Perfectionism is a Thief - How To Begin To Let Go Of Its Grip On You

Perfectionism is a thief. It steals your joy, passion and self-worth.

Although I am co-authoring a book titled “The Recipe for Success”, it could have been called “The Recipe for Failure” if I didn’t make some changes in my life! However, through the process of writing my portion of the book, I found out that not all failures are FAILURES. Sometimes interruptions in the journey are there to get us back on track. And that we can take our failures and turn them into our successes.

I wrote about that in the book however, my Chapter was too long, so most of it was cut. However, here it is for you to read! It hasn't been published anywhere else :)


We as humans rarely want to talk about our failures. We identify as ambitious and successful, or striving to be. We celebrate our successes if and when they come, and envy and support those of others around us, while also holding ourselves to impossible standards! If we fail we aren’t good or smart enough compared to our peers. But it’s critical to remember: some of the greatest failures give birth to our greatest accomplishments.

I believe that holding in this type of shame, regret, guilt, etc. only causes us to feel both unhealthy – causing mental and physical distress such as sleep issues, depression, upset stomach, racing heart, shallow breathing. The list goes on.

You see, perfectionism is a mental prison. Perfectionism, which often stems from fear of failure (or success), can paralyze us. It can make sure that we never follow our dreams and passions. Why? Because the fear of not doing it perfect becomes too overwhelming to bear. “What will they say about me if I fail?” “What’s wrong with me if I fail?” “Why can everyone else do it but me?” The fear keeps us trapped in place of wishing we were different and fearing to be different at the same time.

Perfectionism becomes out of reach, and if that habit is left unchecked, it can become destructive. When this happens we can experience burnout on the job. Job burnout is a special type of job stress — a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work.

As a Life Coach, one of the aspects of change that I work on with my clients self-limiting beliefs. I encourage them to let go of the desire to be perfect and abolish shame.

There I was in my mid-30’s. A CEO of a nonprofit organization that within two years I had doubled the agency budget, staff size and was about to open up another facility to serve women and children. I was working 14-hour days in a career that I loved, was passionate about and knew that what we were doing was changing peoples lives. I had an incredible team working hard to make a difference in the community. I was desperately trying to prove myself as a CEO in a very demanding job.

Also, I was a closet smoker an addiction I battled on and off for years, not eating well, not exercising and not doing anything outside of living and breathing work. I found solace in binge watching TV and shopping for shoes and handbags. I was striving for perfection and it was slowly killing me.

The irony of course, is that I was running an organization where wellness and well-being were at the forefront. We were providing prevention, intervention and treatment services for mental health and substance use. In the back of my mind all I heard was “You have to do more.” And with the title the important work we were doing, I really believed that I did in fact, I always had to be doing more. Finding more grants, creating more programs to serve the community, being available for my staff, being available to the funders, to the board, to potential partners. Overseeing multiple sites, managing the Human Resources, staff training, quality assurance, quality improvement, HIPPA compliance, marketing, website design, etc…. By no means am I complaining, it was an incredible job, but of course, as a nonprofit, resources were limited.

I know that so many of you reading this can relate. Whatever there is, there is more, and we have this constant voice inside us that tells us to strive harder, do more, be perfect, be the best. It’s a lot! It's overwhelming and an unrealistic.

Recognize your perfectionism tendencies: Do you have excessively high-standards for yourself and others? Do you have an overwhelming fear of failure? Do you beat yourself up for mistakes you make? Does your self-confidence depend on your accomplishments? Sometimes we don’t even recognize how hard we are on ourselves and the unrealistic expectations we carry. Begin to notice and pay attention to your self-talk.

So often we think the opposite of perfection is mediocrity. Realize that when we do our best, coming from a place of healthy striving, we feel accomplished, balanced and satisfied. However, when we must do everything perfectly, most often it comes from a place of not being enough, and we feel critical and exhausted by the task at hand.

Learning to let go, releasing control (I know!! So scary!!) and creating new, healthy routines in my life (after lots of trial and error) allowed me to step into, and become a healthier (mind-body-spirit) person.

To learn more about how to Live Your Best Life – contact me for a free 45-minute Discovery session!

Nikki Buckstead is a Certified Life Coach, Mediation and Ayurveda Teacher as well as Certified in Workplace Wellness Programs. She is also the President of the Holistic Chamber of Commerce of Huntington Beach and owns Transformative Coaching & Coaching Services. She provides in-person and online holistic coaching as well as works with companies to develop workplace wellness programs. Learn more about her at

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Phone: (714) 880-4134


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