My name is Sundae, and I’m a recovering perfectionist.
When we watch a movie, everything looks so effortlessly glamorous, doesn’t it? That’s because we don’t see all the work it took to get it there, so it can flow smoothly for our enrichment. We don’t see the weeks of designing and assembling the costumes, or the sweaty guy on a ladder precariously holding a light, or the hours of editing and splicing afterward.
Why would we? That’s not sexy.
In my personal list of entrepreneurial accomplishments, Expat Happy Hour is my baby. What my listeners get each week for the end result takes immense prep and post-recording work from my support team of superheroes. Every step from selecting topics, pursuing guests, coordinating schedules, creating the transcription, and sending it all off to the producer gets carefully orchestrated.
True, I do think of subjects I want to cover months in advance, meticulously composing the details so that every Expat Happy Hour aims to exceed its listener’s expectations. Also true is that sometimes I need to move fast, and this can threaten my “recovered” status. But I am committed. So, the next few episodes are me stretching outside my comfort zone, because I’m going to discuss important material but in an unscripted, off the cuff kind of way. Because perfectionism recovery is a practice, not a status.
It’s only fitting that the first in the series tackles how to become a recovering perfectionist. Let’s stretch together.
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- How perfectionism thieves time you’ll never get back
- Learning to recognize what “good enough” looks like
- Behaving differently by redefining your intentions
- Why being human limits your perfection-achieving capacity
- The tangible and invisible rewards of letting it go
Listen to the Full Episode:
Featured on the Show:
- Did your insatiable need for perfection gnaw away at you this year? Let’s map out a better 2020. You’ll be amazed by what we can achieve in a single intensive coaching session together. Get in touch right now because January’s spots are filling up fast.
- Episode 151: Boundaries with Jennie Miller
- Episode 152: Productivity Makeover with Graham Allcott
- Facebook Business Page – Sundae Schneider-Bean LLC
- Facebook Group – Expats on Purpose
We’re delighted by our recent nomination to the global Top 25 Expat Podcasts!
Full Episode Transcript:
Hello, it is 7 am in New York, 1 pm in Johannesburg and 6 pm in Bangkok. Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour. This is Sundae Schneider-Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I’m a solution oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition
When I was getting my Master’s Degree, we had an assignment in a class and the tough part was it was only supposed to be two pages and I had ideas in it like ontology and axiology and I don’t know something epistemology. It was overwhelming at this point because these were new concepts for me that I had never heard of and they were big and I could have spent thirty seven pages writing about it, but my professor asked me to do it in two.
So I go home and write this paper and I probably spent fourteen, fifteen, sixteen hours writing it. I emerge from my cave and I show my roommate my paper and he was getting his Ph.D. so obviously I saw him as someone who knew more than I did. And I said, “Hey, will you have a look at this?” And he read it and he looks at me and he goes, “Yeah, it’s good.”
There’s something inside of me where I was like, “Oh, no, it’s not good enough.” So I went back into my cave and wrote and wrote and wrote and I reemerged eighteen hours later. There’s my roommate refreshed and showered, me not, and I hand him the paper and I go “Hey, here’s another draft of that paper, would you have a look at it?” And he looks at it and he goes, “Yeah, it’s good.” And I go, “Oh good, thanks, I feel a lot better about it.” And he goes, “Sundae, this is as good as the first one.” And in that moment I realized I just spent eighteen hours of my life that I cannot get back for a paper that was as good as the first one was.
This was one awakening moment for me about the cost of perfectionism, and if you’re listening to this, I have a hunch you’ve got some perfectionist tendencies too. Now in the time of recording this it’s at the end of the year and if you’re like me you’re thinking about what you want to do differently next year.
And that’s why I’m doing a two part series on perfectionism and next week it’s ugly cousin procrastination. We are going to look at when is perfectionism actually merited and what are the costs and signs. And I’ll tell you what, I have to admit this, I am what I call myself a recovering perfectionist and I work with a lot of high performers, top talent, etc. that totally need to go into recovery.
I stopped being one when I had kids because I had to, but if you already have kids or you don’t want to have kids to make this change, then I invite you to follow these tips.
