The battle with “enough” is a regular one for my clients – the eager entrepreneurs, the diligent employees, and those more comfortable with being hard on themselves than cheering themselves on.  

And wow, it’s a huge topic – definitely one for all of us struggling with perfectionism (though I now class myself as an “almost” recovered perfectionist).    So I’m sure I’ll return to it again in these blogs, but let’s make a start here:

  • How to know when it’s enough (and be ok with that)

  • When to start small (and be ok with that)

  • How to share something before it’s perfect and polished

  • And let it grow with scrutiny, feedback and development

Why do we do it?

I truly believe that this often comes from a positive place – one of enthusiasm and inspiration. It’s the big dreams, that plan that keeps growing, the vision of all that can be possible.

So it’s:

I want to do this.  Ooh but then I could add to it and make it into this.  And wouldn’t that be perfect, if I combined it with that too to create this even better thing?

And so the plan grows.  And the polished and perfect delivery gets further away.  And it feels overwhelming, intimidating and slips easily into the realm of procrastination.  Because it doesn’t feel exciting any more – it feels like a massive heavy weight.

Or it can happen on a smaller scale.  This sound familiar to anyone (I put my hand up here ✋).

I’m going to pop out for a quick walk.  But 20 minutes isn’t enough.  I’ll take the longer route instead and do 5km.  But that means I have to get changed.  And find a free hour or so, so I’ll get these others things done first.

And then the walk doesn’t happen.  Because it became a big deal – something that needed prep and planning.  It went on a to-do list, where it got lost amongst all the other stuff, shouting more loudly.  And maybe I overwhelmed myself as I wasn’t checking in with how I was feeling – just focusing on the end goal of  “5km”.

The dark side of perfectionism

But I also know there’s a “dark side” here too.  That these behaviours can come from a place of insecurity and wobble.

Where we feel like an imposter, not good enough, fearful of rejection if we show weakness or flaws.

Where we set ourselves standards that no one else could live up to (and we can’t either) so we hold ourselves in a perpetual place of failure, disappointment, self recrimination – and STRESS!

And where we think the only way is to present perfect and polished 100% of the time.

Ironically, this insecurity can almost have the flip side of arrogance – and it certainly becomes a vicious circle.  Where we can’t share something until it’s finalised and just right, but yet that means we don’t ask for input and feedback from others as if only we know best.

We don’t ask for help even in areas that aren’t our strong points.

And we hold ourselves back with the constant voice telling us we’re not good enough – never a place for genius to thrive and in honesty, we’re lucky that we can get anything done in such a breeding ground for procrastination!

So what to do?

As I said, this is a biggie, and takes consistent effort to shift those ingrained thought patterns.  But it really can happen.  Here’s some tips:

  • Remind yourself something is better than nothing, and just get going

  • By all means, keep the inspiration and the “big picture” – used right, it’s a fabulous motivator and creates groundbreaking stuff.  But translate it into small, manageable steps and take each one at a time, celebrating the completion of each stage.

  • Take a breath, self soothe and start practicing putting “not quite perfect” into the world. You’ll be amazed that it’s often warmly received – with understanding, acceptance, appreciation.

  • Ask what can I get over the line today (warts and all)?  How can I push this forward in any way?  What can get I share right now?

  • Behold the Minimum Viable Product (big thanks to the client who taught me of this concept!) – read on…

  • Learn from the pros – the top comedians run work in progress shows which aren’t finished yet.  They stand on a stage and deliver imperfect to a room of paying people! 
    (or identify people in your business, your industry, your peer group who do this well and observe how them – it will help your brain to realise this isn’t as scary as it thinks)

  • Remember the benefits of development – where something is shaped by genuine input from the people who will use this, rather than just one person’s idea of what they want.  That comes from scrutiny and feedback whilst something’s still open to change

  • Start to dig deep to build that quiet knowledge you ARE enough, even with flaws, errors, not perfect and polished (this is a biggie, but it’s doable, trust me!)

P.S. Welcome to the Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

I love this concept and it was new to me until a client shared it with me from their industry.

A minimum viable product, or MVP, is a product with enough features to attract early-adopter customers and validate a product idea early in the development cycle.  In industries such as software, the MVP can help the product team receive user feedback quickly to improve the product.

But I believe this concept is applicable to so much.  Challenge yourself to work out the MVP of anything you’re trying to get out into the world (or even get yourself to do).  Remind yourself that this isn’t the end product, or all you’ll be doing, but it’s a level which is “good enough” to share as the foundation for growth.
It gets out there and it gets done.  It develops based on views that aren’t just your own – and it actually happens, rather than being seized up in your head with overwhelm.
And when you become accustomed to MVP and feel assured with this level, what you then do beyond this becomes about choice, about logic, about needs and priorities.  Rather than being dictated by a desperate need to push to the maximum (which doesn’t exist), until you run out of time, energy, headspace, capacity.  It’s becomes a proactive rather than reactive process, based on calm, coherent thought.

What you can MVP today?!

This blog is part of a series all about confidence, self confidence and how to boost it.  Check out the the follow up blog here5 Tips to Boost your Self Confidence.

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