“Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from taking flight.Brené Brown

 I’ll run a mile rather than sing Karaoke. I know I can’t sing in tune- the teachers made me silently mouth the words when there was a concert at high school. No-one likes to look stupid but when I analyze my dread of karaoke, I can acknowledge that it is silly. Loads of people can’t sing in tune, I’ve never suggested I could sing and no-one will care that I can’t.

What is it that makes us so scared to be vulnerable?

It is the fear that others will judge us, will find us unworthy.

And then they will not want to be our partner, friend or colleague.

And because of that fear we hand over control to other people.

Yet if we own our story and our vulnerability and have the courage to be imperfect, we can cultivate the confidence to know we are enough.

Perfectionism is punishing.

Once you can accept your own vulnerability, you can let go of any obsession with perfectionism. if you are a person striving for excellence, great, but if you are trying to appear perfect all the time and achieve unrealistic goals, that’s not so great.

The kind of perfectionism that is problematic focuses on other people’s expectations and needs accomplishment to feel validated. But once a goal is achieved, perfectionists replace it with another goal and forget about their success and continue to struggle as their stress mounts with every new task.

When I was setting up and running big international wine shows, I had to learn that I was never going to achieve 100%. One year we were launching a green theme and I wanted real grass on a section of the stands. The exhibition hall owners refused as it would need watering and I had no alternative but to accept artificial grass.  Nobody exhibiting at the show knew exactly what I had planned, so when my amazing ideas weren’t quite realized, it didn’t matter. Time and again I would learn that 95% was quite good enough. When I made peace with that a huge amount of stress fell away.

I didn’t mention that another of my imperfections is that have three left feet. I’m a very poor dancer. I know that this comes from the trauma of being sent as a pudgy teenager to ballroom dancing classes with the older boys from a neighboring school where I was always the last one to be asked to dance. For years, this stopped me dancing. Now I don’t care and I’m up and on the floor when the music starts. I’m not going to ask anyone’s permission when I’m having fun. People are never thinking about us as often as we think they are.

“Perfectionism is internalized oppression.” – Gloria Steinem


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