Episode 17: Perfectionism is a Trap


Perfectionism is one of those things that can get the best of us. I used to think when people described me as a perfectionist, it was a compliment.

After years of personal development, I now see that perfectionism is more about avoid criticism or negative comments.

In this week’s Career Strategies for Women That Work episode, I want to explore why people lean towards perfectionism and how it is holding us back for leaping into our full potential.

I won’t just describe the problem, I will help you identify the signs that perfectionism might be holding you back and provide some steps to help lap in a direction of more self-fulfillment and freedom.

I will let you know right now, it’s not easy to break away from perfectionism. Even though I recognized its grip on my life years ago and have tried to overcome it in different ways—self-development, spiritual alignment, and mind mapping—AND I still see it trying to creep into my life every single day.

Perfectionism is a huge trap, a trap that’s preventing us from digging deep, releasing guilt, and realizing that we do not need to seek external approval for self-love.

3:00 – Perfectionism is not part of our personality.

Rather, it is a tool to avoid criticism and judgment of others. Now, I really had to think about this because when I was in the throes of perfectionism, I would have told you that was crazy. I wasn’t looking for acceptance of others or sidestepping criticism, I just wanted to do a fantastic job because I wanted to reach my goals and get to the next step in my career.

4:15 – Why is perfectionism such a trap for so many women?

Men can be perfectionists too, but perfectionism really seems to resonate in women. And, often, women in male-dominated careers really fall into the trap. If I was really honest with myself, because I was the only woman at so many tables, I often felt like I had to go above and beyond to convince the people around me (and sometimes even myself) that I belonged and was worthy. It was also fueled by an inner voice, or inner critic, that kept telling me I wasn’t good enough.

7:10 – Perfectionism can be a coverup for not feeling good enough or believing you do not have what it takes to be part of the role project, team, or initiative.

This feeling often peaks when you start something new for the first time. The ‘something new’ kickstarts your need to do it perfectly. But as we know, that is almost impossible because if you’re doing it for the first time, and you don’t have experience in that area, you’re going to make mistakes and you’re going to have to rely on others.

It then becomes a matter of moving away from that need for perfectionism, and that imposter syndrome, really, and into self-efficacy; and if you need more help with that, I encourage you to go back and listen to Episode 3: Leaping from Impostor Syndrome to More Self-Efficacy.

How to Break Free of the Perfectionism Trap

13:24 – When do you feel the need to be perfect?

Is it a particular project, a group of people, every aspect of your life? Was there a particular time in your life when perfectionism felt necessary?

14:35 Do you still really need that approval?

For a lot of us, perfectionism started decades ago, somewhere in our lives, because we felt ashamed or fearful and we yearned for the acknowledgement and acceptance of others; and then we carried that through to now. We have to release those stories and recognize that they’re just on repeat in our head and they aren’t real. The only love and acceptance that we really need is what comes from within.

15:46 – How will you release those stories?

Many people turn to energy practices. And, one of the ones that I have found most freeing is EFT—the Emotional Freedom Technique. It’s an alternative to traditional treatments for healing, pain, and emotional distress. We need to focus on the emotion, the stories that we created years ago that were built around how much we accept ourselves, and we have to release those stories and energies so that we create space for more light and love for ourselves.

18:05 – What can I do right now?

It’s difficult to dig into your stories and understand why you do things. So, sometimes, breaking free of perfectionism involves surface-level work in the meantime:

  • Set time limits
  • Lean on a friend or coworker
  • Don’t go overboard

For many of us, moving past perfectionism is just about honoring what we have to share with the world through our work, our contributions, and the things we choose to focus our time on.

Tune in next time and make sure you connect with me on Instagram – @JJDigeronimo – and keep me posted and share your milestones with me there!

Articles + Resources
  • The Perfection Trap! – Anjana Nathwani, LinkedIn
  • My Secret to Overcoming the Painful Trap of Perfectionism – Kortney Rivard, Tiny Buddha
  • The Perfectionism Trap –  Sanela Lukanovic, Thrive Global
  • Perfectionism: Looking for a Perfect Path to a Place That Doesn’t Exist – Dr. Jonathan Hoffman, NBI Weston
  • What Is EFT, and How Does It Work? – Divya Jacob, Pharm. D., Medicine Net
  • Learn the Basics of Tapping – Nick Ortner, The Tapping Solution 
  • I Gave EFT Tapping a Try—Here’s How It Works and How It Helped Me Destress in Minutes – Jennifer Benjamin, Real Simple