How to Overcome Perfectionist Paralysis

Friday, April 9, 2021 | Entrepreneur

Starting my business was extremely difficult. The business part wasn't hard. I could learn how to market and grow a brand. There are millions of free resources out there. What I struggled with was my mindset.

I was getting in my own way. 

At the time, I was going through a huge personal transformation. I was finally dealing with unresolved childhood trauma and accompanying feelings of shame. 

For anyone unfamiliar with shame, it is an overwhelming, powerful, subconscious belief that you are completely worthless and not good enough. A common defense mechanism against shame is perfectionism. I felt like the only way I could share my business with anyone was if it was flawless and high-performing. But of course, it's impossible to have a high-performing business when it's just starting. Unfortunately, this is how the cycle goes. Shame leads to striving for perfection, and failing to reach the impossible form of perfection leads to more shame. 

Related: Perfection Is a Trap, and It's Keeping You From Being Successful

Perfectionism leads to procrastination. When you put too much pressure on yourself or a decision, you create fear of making the wrong choice and failing. Brene Brown describes perfectionism as “often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life-paralysis”. 

So, how do you break that cycle? Here are three things that worked for me. 

1. Change your mindset 

You do have the power to change your thoughts, and you do have the power to change how you feel. 

There were so many negative thoughts flowing through my head when I was building my business. For example, I would think, "I don't have any customers yet. No one cares about what I have to say. Why am I even doing this?" Growing your business from a state of panic or anxiety won't get you very far. 

I worked a ton on changing my thoughts. Eventually, I was able to convince myself, "I have a unique combination of business and life experience that gives me the ability to help many people exactly as I am right now, in ways that no one else can." 

Related: Mark Cuban: 'Perfection Is the Enemy of Success'

When I grew my business from a state of ease and self-confidence, I was more creative, motivated, and willing to take chances. I was able to build my business from a state of relaxation and empowerment. 

2. Try things without expectations 

When we put expectations on our actions, we create fear that the expectation won’t be met. When I let go of expectations, I just started moving. I took a deep breath, asked myself what I should do next, and did the first thing that popped into my mind without assigning it any meaning. I just started trying things, with no expectation that it would or would not work. 

When you try things, you start learning what works and what doesn’t work. And then you start doing more of the things that work. Little steps create little wins, which turn into bigger steps and bigger wins. Movement creates flow. And flow leads to breakthroughs. 

3. Fall in love with the journey 

Life is, after all, about the journey, not the destination. There will be ups and downs in your business journey. Successes and failures. Embrace them all. 

In his book, The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck says, “We are guaranteed winners once we simply realize that everything that happens to us has been designed to teach us what we need to know on our journey. Now what better news can there be than that we cannot lose, we are bound to win?”

Every roadblock you meet is there to teach you something, to make you better. Don’t resist those roadblocks - embrace them! View those challenging moments as opportunities to grow. Say to yourself, “Okay, roadblock. I see you, I accept your lesson. And now I will move on as a smarter and better person.”  

Related: Why Perfection Can Get in the Way of Happiness

Appreciate the things you learn, the people you meet, the way you are growing and becoming better and better. Fall in love with the process. 

The bottom line

As the famous saying goes, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Strive for momentum, not perfection, and fall in love with the journey.

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