6 Lessons I've Learned About Being a Perfectionist

Box Checked With Tick Sign On Wall
Box Checked With Tick Sign On Wall

I can remember feeling so deflated! I had planned this day for months. I was speaking at an annual women's conference with hundreds of women I longed to meet, teach, and inspire. I spent so much time preparing and planning to make it a "wow" experience for them from beginning to end.

Instead, at the end, I literally walked out of the room with a tear in my eye, packing up my stuff feeling like I'd failed. I could go down a list of all the things that went wrong, like running into some tech issues with some amazing videos I had planned. Or how I decided to use the extra time I had at the end for some really good Q&A, only to get so wrapped up in the dialogue that the "big ending" I'd planned didn't happen. My "dream experience" that I always loved to deliver felt like a "dream failure."

Have you ever felt like that about a work project or business presentation? Where you simply walk away putting a scarlet letter on your chest and replaying everything that either went wrong or that you could have done differently? I know I did that day, but as a result, here are the...

6 Lessons I've Learned About Being a Perfectionist

1. Perfectionism leads to selfishness.

As soon as the session ended, I immediately became consumed with my own thoughts! I was no longer in service of the participants who were still in arm's reach. As they came up to me to tell me how great the session was, I felt like I was listening to Charlie Brown because all I could hear were my own negative thoughts about what I didn't do right and what I wished I'd done differently.

2. Perfectionism prevents gratitude.

The truth of the matter is that so much of the session was amazing! The feedback was great. The engagement was there. The Q&A session was nonstop with thought-provoking questions. And they even laughed at my jokes! However, I wasn't able to fully see, reflect on, and be thankful for any of it until I got out of my own way. Practicing gratitude instead of replaying our mistakes or mishaps wins every time.

3. Perfectionism consumes your energy.

The energy in the room was high and there was constant chatter as participants went to their next session, but I couldn't feel it! I felt wiped, let down, and exhausted. All my energy had been consumed by what had not happened, vs. what did happen.

4. Perfectionism causes you to dismiss the most important moments.

There were a number of people who came up to me after the session, but there was one I remember in particular. She was the one who came up to me while I was talking to a fellow speaker about my laundry list of what I wished I had done differently. In summary, all I know is that she said it was great and thank you. I immediately turned to my peer to finish my story, almost completely missing that important moment. A moment that was important for her, too! A moment that I needed to hear, soak in, and be thankful for.

5. Perfectionism is the enemy of success.

I had to learn that perfection and success are not equal to one another. Oftentimes we equate success with the outcome of everything going as planned, no glitches, and raving reviews. And although I'm sure that we make our plans in service of the participant, it's still our perfect plan, whereas their perfect plan is the one where we deliver at 110 percent, in spite of whatever mishaps may have occurred.

6. Perfectionism alleviates grace.

The biggest shocker of this experience for me is that this is one of the many lessons that I help others with, but somehow, I found myself in the same exact position -- being unnecessarily hard on myself without valid reason. It's OK to realize that things happen, mistakes happen, and life goes on. Give yourself a little grace. And more importantly, give yourself permission to celebrate what did go well.

Although this experience truly showed me that I am what I never wanted to be -- a perfectionist -- I am forever grateful for the experience and lessons taken from it. What I realized is that after it was all said and done, people don't want or need our perfect plan. All they need is the plan that is perfect for them, mistakes and all.