Do you feel like your perfectionism is something that holds you back at all in your health and fitness? What about in your personal life? Professionally?
I hate to admit it, but I used to be someone who felt that being a Type A perfectionist was something to brag about. As if shooting for perfect all the time automatically meant that I would be the MOST accomplished, the MOST productive, and the MOST efficient.
However, perfectionism usually doesn’t pan out this way because when you spend more time stressing about getting all the pieces JUST right according to some arbitrary ideal, you spend less time DOING.
You spend more time in procrastination than in action.
You spend more time standing still than moving forward.
When I left my corporate job back in 2016 to start my online business, it would take me an incredibly long amount of time to do anything, even the most basic of tasks. I would procrastinate ALL the time. It would take me HOURS to write a blog post even though I wrote posts daily for my Fitness + Feta hobby blog for years and didn’t think twice about the material I’d publish. I would ruminate over the exact wording of my social media posts because I didn’t want to make ANY mistakes, even though I was an English major and knew I was a strong writer! I felt nervous about what people would think of me if I put out anything that was less than ideal. In reality, I didn’t want anyone to think I wasn’t good enough to start my own business and be successful!
I was staying in overwhelm, and this stress and anxiety was NOT helping me reach my goals. In fact, it actually became an EXCUSE to not put myself out there as much, which in turn just made me feel worse about myself!
It’s when us perfectionists/Type As do what we do best – overthink – that it becomes really hard to reach (or even just maintain!) our goals.
We all want to get to where we want to be as quickly as possible, but when we stay in the mentality of needing everything to be JUST as planned or EXACTLY as we imagined it, it can be debilitating.
Over the years, through doing personal development work and making some important mindset shifts, I’ve learned what qualities about identifying as a perfectionist do help me versus which ones don’t help me so much. I differentiate between the two by referring to the first as productive perfectionism and the latter as struggling perfectionism, and today I am sharing 4 ways you might be acting like a struggling perfectionist and holding yourself back from reaching your goals without even realizing it!
4 Ways Being a Perfectionist is Holding You Back
1. You have unrealistic expectations and believe success is a linear path.
I’m sure you’ve all seen those images out there that depict what people think success looks like (a straight line to the top) versus what success actually looks like (a huge squiggly line to finish). It’s funny because it’s true!
The journey to any goal that’s worth reaching will be messy.
This is why at the onset of coaching with me through my Best Self Coaching Mentorship and my Empowered Together Coaching Club, I make sure to set realistic expectations with my clients from the get go: that setbacks WILL happen, and it’s impossible for things to go 100% according to plan. Together we actually walk through anticipating what inevitable obstacles will come up along the way and how we will handle them when they do! We also set the expectation that we aren’t always going to FEEL like we are moving forward, even if we are!
When we manage our expectations appropriately from the get go, it makes it a lot easier to simply move right along and continue putting in the work when setbacks happen, as opposed to thinking we are incredibly off track, feeling bad about it, and completely throwing in the towel.
2. You fear failure.
We’ve all experienced some sort of failure in our lives before. I’m not saying we have to enjoy failure, because of course it doesn’t feel good. However, I actually don’t love the word failure. I prefer to view perceived “failures” as lessons, because we can always learn SO much from the setbacks we have. This is why even during weeks when my clients feel nothing went right, I encourage them to find the win anyways, even if it’s in the form of a lesson learned or identifying an area for improvement.
Looking for the opportunity to do better without beating ourselves up is productive perfectionism, as opposed to the struggling perfectionist who takes on the all or nothing mentality and lets their inner critic voice get the best of them, saying things like “of COURSE you couldn’t do that,” or “why did you even bother?” or the one so many of us feel deeply: “you aren’t good enough.”
The struggling perfectionist fears failure because of what they think it means about them as a person or their self-worth.
To stick with my online business example, I have had many program launches that have been less than stellar. I could have taken those launches and walked away, deciding that things weren’t meant to be, but instead I choose to look at some whys. Where could my messaging be tweaked? What could I have done better in terms of my preparation?
Similarly, if you have a week of less than stellar nutrition decisions, instead of getting all woe is me and thinking you aren’t meant for success, do a little detective work! What could you have done differently? Could you eat more protein earlier in the day to prevent you from snacking later? Could you have spent 10 minutes at night packing a lunch for the next day instead of scrolling through your phone? Are you letting your circumstances or environment dictate your eating? Maybe your bedtime has room to shift up so you can get better sleep and reduce your cravings the next day?
