On this ask Katrina, the question is:
“Hey, Katrina, sometimes I put in the extra hours because I want things just right. Is that something that I need to focus on or should I just move on?”
Great question! It sounds like to me you’re talking about the perfection trap.
Now when you saw this topic for today, did you say to yourself, “Don’t waste your time, girl, move on!”
We can point to someone else and say, “Hey, what are you doing? You’re wasting time, let’s go.”
But it’s not so easy when we have to look within ourselves.
To work through this question, I’m going to give you some answers but as I do it, I want you to look within yourself and identify you are performing some of these behaviors as well.
The reality is that a large number of women struggle with the perfection trap and it holds us back in our careers.
We want things to be just right.
Perfection from the Start
A great example is when we were all little girls, our handwriting had to be perfect.
We used to draw little hearts and they would be perfect. If not, we would redo them until we got it just right.
Maybe when you were a kid you would draw, and you’d be very artistic, and now you don’t do that anymore, because you couldn’t get it just right a couple of times, so you said forget it.
“I can’t get perfect. I’m not gonna waste my time with it.”
Then we convinced ourselves, “If I can’t do things just right, I don’t need to worry about it. I only have so many hours in the day. I need to focus on my strengths.”
I’m not going to argue that because fundamentally I agree with focusing on our strengths vs. our weaknesses.
I don’t call it strengths, though. I call it gifts.
We all have gifts and talents that are inherently within us.
As we grow throughout our careers, we keep using the gifts and we keep getting better and better at sharing the gifts that we have with us.
I’m just talking about the ability to connect with somebody, which can be a gift, the ability to stand up at a meeting and influence other people, the ability to see through the matrix and see numbers and see the strategy in a way that other people can’t.
All of those are examples of professional gifts.
You have professional and personal gifts, we all have them.
Now, what we’ve done is we said we’re going to focus on our strengths again, I call them gifts, but that’s a double-edged sword.
Because yes, you should focus on your gifts. But what if your gift was the gift of drawing or being artistic or expressing yourself in some capacity? And you’re actually not using that gift? Because you don’t think it’s perfect? You’re not allowing yourself to hone the gift?
What about that?
Ask yourself if maybe that’s a possibility.
Let’s use another example but now in your current life.
Let’s say you must send an email to your supervisor providing an update on a project. Maybe you feel like you must read the email 15 times, and then you must have someone else read it.
It would have taken you five minutes to send a quick summary but you’re going to spend three hours on it because it’s got to be perfect.
Because we say we must be perfect because that is our professional brand.
We convince ourselves that our brand is a brand of perfection.
So, therefore, we’ve got to be very careful because if we don’t have things just so then we’re going to damage our brand.
I know all the stories. I’ve worked through a few of them myself.
The point here is, we tend to say, “I’ve got to get it just right because it’s my brand.”
We use these terms that fit into the professional world as a justifiable reason for focusing on perfection.
And honestly, it’s just a waste of time and mental energy.
You’re working odd hours, you’re spending all this time putting in all this effort on things that you think have to be perfect and no one cares about but you, which means you’re spending time focusing on perfection instead of focusing on adding value to the organization.
The organization didn’t ask for perfect, you ask for perfect.
You ask for perfection because you think that you must deliver perfection, or you’re going to damage yourself or you’re not going to be seen.
I promise you that people know you’re human. And it’s okay.
It didn’t mean that they didn’t have intelligence, it didn’t mean that they didn’t care.
They would even sometimes put at the beginning of the email, “Hey, I’m writing this out really quickly. I’ll get you some additional details if you need them but I know speed is important to you. So here it is.”
Give yourself permission to just show up and deliver.
You don’t have to worry about being perfect.
The other thing that we do is say, “Well, I can’t step into that role until I’ve got my leadership perfected.”
“I can’t use my voice. I can’t speak up. I can’t fill the seat at the table that I’ve been given because I’m not ready yet. I haven’t earned it right.”
You’ve earned it.
They gave you the promotion because you earned it.
Your seat at the table doesn’t say “Well, you get to have this as soon as . . . .“
No, it was yours upon promotion.
I don’t want you to confuse the concept of execing correctly with the desire to have it perfect.
Sometimes we just got to get things done. Recognize that and don’t waste your time and your mental energy doing everything but adding value and exacting correctly.
Know this, no one’s holding you to that standard but you so give yourself some grace.
Are you ready to eliminate perfection from your brand?
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