Welcome to Hello Rebecca Ray, our collective home for courage, growth and human to human connection.
I’m your host, Dr. Rebecca Ray, clinical psychologist, author, educator, but human first, I know only too well how fear comparison and self doubt can stifle your potential. This podcast is all about brave and meaningful living, and how you can make your authentic contribution to the world today and everyday.
Hi, lovelies, welcome to episode number three. I am so excited that you’re here with me.
And today we’re talking about a pesky little thing called perfectionism. And I first just want to start by honouring your arrival here. The very fact that you’re here means that you’ve been brave enough to acknowledge that striving for perfect is holding you back a little or even maybe a lot We live in a society that constantly tells us that perfection is the goal.
We’re led to believe that not only is perfection what we should be aiming for, but that it’s actually possible to achieve.
And if you like the average person, these kinds of false pretences will have you reaching for your wallet to purchase everything from weight loss products to money making gimmicks to cellulite, smoothers and guaranteed promises of everlasting happiness.
You know what? You’re only going to be disappointed when they don’t work because the truth is, there is no such thing is perfection. It’s just impossible.
One of my favourite writers and lamotte says that perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.
Now, let me clarify that your block may not be a shitty first draft. Mine is. But yours might not be. I’m in the process of having to write my next book.
And I must admit that perfectionism loves to sit on my shoulder and squawk in my ear about how it must be perfect the first go, and that really gets in the way of being able to even write a sentence.
But your block might be writing your business plan, or releasing your first product, or making lunches that aren’t Instagram worthy, but a very capable of satisfying the tummies of your kids.
Or maybe it’s writing your first or your 50th song, or learning a sport as a beginner adult.
Whatever it is, you need the space to be able to try. And perfectionism will tell you that unless you get it right on the first go, then there’s no point in trying at all because it will only end in failure and humiliation.
Brene Brown says that perfectionism is the belief that if we Do things perfectly and look perfect. We can minimise or avoid the pain of blame, judgement and shame. And what I want to know is what is it for you lovely one? What is the thing or things that perfectionism is paralysing you from starting, finishing? And giving to the world? Where is perfectionism robbing you of your own life? And where is it making you hide or betray yourself by showing up in authentically.
This is where I’d like to jump in and jump on your inner critic, if it is conveniently decided to start yelling at you as we explore where it’s holding you captive.
The inner critic is the CEO and representative of all the parts of you that are scared all the parts of you that have been wounded by past hurts, failures and disappointments.
Your inner critics speaks on their behalf.
And it sees its primary job as keeper of emotional health and safety. That means that you can expect it to loudly interrupt you whenever you so much as think about sneaking a toe outside of your comfort zone.
And here’s the thing. The more you try to argue with your inner critic, the more you can expect it to insist that what you’re trying to do will only end badly unless you can do it perfectly.
That is. So instead of engaging in that argument, I’m going to gently suggest that you treat your inner critic like a willful todler and redirect its energy by showing what’s possible. I’m going to gently suggest that your power lies not in mind games with a voice that’s determined to keep you small, but in action that will prove it wrong. But we’ll get to that.
Freedom from paralysis starts with understanding that there is a purpose to perfectionism. It doesn’t Simply show up to keep you on a hamster wheel of striving simply for entertainment sake. Although sometimes I’m convinced my perfectionism does that .
Sometimes I’m convinced that my inner critic gets a kick out of bashing me up internally. The purpose of perfectionism though, is to give you layers upon layers of self protection, a cushion between you and the world that is designed to protect you from emotional harm that might come your way if you dared to show up authentically.
Put your work out into the world or admit that you don’t have it all together all the time.
The cushion wraps around the scared parts of you that shake at the thought of being judged or shamed, embarrassed. The thought of publicly failing, being rejected being called out as a fraud or imposter Hello imposter syndrome and the risk of being deemed as unworthy or inadequate. And that cushion is made up of layers that keep you from taking action. That look like excuses about why you can’t start right now. Refusing to try anything new, a magical to do list that never ends so it blows out the time it takes to do the thing.
The thing being whatever it is that you’re having difficulty starting finishing or putting out into the world. And that same to do lists that never completes so you can’t possibly finish the thing. The cushion also looks like seeking comfort rather than confronting what needs to be done. procrastination and it’s seductive, sister, productive procrastination.