Now here’s a little caveat in this spirit of perfectionism or better said, recovering perfectionism, I want you to know that this episode “The recovering perfectionist.” And the last three episodes of this entire year have been created with this spirit of, “Get her done and get her out.” I worked really hard to do this episode, the one upcoming on procrastination and finally the end of the year episode, by just going off the cuff and sharing with you with a few notes to get started.
So this is a practice and I want you to know that, that the only way you become a recovering perfectionist is by challenging yourself to do things differently and this episode and the next, two in the year are an example of that. So let’s get back to our focus on how to become a recovering perfectionist.
So let’s get started, I’ve got a little pop quiz for you. Now, all I want you to do is answer A or B.
When is perfectionism merited?
Question 1: You’ve got three days to; a) Prepare Christmas activities for the grade 3 or b) Go live with Martha Stewart on national TV, presenting your national holiday cookie tradition. A or B.
When is perfectionism merited?
Question 2: You’ve got 60 minutes, do you; a) Respond to an email to a line manager in your company or b) Spend time preparing to speak to a journalist from BBC? A or B.
When is perfectionism merited?
Question 3: You’ve got 18 hours; a) You write a two-page paper for your master’s program one of 12 papers that you have to write that semester or b) Oprah Winfrey is paying you to contribute to her article in her internationally syndicated magazine, “O” and it reaches 2 million subscribers.
I think you get the point, you’re really good at discerning when perfectionism is merited in this pop quiz. But if you’re really honest with yourself you might face plant when it comes to your own life.
So tip one when overcoming perfectionism or starting recovery, is to develop discernment. Honestly, ask yourself, “Is this a situation when perfectionism is merited?” Look at your calendar this week, look at your week ahead, is there any situation where perfectionism is merited? If you are not going live on America’s Got Talent then I don’t think the answer should be yes. Honestly, how many situations in your regular year is perfectionism merited?
Now, I’m going to go one step further, if you just said that you have a high-level position where stakes are high. I’m going to ask you what does ‘good enough’ look like in your industry versus perfect, because if you are constantly in the public eye or constantly putting things out there for scrutiny, I don’t think you have the energy to hit the bar of perfectionism in your life.
So, some of those things are going to have to be good enough and then you get to choose which ones of all of the craziness in your life is perfectionism merited. Because you are human and do not have the capacity to deliver perfect all the time.
You’re going to see that this topic is very connected to what we’ve been talking about on Expat Happy Hour in Episode 151 with Jenny Miller we talked about boundaries. What kind of type boundaries are you going to put around your time? In Episode 152 with Graham Allcott we talked about productivity. How can you use the most of your focus, energy, attention and time so that you can keep moving? Because when we’re really honest with ourselves the cost of perfectionism is high, the danger is that it’s also often invisible.
I’m going to share a few scenarios with you and I have a hunch one, two, or maybe even all of them are going to sound familiar.
So maybe you’re like me, you took an exam and you studied and studied and studied, you took it and when you walked out of the exam room you’re like “God, I hope I passed, maybe I actually failed.” All of the energy you put in before the exam is followed by depleted energy carrying self-doubt until you learn the results. You have a negative impact on the people that you love and live with because you’re in a stinky mood and feeling like a failure. All of a sudden you get the results, boom you aced it. The cost, loss of energy and loss of positivity and connection with those around you, not to mention all of the hours you over-invested to study.
Scenario two, you are doing a project and you’re at work writing something or creating something and you invest hours and hours and you get to the end and you just not satisfied. So you take the paper, you crumple it up and you throw it to the side and you start from scratch. At the end you get the result that you feel a little better with, but it looks vaguely familiar to that two page paper I mentioned in the beginning.
Are you someone who invests hours in a project and then starts again from scratch?
Waste of time, waste of money and actually a missed opportunity to do what you really want instead with those last hours. Maybe you work in a client facing job and you give a 100% and the client is really happy, but you could have given 80% and the client would have been wowed, and you could have actually given 65% and the client would have been happy, and worse yet you could have given 50% and the client would have been satisfied. All of that time and energy wasted, you want a satisfied client and what you delivered would have been satisfying twenty hours ago.
