: You have the freedom to decide to take action or not and the only one who can rescue you is YOU.

What if you decided instead of taking the perfect step forward you focused on taking imperfect action instead?

This way you can fully acknowledge that what you’re sharing and putting out into the world is far from perfect, but it’s helping to move you forward. 

That way you can begin to grow your confidence and learn as you go – this imperfect action helps to remove the pressure of getting it right and allows you to enjoy the journey as you grow your business.

Let me know in the comments –  what is one imperfect action you can take today that will move you forward?

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Welcome new friend!

I'm Rachel and I'm on a mission to help my fellow creative rebels design unconventional careers and businesses that leverage their unique and varied skills into a path that aligns with their fullest expression.


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