4 ways to stop perfectionism killing your confidence

Do you ever catch yourself saying things like, ‘This just isn’t good enough, I’ve got to try again’, or ‘I won’t apply for a promotion until I am really ready,’ and ‘other people do that far better than me so I’ll just keep quiet’? 

When you’re a perfectionist, you refuse to do things unless they are done just right. You’re unwilling to act unless what you do is guaranteed to win and to wow, absolutely without chance of any loss.  

When your self-confidence is low, you hold yourself back, make limiting choices and give your power over to this kind of perfectionism – something we women are all too familiar with. 

The perfect performance 

While perfectionism happens regardless of your gender, cultural background or experience, study after study indicates that us women are more prone to it.  

We watch our male colleagues take more risks, while we hold back until we’re sure we are perfectly ready and perfectly qualified. We overthink our performance at home, at school, at work, at yoga class, and even on holiday. We obsess as mothers, wives, sisters, friends, cooks and athletes.  

Confidence is built on you accepting yourself and your abilities, and on you having a go and learning along the way. It is built on taking action and making progress and feeling great about that, and about not being afraid to fail.  

If you give in to your perfectionism then this may mean you never apply for that promotion, you never negotiate what you are really worth, you never put your hand up to sponsor that new project and, ultimately, you never really step up and reach your full potential. You will fail to act and act to fail. 

To overcome perfectionism, and build confidence, you need to act! It’s only when you learn to let go and actually take action that you gain confidence, which breaks the cycle of perfectionism. Here’s how to learn to act now.  

1.Accept you are human 

Firstly, you must acknowledge that you are human and, therefore, not perfect! If you’ve accepted that you make mistakes, when you make one, you can learn from it and move on quite quickly. (And if you’re not making any mistakes, it’s a sign that you are playing it too safe.) 

2. Develop self-belief 

Secondly, you need to develop a stronger self-belief. We put far more pressure on ourselves to be perfect than anyone else ever does or would. It’s up to you to take the first step, and then a second step and so on. Nothing is like progress and momentum to help us along the way. Avoid the idea that you have to be ‘all or nothing’, because this gets you nowhere.  

3. Get support 

Thirdly, have someone in your support network who will give you honest feedback and call out if you are trying too hard to perfect something. Often, we are unable to see this in ourselves, and have some great stories to tell ourselves for why we aren’t ready – we’re not good enough, for example, or others are much better. All it takes is a gentle nudge from a trusted friend or colleague to set us on a better path. 

4. Reframe the outcome 

Finally, ask yourself this simple question: what’s the worst that can happen? The most common theme from every successful woman I talk to is that they ask themselves this very question, mostly when stuck or avoiding action. 

Lack of action is often a result of a loss of confidence, whether momentary or long-standing.  

It’s when you learn to let go of perfectionism, your confidence and your success will soar. 


Michelle Sales

Michelle Sales is a highly sought-after speaker, trainer, facilitator and coach who helps senior leaders and their teams learn to show up as the best version of themselves, to build their confidence and influence with others, and to maximise their leadership and performance. She is the author of the book ‘The Power of Real Confidence’. Find out more at www.michellesales.com.au

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