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Overcoming Perfectionism (And Why It'll Block You From Starting Your Own Business)

Overcoming Perfectionism (And Why It'll Block You From Starting Your Own Business)

Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share a bit about jewelry, and a lot about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. By request, in this week's journal I'm talking about overcoming perfectionism. It's something I've struggled with in the past and worked really, really hard to overcome. I'm also going to tell you why being a perfectionist will ultimately block you from starting your own business.

What is perfectionism anyway? Some people joke, "Oh I'm a perfectionist ha ha ha..." but there are deep rooted issues underlying perfectionism. My definition is striving for unattainable ideals because we feel we are being judged by others and want to please them to prove our own worth. Ouch. You may have never thought about it that way. People can strive for perfection in career, in relationships, in their physical body by working out, in all sorts of things, but there is one common denominator underlying them all: a feeling of unworthiness. We think that if we are "perfect", we are proving to ourselves and more importantly to the world that we are worthy of {insert your desired achievement, emotion, outcome, etc}. A lot of times, we are trying to be perfect to prove to the world that we are worthy of love - and that's not just romantic love. It could be love in the form of admiration of the people you work with, for example. Or love in the form of approval from your parents.

Let's get real about perfectionism for a second. Perfection is unattainable! Read that again. Unattainable. It's a manmade trap! Why? Because there is no such thing as perfection! Humans are not intended to be perfect, they are intended to be themselves. Authentic and real and true. And that's going to look different for everyone. So striving for perfection is in and of itself a manmade trap because you can never get there...perfection does not exist. And you'll only continue to beat yourself up...thereby continuing the cycle of not feeling trying to attain something that is not attainable.    

Now, to really rock your world...did you ever consider that our imperfections are what make us real and authentic and true? When we learn to embrace our imperfections, we often grow in tremendous ways. We begin to see how they make us different, special, and unique. Our "imperfections" might cause us to see the world a little bit differently than the person sitting next to us, and that unique viewpoint - for example - might cause us to come up with a solution to a problem, that leads to a business idea, that leads to a thriving company. Also, admitting we have imperfections allows us to connect with people on a real, true level. How many times have you connected with a friend or coworker because you both are struggling with the same thing? The times are too many to count! There is beauty in imperfection.

For me, in particular, I think perfectionism came from childhood and schooling. I grew up with an excellent education, but school does teach you that you should strive for perfection by getting 100% on all of your tests and projects. In the real world though, there are no tests, gold stars, and 100 percents to be given out. I also grew up with a father who rewarded success at school. It was hard to get his attention and "approval" (i.e. love) in other ways, but he usually praised the 100%. So I think I grew up thinking that I need to get straight A's (i.e. be perfect) to gain the "love" of my father. Totally false, but as a kid you don't know any better. It's all subconscious. And then that belief ultimately translated into: let me get into an Ivy League college, let me go to law school, let me get the best six-figure lawyer job I can...all to prove I'm worthy...all to earn the "love" of my father (and all of this was subconscious of course). Perhaps you have a similar experience with one or both of your parents. Ironically, I started to uncover all of this false thinking in therapy after my father died. I went into therapy to process the grief from his death, but boy did it unlock a lot of other issues. That's a post for another day. I'll leave it at this: if you're anything like me, you might find really deep seated emotions at the core of your perfectionism, and it might require therapy to work through. I'm the biggest proponent of therapy - I don't think I'd be standing where I am today without it. The self-discovery that occurs is absolutely amazing and I'd highly encourage you to at least give it a try for a few sessions.   

So, do you now see how the focus of perfectionism is earning love and respect from others by trying to please and impress them? I hope so. If you do, it's easy to see why perfectionism will stop you from starting your own business. Starting your own business 9 times out of 10 requires you to go against the grain. Let's look at an example: Mom loves your 6-figure job as a doctor because it's stable, prestigious, and she's oh-so-proud to say she has a daughter who's a doctor. Well, when you tell mom that you are unhappy with your doctor job and want to start your own business as a clothing designer or baker or fitness studio owner (or whatever it may be!), she's probably not going to approve of it 100% out of the gate. It's easy to see why - it goes against what society deems "normal." It goes against the "traditional" career paths we are encouraged to take in school. Mom might withhold her approval for a while, and maybe even forever. And a perfectionist won't have this. Mom's disapproval is too heavy a burden to bear. And the perfectionist daughter will stay at her doctor job to earn and keep her mom's love. 

If you are struggling with perfectionism, I hope you found my experience with it to be enlightening. It can be overcome with some work. And it's incredibly freeing on the other side. Instead of striving for perfection, strive to be YOU - authentic, real and true.



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