Is Perfectionism Sabotaging Your Success? [Perfectionism, How it Holds You Back, and How to Break Free]

Dear Fempire,

Let’s talk about perfectionism.

Ah yes, I see you. The one who’s constantly running on maximum overdrive, trying to ensure that every last detail is executed sans reproche. You’re the overachiever. The anxious re-reader. You pore over every aspect of your process, and in the pursuit of perfection, you can critique yourself to a standstill. When you reach that finish line, the rush is almost worth the strain.

Almost, and yet…

It’s never enough.

I’m here to let you in on a little secret: perfect isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and fixating upon it may actually be holding you back.

A Little Self-Assessment

There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with wanting to do, and be, your best, but I want you to think for a moment- have you ever talked yourself out of starting something because you were afraid you wouldn’t be able to do it to the highest standard?

Do you procrastinate, because you’d rather avoid doing something than do it poorly?

Do you struggle under the weight of expectations, internal or external?

Is success an all or nothing pursuit for you?

If you said “yes” to any of these, you’re probably a perfectionist.

"Fempire Stat: Perfectionism impacts roughly 30% of the general population, and approximately 80% of individuals who were identified as ‘gifted’ in adolescence."

Perfectionists have a lot in common with high achievers, and to an outside observer, it can be hard to tell the difference. Both mindsets are capable of produce some serious results, but the difference lies primarily in how they affect the individual.

Perfectionism vs. Healthy Striving

In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown writes: “Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.”

Brown goes on to discuss how healthy striving is internally motivated, and oriented towards personal development. A person with a healthy striving mindset will set high, but reasonable goals, and will accept partial success. Forward momentum is taken for what it is- progress.

Perfectionism, on the other hand, is motivated by how we think others perceive us, and the fear of failure. No amount of external validation is ever enough, because a perfectionist sets impossibly high standards and will not accept anything less. When a perfectionist inevitably falls short of those unrealistic expectations, it is a deeply personal, crushing blow.

Taken to its worst extremes, perfectionism can feel like being in an abusive relationship with your own mind. So, if you’ve been reading along and saying “uh huh, uh huh, wait… that sounds like me,” let me tell you two things.

1)     You deserve better.

2)     It’s time to dump Perfectionism.

Breaking Up with Perfectionism

Step one of getting out of an abusive cycle is identifying the pattern. For a perfectionist, it looks a little something like this:

To break this vicious cycle, we’ll have to address those negative patterns at their source. Here’s how we’re going to do it.

1)     Set Realistic Goals

“All or Nothing” thinking, or Splitting, is a hallmark of Perfectionism. It translates to thoughts like “If can’t make the NYT bestseller list, I should just give up on writing,” or “If I mess this up, I am a failure.” When you’re starting a new project, thoughts like this can make you want to give up before you even begin!

So, when you’re getting ready to pursue that spark of motivation and start something new, set incremental goals with a sliding scale of success. If you want to write a book, your first goal shouldn’t be to produce a fully realized manuscript. You have to start with the rough draft. Make a checklist of what is absolutely necessary to complete a project, and let that be your guide for goalsetting. Furthermore, recognize that sometimes just getting it done is a good and praiseworthy goal. After all, you can’t improve something if it doesn’t exist yet!

2)     Focus on Your Progress

Rather than anxiously fixating on your ultimate end goal, take the time to acknowledge how far you have already come. Doing something poorly is the first step towards learning how to do it well. With this in mind, even failure can be seen as progress if you reframe it as a teachable moment. You have to allow yourself to take pride in the process, and celebrate those little wins along the way.

When you’re measuring your progress, resist the urge to compare yourself to your idols or competitors. In the present world of social media, it’s all too easy to get caught up that game. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “comparison is the thief of joy.” Following someone else’s curated online presence can provide inspiration if you’re in the right mindset for it, but if you find yourself getting stuck on what everyone else is doing, it’s time to take a break, unfollow, and focus back on yourself. This isn’t their journey. It’s yours.

3)     Build Good Daily Habits

The cure for self-defeating behavior is the steady application of good daily habits. Habits are like muscles- you have to train them properly and consistently to achieve the best results.

If you struggle with procrastination, for example, designate specific times to work on your project and set firm deadlines to keep yourself on track.

If you have a hard time staying motivated and productive, try working in timed bursts or grouped tasks. Once you start, keep at it until the timer reaches zero or the queue is clear, and then take a short break. Gradually increase the time interval or task grouping until you find that sweet spot for how long you can maintain quality effort.


Fempire Stat: According to this 2014 study, the recipe for maximum productivity about 52 minutes of work followed by 17 minutes of break time- and we mean a REAL break. Leave your desk! Stretch your legs!

When building new habits, you may benefit from some outside accountability as well. Apps like Habitica, Done, and Strides can provide scheduled reminders, help you establish routines, and track goal progression. Or, you can join Wonder Woman Mastery
, and gain access to all of our tips, strategies, and even personal coaching to get you [and keep you] on the right track!


4)     Avoid Burnout

The term “burnout” was coined by Herbert Freudenberger in the 1970s. It describes a severe state of fatigue and stress that can arise when a person has ignored their own needs and limitations for too long. Ladies, I know you’ve been there. Too much to do, not enough time to do it, but it is GOING to get done. A little bit of that can be just fine every now and then, but if you’re burning the midnight oil night after night to accomplish your goals, you are sacrificing your physical and mental wellbeing. You cannot do your best work if you have not taken care of yourself first.

To avoid burnout, reward hard work with rest, and at a bare minimum, make sure your body’s basic needs are covered. Drink plenty of water. Eat a healthy, balanced diet. When you are tired, go to sleep. If you are overwhelmed, ask for help. There is no shame in calling for reinforcements!

5)     Build a Network of Support

In the words of motivational speaker Jim Rohn: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” A network of support should be curated to include people who will push you to become the best version of yourself. These should be people you trust and whose opinions you value. They will be a sounding board for your ideas. They’ll console you when things don’t go according to plan, offer advice when you need it, and cheer for you when it’s your time in the sun.

Whether it’s your family, a close-knit circle of friends, or the free community at Wonder Women Mastery, a strong network of support help you see that you don’t have to be perfect to be worthy of success, love, and respect.


Not Perfection- Progress

Trying to unlearn a Perfectionist mindset is tough- speaking from experience! But when you let go of the impossible ideal of perfection, you give yourself permission to strive, grow, and thrive at your own pace. Failure becomes a learning experience. Success no longer seems like some far-off trophy to be won. When you shift into a mindset that values progress and completion over faultlessness, success becomes something that grows as you do.

There is a world of opportunity waiting just beyond that little voice that says “I can’t.”

So what do you have to lose, other than your own self-doubt?

If you need extra support to break up with self-defeating habits, and want to learn the inside scoop on how to level up as a female entrepreneur, we’ve got you right here! The Fempire is growing every day thanks to amazing women like you.

We see you. We appreciate you. And we cannot WAIT to see what you can do!


Wonder Women Mastery

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