How to get past the diabolical duo of fear and perfectionism

There's a strange paradox I see all the time. Accomplished professional women who strive to build great careers, launch businesses, or make big shifts in their personal or professional lives often trip themselves up.

So many of these women have big ambitions, big ideas, and even big plans but can’t get things moving. Or they make a start and can’t build momentum.

What holds them back?

Two big culprits are fear and perfectionism — and often a combination of the two. These two forces are the underlying issues that keep so many people playing it safe (tweet this).

They slow them down — or keep things from getting started at all.

“It’s not good enough yet.”

Have you said these words to yourself?

You’ve been thinking, planning, and laying groundwork for something new and important. Maybe you’ve prototyped a new product, or completed rigorous training, or see the opportunity to build an awesome business. Maybe you’ve gone as far as building a new website. But the thought of actually showing it to the world or taking the next steps feels terrifying.

After all, what if it’s not good enough — or you’re not good enough? What if people won’t like it? What if you’ll be judged — by a relative, a colleague, or in the vast social media world?

Fears like these, that sit atop the perceived need for everything to be perfect, have stopped many worthy and important new things from getting off the ground.

Here are 3 ways you can turn things around

1. Stop listening to the fear

Focusing your time and energy on more refinement or additional preparation — or holding off on taking action — may feel like a safe way to protect yourself. But this is actually a way of telling yourself, “I’m willing to stay where I am right now.” 

If that’s not what you want, I’m here to tell you that you have the power to choose not to let the thoughts that drive perfectionism and fear rule you. 

It may sound simple (and maybe a little odd), but when you hear thoughts like those you can talk back to them.

Start by acknowledging them. Be aware that these thoughts are your ego piping up, trying to maintain the status quo (which feels oh so comfortable). 

This is your opportunity to be compassionate to that voice, but to firmly tell it you are in change and you’re running the show. 

Will it feel easy to do that? Probably not. But when you want something that’s important to you, you are called on to step out of your comfort zone and bring some boldness to the matter. 

And, remember that there is no such thing as “perfect.” So, share that news, too, when you respond to your fearful thoughts.
(You can read more about perfectionism and what to do about it here.)

2. Take action

Taking action — including some risks — is always the path to learning, growth, building confidence, and ultimately to reaching new and exciting places in your life.

Remember how many times Thomas Edison tried and failed before he created a light bulb that worked (he made 1000 attempts!). What if he had never started, or felt he needed the perfect solution right off the bat, or was so worried about how people would judge him that he did not get started, or became so discouraged along the way that he gave up?

Start with small steps and keep going — every small step counts. Stepping out of your comfort zone this way is not as hard as you might imagine. Continued action builds momentum. And you will find that action keeps fear at bay. 

3. Ramp up self-love

The foundation that will support you to implement steps one and two is actively emphasizing self-love.

If you have been following my work for a while, this concept will be familiar to you. If not — or if you want a refresher on the topic — here's an article that’s devoted to this important topic.

When you cultivate appreciation for all of your gifts, when you feel deserving of goodness in your life, and when you joyously love the amazing person you are, you will be amazed at how much easier it is to stand up to fear, ease up on perfectionism, and take action.

Drop me a note or comment below to let me know how playing it safe has been getting in your way and how these three strategies are making a difference.

And, if you think that coaching may help you to bring the important changes into your life that you desire, let’s talk. Take a few minutes and complete my Coaching Inquiry Form and I’ll be in touch to schedule a complimentary conversation.

Make this your day to step up and start creating something big in your life!

Stepping up in your life — or playing safe

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After a powerful session with the women in my 4-month group coaching program, I reflected and realized how far each of them has come in the work. We are 3 months in, and while each woman has had a different focus for the work she’s doing in her life, each is courageously stepping up in ways that are impressive. They are all saying “YES” to their lives.

Observing their great work inspired me to share stories about what it has meant for these women to move beyond their comfort zones — which each of them has been doing.

What does it take to make bold moves?
How do you get started?
How do you stay on track, even when challenges arise?

Here is the first story in a series that I want to share with you.

What does it take to set a vision and step into action in spite of hesitance, resistance, and even fear?


1. Step one: Setting a big goal

Creating a long-range goal that entails stepping up to do something new — and something that’s outside of the space you operate in successfully and feel comfortable with today — requires courage.

When you have a big "Why" for something you really want to go for, you can more easily create a big goal.

My client has a vision for work she wants to do in five years. Is it a stretch? Yes. Is it important to her for a number of fundamental reasons? Yes. Knowing why it means so much to her helped her to get clear about what it will take to make it a reality and commit to moving ahead.