I’m a bit of an expert in productive procrastination.
The house is never cleaned up and when I need to write a book, or when I need to record something that I found different To write in the first place, you only need to come over and see the sparkling floors and sometimes even windows, I get that productive. Because productive procrastination will convince you that you’re still doing things that are valuable and that are worthy and things that are important.
It’s just that you’re not doing the thing that actually needs to be done. The cushion also looks like unattainable standards that convinced you that you’re not there yet.
And it also looks like a ball pit of details that feel like moving the needle, but actually, they’re just there to keep you suffocated. Remember those ball pits that used to play in as a kid with the red and yellow and blue and green balls, those plastic airfield balls need jump into the ball pit, get lost in the balls and then all of a sudden pop your head up.
Lots of fun, but not fun when they’re actually decent. tails of a task that is trying to convince you that if you get every single eye dotted and T crossed, then you can finish or release, and it will be perfect. But the thing is, the details never end. And because there is no such thing as perfection, by the time you get there, the outcome might have changed anyway, or the goalposts have been moved.
Perfectionism is deceptive.
And then it often makes you feel like you’re on the right track. It might give you a false sense of control, especially over goal attainment. But the thing is, this actually manifests as paralysis rather than a true sense of control. So when you’re being perfectionistic, and you can really feel like you know, you’ve got the longest to do list in the history of the world.
And it can feel like you’re covering all bases so you’ve really got this gold thing sorted out you know exactly what you need to do from point A to point B. Yes, that might give you a sense of control. But the thing is, it’s false. Because all that’s giving you is paralysis, paralysis of details, standards, things that must be completed in order for you to feel like you’re okay.
And for you to just feel like you’re okay, then apparently the outcome needs to be perfection and perfection is impossible.
Perfectionism can also be deceptive by giving you a feeling of superiority when comparing yourself to others that you judge is imperfect. I think it’s really important that we talk about this. Now, I’m not saying that you’re a bad person in any way, shape or form. I’m saying that you’re human and what humans do in order to be able to cope with the millions of pieces of information that are thrown at us each day is to categorise
So we are professional judges. It’s what we do.
We look at information and we throw it in a category in our head. And the way that perfectionism can make you think that you’re on the right track, is by having you look around and see other people that are doing things in perfectly to tell you that you’re actually on the right track because you’re aiming for perfect.
You’re not going to be perfect like Sally who put up an Instagram post without a filter and with no makeup on. Now, I’m not saying that within you isn’t in a mean girl.
I’m saying that within you is a mind that is trying to keep you safe from that exact same judgement happening to you. But the thing is it will we judge and we get judged. It’s what human beings do. And so this sense of superiority Actually then ricochets immediately back to you to give you a deep feeling of inadequacy.
Don’t fall prey to the seduction of perfectionism in this way. Because actually what it’s doing is trying to make you feel worthy.
When really what you’re experiencing is a deep sense of inferiority. And it’s normal, we all feel that. It also makes you feel like you’re on the right track by giving you a belief that you’re helping yourself to grow and be the best version of yourself, the best version that you can be when in actual fact, you’re holding yourself captive to impossible standards that only serve to make you feel worse about yourself.
And you getting this now lovely one, I want you to understand that while perfectionism might make you feel like you’re headed in the right direction, instead, it’s just reinforcing those feelings of not being good enough.
The purpose of perfectionism is self protection. But the thing is, it doesn’t work. The only thing it protects you from is living bravely and meaningfully.
Because there is no way to live as your authentic self and go after your dreams and avoid fear, judgement, failure and disappointment. Lovely one courage and fear are a package deal.
Following your goals and dreams means accepting the lack of guarantees and inherent risks of choosing a path that you create as you go. perfectionism keeps you living on the sidelines of your life, because if you can’t accept imperfection as an outcome, then there’s no result that will ever satisfy you. And there’s definitely no space for being a beginner, or someone who is practising or someone who is changing direction or someone who is trying again or someone who is evolving.
So what perfection really gives you is this. anxiety and stress overwhelm from setting goals that are overwhelming feelings of being stuck feelings of unworthiness and not being good enough, even more self-criticism and excessive focus on the completed product rather than the process. The frustration that you have very little to show for all your efforts.
