“You are a perfectionist.” It hit me like a ton of bricks. The coach that I had been working with identified this new title on my resume that I didn’t even realize I had been working towards. Why is it that she saw it right away, but all of these years, I was blind to it? Always striving to be better, detail oriented and driven to get it right. Being a perfectionist helped me to get this far, but I didn’t know the value that it would bring me to ditch perfection in the next phase in my career and personal life.
As I sat back to reflect, I saw it everywhere. The very things that made me good were the very things that would hold me back if I didn’t figure out how to let it go. As women, we have a tendency to think that we have to do it all and be it all. Thrive in our careers, be the perfect mother, age gracefully and look good all the time. How much time had I wasted on perfection all these years and what would I gain back if I used that time to focus on how much more I could fit in if I let perfection go?
I know I’m not alone. Our society feeds this dynamic, but somehow, women tend to succumb more than men. A recent article by Jessica Bennett, contributing columnist at the New York Times and contributing editor of the Lean In Foundation states that “research shows that women are more likely than men to be perfectionists. The perfectionist behavior can hold women back from answering a question, applying for a new job, asking for a raise until they’re absolutely 100 percent sure we can predict the outcome.” Sound familiar?
I set out on a secret mission to figure out how to balance perfection to a more manageable state. At work, I started setting limits to ensure I wasn’t spending too much time to make it exactly right and letting it go when things didn’t come out perfect. I moved on quicker when mistakes happened because even the best business leaders make mistakes, but they get smarter from it. I started delegating more to the team and empowered them to own the final result.
On a personal level, I accepted that my house wasn’t going to be as organized as the Jones’ and that that pile on the kitchen counter may get smaller or larger, but it may not go away. I limited my intake on magazines and articles that featured that perfect unattainable image of the women I would never be and I took on new personal mantras like “I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got.” Very quickly, it felt liberating and exciting to see the potential of an imperfect future, as I realized how much more I could accomplish and how much better it felt.
As working women juggling it all, we owe it to ourselves to strive to be our best, but redefining our best and how we achieve it without the pressure of perfection may be the perfect solution to a better you. Send me your strategies to ditch perfection at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll share them on my blog.