2. Step two: Getting started

Taking early steps was not so hard for this motivated woman. She reached out for coaching support. She used her network to meet with other women who had succeeded in doing what she wants to do and got their advice. She’s been doing research into this new kind of work and what it takes to get it. She joined a group of other women on this path in order to get education from the program and support from peers.

3. Step three: Keeping the momentum going

After getting the ball rolling, she hit a snag. It was time to begin creating a document to use to pursue this new work and a host of self-critics showed up.

First, the Impostor Syndrome came calling and asked: who is she to go for such a big opportunity? It reminded her that she does not have all of the typical expertise that is often sought after. And, Perfectionism showed up to impede her. She doubted that her efforts would be “good enough." These, in turn, invited Procrastination to join the party. Weeks went by without a single word written.

Coaching provided an antidote to the trio of self-critics. The first thing we addressed was helping her to believe that the distinctive expertise she has to offer is, in fact, important to many forward-looking organizations. An article in a respected business publication confirmed that fact. She was then able to acknowledge and own her expertise and ease up on the grip of the Imposter Syndrome. 

Perfectionism and Procrastination were shooed away by her making a commitment to write a really bad first rough draft of her document. After that she knows she can trust herself to edit it and get input from others to polish and refine the work.

This woman is now fully on track to moving into a bigger future, knowing how she will be able to move through each phase of the process she is mapping out. And, the lessons she is learning and skills she is building as she pursues this big goal are helping her in her current work, as well as having a positive impact on her personal life.

Will she run into other challenges of confidence or resistance? Will fear show up as she moves ahead? Undoubtedly.

But, having a strong system in place to get the support and advice she needs will keep her moving forward. As well, she knows that these resources will accelerate her progress compared to going it alone.

I welcome you to comment below or email me and let me know about the big dreams you have, and how you are pursuing them — or, if you’re playing it safe but yearn to say “Yes!” to your life in new ways. What are your questions about getting started?

And, if you are curious to learn about private coaching, or the impact of my group coaching programs (I’m launching a new group program this fall), click on over to inquire about coaching. When you complete and submit the Coaching Inquiry Form, I’ll be in touch to make a date with you.

Six months in, six to go!

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July has arrived, and with it the realization that this year has hit the mid-point. This is a perfect time to pause and think about where you are as you head into the second half of the year.

Here are some ways you can take stock:

1. Check in with your word-of-the-year — or choose one now

If, way back in January, you chose a word to guide your year, this is a great time to revisit the word you selected and reflect on how you've been using it to inspire and guide you the last 6 months — or how you want to reconnect to the word you chose and have it inspire you now.

And, if you did not choose a word for yourself, but want to know how you can choose one to guide you in the final half of the year, check out my blog post about how to approach this wonderful practice.

2. Revisit the plans you made, the dreams you dreamed, the goals you set

Many people make big plans, dream, or set ambitious goals for themselves as the year begins. If you were moved to do something like that, now’s the perfect time to think about what’s happened to those ambitions.

If you have let things slip, this is the time to reconnect with them, review your progress to date, and decide if you are still feeling the same motivation. Maybe something has shifted in an important way and you will see different or more beneficial opportunities. Maybe you will have an idea for a simpler or better way to approach a goal that you struggled with.

Maybe your assessment will show that you are ahead of where you expected. If that’s the case, now is the time to decide if you want to expand on the goal, if the pace has been working or if you’ve pushed harder than you’ve liked, or if you want to celebrate the completion and embark on a small additional goal for the last six months of the year.

And, consider what lessons have you learned — lessons that you can build on now, or that will shine a light on modifications that will make it easier to proceed.

3. Commit to the actions you need to take now

Having great intentions does not ensure progress or success. Commitment is needed! And true commitment requires you to make specific plans and follow through.

Now is the time to start listing what it will take to accomplish your objectives. This is a good project to do when you have some quiet time (maybe on a beach?) to sit, think, and get real about all the steps that will make your wish a reality. Then, with a detailed list in hand, it’s time to schedule each step in your calendar. Be realistic as you do this. Consider the time each task is likely to take. Work around vacations, major family events, conferences you’ll be traveling to, etc. The more carefully you schedule the tasks, the more likely you’ll be to stick with your plan and make satisfying progress.

And, look for someone who can help you stay on track. Who do you know that wants to be intentional in the second half of the year and might be a good Accountability Partner? This is a great way for you to support one another — and to celebrate your successes, too!

And, you can consider having a coach to support you to get clear about the life and work questions on your mind — to live the big life you long for — so that you can set clear objectives and get help to step into your future with intention and commitment. If that’s something you want to explore, I welcome you to set up an Introductory Coaching Call with me. There’s no cost or obligation for us to meet. Simply complete the Coaching Inquiry Form and I’ll be in touch to make a date with you.