And in that time you could have played with your kids, meditated, ran, went to the grocery store, cooked a lovely meal for your family, went out for drinks with your friends. Honestly, perfectionism is killing us, it’s hurting our health and our relationships.
And so many people, I’ve started a coaching conversation with and I say, “What would you like to accomplish by the end of our session today?” And they say “I’d like you to give me more time in my day, can you give me another hour? Can you give me a 25th hour in a day?” Yes, I can, stop being a perfectionist, there you go, there’s your hour back, there’s your four hours back, your twenty hours back.
And if we don’t, and I know I’ve been on this journey myself, when we don’t allow ourselves to pull back on perfectionism we rob ourselves of the things we want most. So it’s important to recognize when perfectionism creeps up into our lives.
I remember being in school and I was one of those nerdy straight-A students, for those of you who don’t know the ABCDF system, A is the excellent level, the top score you can get, I know in Switzerland the six is the top level. So anyway “A” for me meant average, because that’s the grades that I got. And I work with people who have that same mindset, excellence is the only option. So look at how that sets you up to fail, because what if you’re doing something and you get superb but not excellence, then you’re disappointed. Or you reach excellence and you’re like “Mmhe” because you did what you expected or what you were striving for, robbing yourself of satisfaction.
So tip one that I’ve given you is to do a really really good job at developing discernment, take the perfectionist in you and then give the perfectionist the task of discerning when is perfectionism merited.
Tip two is, define your intention. Define your intention is this, if you have a task or a project, before you start get clear, what is your intention? Something as simple as you have one of those projects you’re supposed to do with your kids after school, let’s say it’s a science project or a craft project, what’s your intention? Is it so it’s perfect? Or is it so that you connect with your kids? What was your intention to create an environment where your kids are motivated to learn. Do you see the difference? If we’re going for perfect and we’re sitting at the counter with our kids it’s like a recipe for disaster. If we’re sitting at the counter and we know our intention is to connect and keep an environment where children are excited to learn, we behave differently.
So maybe in your home you think about this big birthday party you want to create for your kid. And if you’re going for perfectionism, you can put a heavy load on your shoulders. But what if your intention is to create a memory for your child that you also know that you’ve enjoyed? Not bitter, not exhausted, not frustrated, not disappointed, but together you share a memory of joy.
Or maybe it’s at work, all you’ve got to do is respond to a couple of emails, how do you respond differently if you say it’s going to be perfect or just simply professional?
So tip two is, define your intention. And I learned this the hard way, I remember it was back a few years ago, I was talking with one of my coaches who was helping me with some sales and marketing and I was exhausted, exhausted. I was solo parenting, I was running my business on my own, had a lot to do with my family.
And in this call I was in tears because I was spending so much time writing and then serving my clients and I just felt like I was being drained. And my coach stood back and said, “Sundae, what are you trying to do with your blog?” And what I realized is, every single article I wrote, my intention was to change their life, I mean it’s a nice intention, but oh my God what an impact that had on me, what a heavyweight and that’s exhausting. So when I shifted my intention of the writing I was doing every couple weeks for my clients or the people who are following me, to just connect, maybe share information, maybe to entertain, maybe to keep in touch, it completely shifted how I spent time in my business.
You will not be surprised to learn that that one change transformed how I approach my business and I ended up doubling my revenue that year and regaining that lost energy.
So it’s important that we look at the micro-moments in which we let perfectionism drive us, get clear on our intention and develop discernment on when that really matters.
Alright, so there you have it, if you want to give your perfectionist a job, give them discernment and defining intention, because it is worth it. If you want more than 24 hours in a day, do that and you will open up hours that were always available to you but sucked up with perfectionism.
You have been listening to Expat Happy Hour with Sundae Bean, thank you for listening. Don’t miss next week’s episode when we’re going to look at perfectionism’s ugly cousin, procrastination.
I’ll leave you with the words of internationally known author, psychotherapist and speaker Anne Wilson Schaef, she says, “Perfectionism is self-abuse of the highest order.”