Boss Lady

Remove perfectionism from your life to enrich your impact in business


In business, as in life, the pursuit of excellence is often a beneficial and rewarding endeavor. Demanding high standards of yourself, your products or your services is essential for the ongoing success of an entrepreneurial enterprise. But what happens when you are expecting more than a pragmatic excellence? What happens when you work – or demand others do – until every detail is ‘right’? When you see mistakes as failures, or feel highly anxious when things aren’t working out exactly as you imagined?

What are you creating for yourself and your business when your pursuit for excellence becomes a pursuit for perfection? Ironically, you end up limiting your potential, squandering opportunity and undermining your – and your business’ – ability to grow.

Perfectionism, judgment and the loss of personal power

At its very core, perfectionism is about judgment and the fulfilment of arbitrary standards. We each have a set of standards that we live our life by; some of these ideals we have chosen for ourselves but many others we have inherited or absorbed from family, peers and society. From these standards, we learn to judge ourselves and our adherence to these expectations: How did I perform? Where do I fit in the larger scheme of things? How do I compare to others, and to my own standards?

Perfectionism occurs when you forget to balance the striving for these standards with a healthy appreciation for mistakes, miscalculations and misfortune. When functioning as a perfectionist, your mind becomes hyper-focused on the desired result and on every detail of your project or task. This draws you out of yourself and into the elements that you are desperately trying to control – elements, ironically, that are actually controlling you.

When you choose to ignore the value of perceived ‘error’ and chase imaginary, ideal standards, you make inevitable mistakes and missteps wrong – and make yourself wrong in the process. You become a victim of external circumstances. In doing so, you lose the anchor within yourself, and limit both your personal power and your creativity.

It’s easy to see, therefore, why chasing ‘perfection’ is potentially very limiting in terms of your capacity for joy, fulfilment and success. Therefore, instead of pursuing perfection, I encourage you to allow yourself the freedom to grow, and focus on becoming more:

Non-judgmental: The first step is to allow yourself to step out of judgment. It can be easy to see perfectionism as a wrongness in you, so an important step in liberating yourself from this condition is to start appreciating how your desire for perfection works for you. For instance, it is possible to see the determination and perseverance that underlies perfectionism. By appreciating these traits in yourself, the experience shifts from a desperate need to avoid mistakes into a scenario where mistakes work for you. When you ‘stumble,’ you experience the mistake as feedback and learning, and draw upon your innate determination and perseverance to create something greater.

Unapologetically authentic: Next, turn your focus from being more perfect, to being more you. When you are trying to be perfect, you are chasing an ideal that exists outside of you and it is likely that you have rejected any personality trait, habit or instinct that you don’t believe fits this perfect model. Therefore, it’s vital to understand that it’s your foibles, your points of difference and your ‘weirdness’ that makes you most valuable to the world. When you’re imperfectly perfect, you’re you … and that means you’re constantly bringing something to the table that nobody else has to offer. You see things others don’t; you explore possibilities others won’t; you create solutions others can’t. By being you (especially the imperfect bits) you become a true contribution to the world and others around you.

Focused on possibility: Finally, and crucially, you must allow your mind to move out of limitation and hyper-focus and encourage it to see possibility in every experience. The most powerful way to do this, is by asking a question. This is particularly powerful when faced with perceived mistakes or failure. In cases of these inevitable imperfections, ask yourself, “How can I use this mistake to my advantage?” This question is a powerful turn-around question that will take you, every time, from wrongness to strongness. It allows you to see what benefits you are gaining from any mistake or perceived failure. Vitally, it opens your mind to acknowledging and accepting the learnings and benefits from each ‘mistake,’ ‘mishap’ and ‘failure.’

About Susanna Mittermaier

Susanna Mittermaier, born in Vienna, Austria, is a psychologist educated at the University of Lund, Sweden, where she worked at the university hospital in the psychiatry department with psychotherapy and neuropsychological testing. She is the founder of Pragmatic Psychology and author of the #1 international bestselling book, “Practical Tools for Being Crazy Happy.” Her latest book is called “Family Fairytale,” and she was recently featured in the book The Very Greatest Adventure…Is You Truly Being You. As a highly sought-after speaker, Susanna has been featured in Forbes, TV soap, Psychology Today, Women’s Weekly, Ooom, Wienerin, Empowerment Channel Voice America, Om Times, Motherpedia, Newstalk New Zealand, Holistic Bliss and more. She offers a new paradigm of therapy called Pragmatic Psychology and is known for her ability to transform people’s problems and difficulties into possibilities and powerful choices.

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