Ditch perfectionism and reframe failure

Executive career coach Hira Ali says a tendency to perfectionism is holding women back. Instead we need to lighten up a bit and reframe failure as a learning opportunity.

Tired woman pouring coffee


Women across the world universally recognise perfection as one of the most difficult challenges they need to overcome.

Often, for women, the desire to do things perfectly is much more compelling than it is for men, but this need to be perfect all the time can be exhausting not only for ourselves, but for those around us.

Many areas of our lives can be subject to this desire for perfection – our appearance, children or homes as well as our professional projects.

Perfectionists struggle to delegate, as they believe others may not be completing the task with the same fine-tooth comb as they would. This causes them to work ungodly hours to take on the work of two or three people all at once.

What’s more, many women also believe that they are successful owing to the herculean efforts they put into their work, and hence they leave no stone unturned in executing their tasks meticulously and with painstaking care.

This thoroughness and fastidiousness actually breeds further stress.

Even though we know we need to ease up on our self-imposed pressures and deadlines, while learning to be more flexible, it’s often the last thing on our minds.

Here are some strategies to ditch perfectionism:

Jump in and learn along the journey

Waiting for the perfect moment to begin is actually self-sabotaging. Rather than trying to perfect something, take action with what you know and modify your approach along the way.

It is very rare for something to work perfectly from the get-go so surrender your desire to do it flawlessly – just dive in and get started!

Be in the moment

Don’t solely focus on the end results – make sure you are enjoying the journey itself. One of the main reasons why we aren’t happy even after perfecting something, is because we have not relished the moment.

Even when we clock off after a working day, thoughts of the office still linger.

We are so involved in yesterday and tomorrow that we fail to notice that today is slipping by. If you cannot enjoy the journey, then why spend so much time pursuing it?

Ensure you not only enjoy the moment, but also bask in your success before considering your next move.

Change how you see failure

It is very important to unravel the socialisation of perfection. The reason women are often afraid to fail is also because we tend to overestimate the probability of something going wrong, and exaggerate what might happen if it does.

Instead of placing faith in our ability to solve problems, many often picture scenarios of everything going wrong. However, failure actually holds great importance – it makes you stronger and actually teaches you much more than your successes, especially in the early days.

Repeatedly remind yourself that you can be wrong and fail and still deserve your position and your successes.

Even the best teams sometimes lose, the best players miss a goal, and there are also many million pound businesses that sometimes fail!

Rationalise what could actually go wrong in order to reduce your fears. Most importantly, reframe failure as an invaluable opportunity to learn and grow.

No one really knows what the outcome of any situation will be, but by trying to find solutions you will look admirable and authentic.

You are enough

The most important lesson here is to remember that you are enough. Being kinder to ourselves not only benefits us but helps us to be kinder and gentler to everyone we meet.

No- one’s life is ever going to be free of errors, stress or fear, but by learning to embrace the imperfections and learning from them, you can acquire a realistic preview of where you are now and where you want to be.

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