And this is the thing lovely one, I know you’re a hard worker. I know you are.
Because as someone who is intimately acquainted with perfectionism, I just know how much you end up doing to try to please that voice in your head. You are a hard worker, you can do stuff.
But you either run on a hamster wheel trying to get to these unattainable standards or you learn how to do it differently so that you actually move forward When I first left private practice, as a clinical psychologist, I sat for quite a while on my hands.
I didn’t really know what to do with my life. And then I came up with the idea that I would try to take some of my knowledge as a psychologist and package it into an online programme. I knew absolutely nothing about selling online. I knew absolutely nothing about websites about social media. I didn’t even have a Facebook profile at this time. This was like 2015.
I had loads of social media and stayed off of it. And then randomly thought, well, maybe I could give the internet a go.
being someone who just come out of a place of burnout, a very severe burnout, I was very much looking forward to creating something that could give me a sense of being grounded and standing on my own two feet again, rather than coming from a place of empty Reserve tanks.
And so I came up with this idea of creating a course and putting it out online.
And I started by researching the course which took me a few months to do, that’s fine. And then I got into graphic design now, because I didn’t have any capital to invest in this new online business. I wanted to do as many things myself as I possibly could to save money. So I discovered an amazing piece of software that I still use today called Canva.
That was free and I spend months and months my wife Lisa here is recording me right now in her studio and she can attest to how many months Bub how many months would you say I spent designing Happy, Happy Happy habits. Okay, so she said it felt like like a year and I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t far off that actually I spent all this time printing, sorry, not printing.
I spent all this time. Moving arrows around pages so that they perfectly lined up changing fonts, changing colours, I spent so much time on the design of this bloody thing.
And all it was about was perfectionism. It wasn’t about the fact that that made the quality of the information any better. The information was compiled and was the best that could be based on the research that I had access to at the time.
And yet here I was messing around with colours, fonts, and gifs and all sorts of kind of graphics. Because the cushion that was surrounding me that was helping me and protecting me from my own fear was well and truly in place to stop me from finishing it.
So I spent all this time keeping myself in a state of paralysis so that I didn’t actually have to release it.
Now, I wish I could tell you an amazing outcome from this, but what happened is I actually released that programme and it totally failed it tanked.
And I can laugh about it today because I’m a number of years down the track and I look back on that failure as one of my biggest successes in terms of learning about online business.
And if it wasn’t for the amount of money that I ended up wasting on stuff I didn’t understand, and all the lessons that I’ve taught myself along the way about websites, selling online, developing a social media audience, etc, etc.
Then there’s no way that I could be sitting here today laughing about that, it would still hurt and you know what, it really did hurt at the time it really hurt my ego. My ego likes to succeed.
And so the fact that I’d spent nearly a year stuffing around with this graphic design only to have the programme eventually fail in terms of sales. At the time was just, you know, all it really told my perfectionist Was I should have tried harder, it obviously wasn’t perfect, I needed to do the next one perfectly.
But it wasn’t about that at all. It ended up being about the fact that you have to do stuff in order to learn stuff. So in order for me to be able to be where where I am today with online business and putting my work out into the world, I just needed to give myself a chance to learn. And that means that you need to make mistakes and learn how to do it better. That doesn’t mean learn how to do it perfectly. And you know, I also have a very close friend who is a gifted writer, and I don’t say that lightly. I say that because I actually can’t get enough of her writing.
I have begged her to give me more pieces of her writing so I can read it. And you know what, as someone who has gifted skills so the happy habits example I just gave you was me having no skills actually had no online selling skills back then.
I do Now as a result of making mistake after mistake, but this particular writer has very accomplished skills, and perfectionism still gets her. She desperately wants to be published.
And she should be published her, her writing really would be a gift to the world, except you know what, I’ve known her for years now. And she has never finished a manuscript.
She gave me the first couple of chapters for a book that she was writing. And I have asked her for no less than two and a half years since she gave me that chapter, to see more of that book because I absolutely loved it.
And she just won’t give it to me. She won’t finish and she won’t send in a manuscript to a publisher, because perfectionism is getting in the way.
And I really want you to understand that perfectionism is like the monster in your wardrobe when you’re a little kid. It will be there for as long as you let it be there and as long as you feed it energy.
