Is Striving to Be Perfect Getting In The Way of Your Success?

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How many times do you not try something new, for fear of not being able to do it, or looking stupid? Weekly, if you are anything like me. I really envy those people who can just throw themselves in to new situations, with no apparent fear of failure.

When I think about my life up until now, and truthfully analyse when I have done something new, that may have led to failure, I can find plenty of instances. For instance leaving home at 18 and coming to Hull to train to be a Nurse, going up to my now wife in a nightclub and talking to her, standing up in front of hundreds of people as a Staff Nurse and delivering a teaching session, to name but a few. So why am I able to do it sometimes and not others (May I add that not every time I tried something did it work, in fact on a number of occasions I have looked a right tit)? When I think about the times when I have not tried something new, the one thing that stops me is that feeling inadequacy. I am not good enough to be successful. Comparison drives this feeling of inadequacy, I see other people doing it, and think there is no way I can be as good as that, so I decide not to bother. This is the reason why I wont run with  other people, I always end up comparing myself with others and immediately feel inadequate, and why I struggle with driving, I am always surrounded by people who I think are better than me. All of us that do this know it is irrational, but now doubt it is a response from my limbic system to protect my self-esteem (if you cannot be good at it, don’t do it). Yet there are other activities that I have embarked on such as public speaking and teaching where I can manage to embrace my discomfort and enter the arena. On those occasions I do not externalise my nervousness, the energy to succeed comes from within and I make no attempt to compare myself with others, when I watch others talk and teach I see that they are nervous and stumble over the odd word just like I do. I do not view teaching and public speaking as competitive, everyone brings something different and everyone gets better with practice. However I do not have this view with so many other activities.

Brene Brown no doubt would say that I am attaching my self-worth to the activities I do, and I experience that less with talking to large groups. No doubt I see others doing something well and worry about what people will think of me (will they laugh at me or think any less of me). This feeling of inadequacy also drives imposter syndrome, that feeling that you do not deserve the position or status you hold. I know I am not the only one who has feelings like this (I have coached plenty of people who feel like this). The world is full of people not fulfilling their potential because they are too afraid to try,  or they are too afraid to enjoy what they have got because they don’t think they deserve it.

The fact that there are plenty of us that feel like this, is the key to us all thinking differently and trying new activities out, even if we do end up being rubbish at it. The other day I found and article on LinkedIn that described a concept called Sonder. This is the appreciation that we are all complex (obvious I know) and therefore we carry around with us our fears, our hopes, our failures and our successes. No one is perfect, no one is completely fearless. So there is a really good chance that the person you are comparing yourself with, is either comparing themselves against you or is worried about something else that they really struggle with. All of the feelings we experience, (enabling and inhibiting, realistic and unrealistic) are not completely unique, and we are all experiencing the similar feelings.

Next time you worry about making yourself look like a tit, you are not alone, so go on make yourself look like a tit. All of us that regularly make tits of ourselves will applaud you. There is always a chance that you will ace it and what will that feel like?

I am still working on trying stuff that makes me feel inadequate, so no way it is a quick fix, but one day I will sit in our car and drive it with feeling like a complete idiot. If you are a fellow sufferer give Sonder a go.

Author: Matt Smith Personal and Professional Coach

Performance and Life Coach

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