Have you ever doubted your skills, talents and accomplishments? Do you always feel the need to strive for perfection?
The pursuit of perfectionism may seem like a positive trait for an entrepreneur, but, in reality, chasing perfection can hold you back and keep your business from thriving.
Perfectionism is often linked to imposter syndrome, a common condition among many new and even accomplished entrepreneurs. This is when one experiences self-doubt and unworthiness, despite credentials and earned expertise in a given area. Another symptom of imposter syndrome is attributing all your achievements to luck, rather than hard work.
If these feelings of inadequacy sound familiar, learn how to healthily overcome this potentially dangerous state of mind, (as perfectionism and imposter syndrome can often lead to burnout and even depression).
First, it’s first important to learn how to identify your feelings and what triggers them. “Perfectionism is my personal kryptonite,” writes Shoshanna Hecht, an executive and personal coach. She advises clients and has even served as an expert facilitator for workshops focusing on these topics. “It causes me to overthink, and make things way more complicated than they need to be.”
She writes in her blog that one must acknowledge how disempowering perfection can be. She then offers a simple and daily exercise to help you break free from it: “Taking time to reflect on what I’ve actually been able to make happen, including simply thinking differently in these last couple of months, only underscores the value of booting perfectionism to the curb.”
But working through the root causes of such complex feelings can be tolling and even alienating for an entrepreneur. It may be helpful to connect with a peer group. The Entrepreneur Organization, Young Presidents Organization, The Luminary (for women) and the Small Giants Community (for small business owners) are just some of the networks that can offer support and help you tackle these issues.
Perfection is harmful to your morale, as well as productivity, according to organizational psychologist and bestselling author Adam Grant.
“Psychologists find that, at work, the strongest factor of daily motivation and joy could be a sense of progress,” Grant said at a TED Talk in 2020. That’s why he advises us to not just celebrate big accomplishments, but the small wins as well, whether it is learning to bake bread or completing a mini task for your business. In other words, don’t just focus on the end-product, or whether a certain project went perfectly as planned. Instead, be mindful about what you have achieved or learned along the way, and how it all contributes to your progress and evolution as a business owner.
To ensure perfectionism does not kill productivity, it’s also helpful to give yourself deadlines. Set hard deadlines for launching as well as completing projects, to prevent yourself from overthinking and overpolishing the end-product.
Grant emphasizes another key: “Mattering. Knowing that you make a difference to other people.” Remind yourself of your startup mission and why you started your own business in the first place. This not only prevents languishing, as Grant suggests, but also reignites the initial fire that sparked you to share your product/service/expertise with the world.
Striving for perfection can only be an isolating process. Taking a creative and collaborative approach to work, meanwhile, will help you reconnect with your peers, customers and purpose. Staying in tune with all the above will silence the negative self-talk that often leads to imposter syndrome, giving you the headspace you need to flourish as an entrepreneur.