And this is where I want to ask you again lovely one way where is perfectionism, robbing you of your own
I just don’t want it to do that to you anymore.
So I want to leave you with five steps to moving through perfectionism, because I don’t want to see it hold you back.
The world needs what you have to offer lovely one. But it’s unrealistic to think that perfectionism would simply disappear. Because humans aren’t too fond of giving up things that protect them from emotional discomfort. So don’t think that it’s going anywhere.
That’s the bad news. But the good news is there is something we can do about it.
Because instead, I want you to think of these steps as this is how you make your path forward.
Even when perfectionism remains firmly on your shoulder squawking in your ear like it does me.
So step number one:
Is to redefine your measurement of success to done.
The best way to challenge everything perfectionism is trying to convince you of is to decide that success means completion. Now,
I’m betting that like me, quality is important to you. And I’m not suggesting that you do something poorly, simply to say that you finished it.
What I am suggesting is that when your measurement of success becomes that you completed something that it was done, then it’s no longer about being done perfectly. It’s about moving the needle by taking action towards good enough. And that leads me to
Step number two:
Step number two is I want you to redefine done to good enough. You know, the people who are out there doing what you You want to be doing other ones who are doing things to a good enough standard to call them finished, so that they can move on to the next thing.
And it’s very likely that those same people are not doing everything in their life extremely well.
Because while we focus our energy on this thing, there’s less energy to focus on that thing. And that’s the way it is for all of us. I want you to define for yourself lovely one what good enough looks like and then ask someone you trust if that standard is reasonable, because often we still overestimate good enough when we’re used to drawing up a plan for impossible perfection. So step one is to redefine your measurement of success to done and Step two is to redefine done as good enough.
Step number three:
I want you to seek good enough inspiration. Seek out someone you admire who shares their work from a place of wholeness. Rather than just a beautifully curated highlight reel, I want you to find that person that you want to emulate. You probably see them on social media, you may not even know them.
Or you might feel like you know them from their social media posts, but they may not be a friend of yours. But I want you to find someone who you respect because you clearly watch them being vulnerable. And not simply sharing perfection through photos. I want you to remind yourself that if they can use good enough as the standard, then you can too.
And I want you to remind yourself that if perfection was the accepted standard by that person, then you would never have come across them in the first place because they would still be paralysed and doing nothing.
Step number four,
I want you to look back on your good enough action. Reflect on everything that you’ve done, up until now. That is brought you here, even though it was imperfect.
acknowledge how far it’s gotten you.
Give yourself credit for how much you care and how hard you were trying and lovely one please, give gratitude to your past self, for being brave enough to do things, even when fear was also present. Because you wouldn’t be here caring so much about the next thing without action from your past self.
And step number five.
This is it lovely one, no more hiding. Step number five is take good enough action and get it done. Brains love evidence.
The most powerful form of confrontation for perfectionism is action to prove that things get done imperfectly. And when they do, they are still valuable beautiful, needed and loved, and that the creators who made imperfect work are still valuable, beautiful, needed and loved.
I want you to take imperfect action over and over again, to show the parts of you that are scared. The parts of you that are brave are here to now in summary to move past perfectionism, step number one, redefine your measurement of success to done. Step number two, redefine done as good enough. Step three, say good enough inspiration. Step number four, look back on your good enough action. And step number five, take good enough action and get it done. You can do this lovely one.
I believe in you. I see you and I want to see what you have to give the world out. In the world as soon as possible, and if you need a helping hand, I get it. Sometimes a podcast is not enough. I’m going to link in the show notes to my free five day challenge called done is better than perfect freedom from the paralysis of perfectionism. The challenge includes five days of audio guidance and powerful worksheet exercises to get you unstuck so that you can give the world your unique contribution. The challenge is free and delivered straight to your inbox. So jump into the show notes to join.
Lovely ones. Thank you so much for listening
to Hello, Rebecca Ray. If you got something meaningful from this episode, the most meaningful thing you can do is to leave a review wherever you listen to your podcast. Because it’s these reviews that help this podcast stay here. Make sure to subscribe and share this episode. I’d love to see your shares, so be sure to tag Hello, Rebecca Ray. I’ll catch you next time.