You always have the opportunity to make your mess-ups your level-ups, and it’s always your choice on whether to get clinical or to get cynical!
3. You don’t appreciate the journey and are too focused on the outcome.
When you are stuck in struggling perfectionism, you are so focused on that end goal that you completely overlook the journey. And the journey is where the magic happens! Instead of enjoying all the small wins along the way, you harp too much on the finish line. This might present itself with getting caught up in all of the shoulds.
Having thoughts like “I should be further along by now,” “I should be better at this,” “I should have known better,” or “I should be doing what she’s doing,” means you are should-ing all over yourself and not staying focused on what actually matters!
Something I try to do and that I help my clients do is to “flip the script” and use more empowering language in their day to day.
The language we use matters more than we think it does.
Instead of me saying, “that launch was a huge flop, why did I even bother if I didn’t get 10 people?,” I could say “I’m building my business, and that’s awesome. These 5 clients are 5 clients more than I had yesterday.”
If you are building a body, building healthy habits, building a lifestyle, you are in the process of learning and tweaking! You can say “I am learning so much about my body and what it needs to feel its best” instead of “I am so far from where I want to be.” There’s an incredible energy difference between “I still need to lose 15 pounds, and THEN I’ll be happy” versus “this week I added more veggies to lunch and walked daily after work, I’m so happy I did and I am closer to my goal.”
4. You compare your current circumstances to other seasons of your life.
Finally, you stall yourself in your own progress because you are getting too attached to what things used to be like. You get down on yourself and say “why bother” if you feel like you aren’t giving your absolute best, especially if the way you go about things can’t look exactly like it used to at another point in your life.
For example, I work with a lot of moms who get down on themselves if their fitness routine isn’t the exact same as it was when they were in their 20s before having children, former athletes who get upset if they take a group fitness class and their running or strength isn’t what it used to be 15 years ago, or my corporate gals who maybe are just in a busy season at work and can’t do what they were able to commit to even 6 months ago!
These are the type of thoughts that keep us stuck in inaction and send us spiraling down the negative self talk cycle, maybe even ending each day feeling pretty discouraged!
Instead of spending so much time harping on the past, imagine if you could channel that energy into your current situation?
Imagine if your head hit the pillow each night and you felt proud of something you did NOW, at THIS age or THIS part of your life, instead of dwelling on how good you were “back then?”
What if your best time actually is yet to come? You never know!
All of this to say, I think it’s time we stop and get out of the all or nothing trap with perfectionism because it helps NOBODY. Let’s start embracing this middle ground. The grey area has so many opportunities for growth and personal development instead of always feeling back and forth like a pendulum swinging between on and off, moving forward or standing still, crushing it or feeling stuck.
It’s being okay with things being a little less than perfect that actually helps us be more efficient, productive, and accomplished in the long run… and pretty darn good about ourselves in the process.
Readers, let’s chat! Which of these points, 1-4, resonated the most with you? How might you be letting your perfectionist personality hold you back? Or, how have you let it hold you back in the past?
If you could use a fresh and more empowering approach to your fitness routine, you are in the right place! My coaching philosophy is NEVER about the number on the scale or the size of your jeans or counting points or calories. It’s always about YOU: your schedule, your preferences, your likes, your results! Through my Best Self Coaching mentorship and my Empowered Together Coaching Club membership, I help time-strapped but drive women take their fitness and nutrition habits from fine to fabulous so they don’t have to settle for the status quo and can truly step into their most empowered selves. I believe that when we take care of our bodies by moving with intention, eating for both fuel AND enjoyment, and engaging in meaningful self care, we are able to THRIVE in our personal and professional lives too.
If you are interested in a lifestyle transformation that is fun and gets you the results you want, book a free 30-minute connection call. I’d love to discuss your goals with you!!
Such a necessary message for so many of us. Although I wouldn’t identify as a perfectionist per-say, I do have those “all or nothing” tendencies and have recently felt SO liberated by seeing the benefit of doing something (mindset work, journaling, breathing, etc) even for FIVE MINUTES… all those minutes ADD UP to something substantial which is so much more beneficial than the nothing I end up doing when I succumb to my “don’t have enough time to do it perfectly” mentality.