Don't Let Perfection Paralyze Your Career
If you want to be successful, forget being perfect.
This story originally appeared on Ellevate
When I started my consulting business three years ago, I sent a launch e-mail to everyone I knew. I was both excited and nervous to hit send -- things were getting real! Shortly after I sent the e-mail, I started receiving messages letting me know that had I misspelled the name of my company in the e-mail. Yup, you read that correctly. I misspelled the name of my own company.
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I had read and re-read the e-mail probably twenty times before sending it. I had even had someone else review it, too. Neither of us caught the mistake. My first reaction was complete embarrassment. How would anyone hire me or take me seriously when I couldn't even spell the name of my company correctly? Shortly thereafter, my inner critic came out, and I felt even worse. I felt stupid, careless, and like a total amateur.
After going down this rabbit hole of self-loathing, I began to get some perspective: This was actually a minor oversight. Fortunately, I wasn't in the business of selling editing or copywriting services, so a spelling error in my launch e-mail, while unfortunate, wasn't indicative of my ability to be a successful consultant.
I reminded myself that I was still pretty kick-ass at advising companies on growth strategy and business development, even if sometimes I couldn't spell my own name correctly. I decided at that moment that I wasn't going to hide and punish myself for a silly screw-up. I was going to bring it, promote my business and be okay with making mistakes along the way. Six months and a few mistakes later, I was running a six-figure business.
My story isn't unique. People make mistakes (and survive them) all the time. Many times, we unnecessarily beat ourselves up for those mistakes. As women, we tend to be especially hard on ourselves. We expect more out of ourselves than we do out of other people. Even if we say we are okay not being perfect, we are also not okay messing up.
It's great to have high standards, but sometimes perfectionist tendencies and the inner critic that emerges when we make mistakes can really hold us back. This tension between wanting to go for more in your career, but not wanting to be seen making mistakes along the way, is very real. If you're striving to get to that next level in your career, you are undoubtedly going to have to take risks and actions outside of your comfort zone.
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You will have to try things for the first time. You will have to become more visible. Taking this leap to something greater than your current situation is a choice, and one that paralyzes some people from moving forward. They stick with the status quo because it's safe. They know what's expected and find security in knowing how to do their job without making mistakes.
They aren't necessarily fulfilled or happy. But dammit, they are prepared (and can probably do their job in their sleep at this point). I'm not knocking people who are comfortable in their jobs and aren't interested in move up the career ladder. That trajectory is not for everyone. But what if, deep down, you do want more from your career? What if you want something different?
If you've ever thought about this, what are you doing to make this happen? What's your timeline? What fears are holding you back? What will you do if you make a mistake? Believe me, you will. Because we all make mistakes. No one is perfect.
Powerful women know that perfect is the enemy of the good. Powerful women don't let perfectionist tendencies or fear of failure or mistakes paralyze us from taking chances, increasing our visibility and going for what we want. Powerful women also make mistakes, because we're human like everyone else.
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But powerful women handle mistakes differently. We have enough confidence to know that a mistake here and there doesn't define us. And they won't stop us from getting what we want. I'm so excited for you to see what's possible when you let go of perfect and just go for what you want!
(By Elena Lipson. Lipson is the principal and founder of Mosaic Growth Partners, a consulting and coaching firm based in Washington, D.C. In her 7 Day Boot Camp To Unlock Your Inner Badass, she shares strategies and techniques powerful women employ to propel their careers forward.)