She began reading the beginning of Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. As she read, she tried to understand and apply ALL that Covey taught in the book. Covey explained that the first three habits (being proactive, beginning with the end in mind, and putting first things first) were all habits of self-mastery. “Private Victories” he called them, with a capital P and V. Covey said that Private Victories must come before the “Public Victories” of collaboration and developing good relationships with others.

She thought about this and the chaos that was in her life and head. She thought, “Well, to move forward, I need to work on my character in order to gain these Private Victories before I can go out and do any good in the world,” so she put down the book and started to work on becoming a better person. A perfect person without any flaws. That was two decades ago and she still hasn’t read the rest of the book!

I am safe only when I get it right

If you are a perfectionist, you may think that your self-worth is directly linked to your doing all the right things and doing them all perfectly. You may believe that when everything is done right, only then you will be safe, and only then you will be loved.

However, if you do something wrong, then you may think that you are a bad person. A person who is unsafe and not worthy of love and acceptance.

Subconsciously, you may have an imaginary measuring stick that marks your progress. If you do everything right, even down to the last detail, then you are on the correct end of the stick, indicating that you are worthy of love. However, if you do something wrong or imperfectly, then you are on the other end of the stick, indicating that you are a failure and are not worthy of love and acceptance. There is no safety at this end of the stick, only danger.

This can be paralyzing.

I am worthy of love only when I am perfect

Perhaps you are interested in leadership and personal growth. You read books, watch videos, and buy programs so as to become a better person and reach your full potential. All this material inspires you. You become full of hope, but over time you have trouble following through. You procrastinate. No matter how excited you get or how much you try to implement what you are learning (to get it right, implementation is key, right?) there are still areas in your life that you can’t seem to shift. You want to grow and transform, but you get frustrated because you are not able to change the things you want to change and become the person you want to become. You want to change things like:

  • Getting out of your protective shell
  • Showing up in your life in a powerful, authentic way
  • Getting out of your own way and allowing yourself to be successful
  • Allowing yourself to be happy
  • Feeling like you are good enough just as you are
  • Stopping the self-sabotag

You have all these dreams and fantasies in your head – who you want to be, what you want to accomplish, places you want to go – but you…just…can’t…make…it…happen.

This can be frustrating.

Being a perfectionist sets you up for failure

Being a perfectionist sets you up for failure. (Yep, for emphasis I said it again.) You try to do everything the “right” way and try to do it “perfectly” so that you will be safe and have self-worth, but it doesn’t work. No one is perfect. Not even close. This is draining your energy. It is also keeping you from being authentic, for authenticity is messy. It’s unsafe because it is scary.

This can be exhausting.

What are some consequences of perfectionism?

  • Exhaustion. You are exhausted because you have high standards for yourself and others, standards that can’t possibly be reached most of the time.
  • Frustration. You are frustrated because you are not living up to your potential. You are playing it safe. You shy away from doing anything new, daring, or difficult because you have a fear of failure.
  • Self-hate, self-doubt, self-attack. You do these things because you define love by your actions. You believe you only deserve love when your actions are “right” and you don’t deserve love when your actions are “wrong.” You need to be perfect, not imperfect. In addition, you have this loud inner critic who won’t let you forget your failures.
  • Over fixation to details. You must do everything “just right.”
  • Broken relationships. You have problems in your relationships because your standards are so high for yourself and others that no one can measure up.
  • Stagnation. You shy away from doing anything new for fear of failure.
  • Self-deprecating thoughts. “I’m so stupid. I hate myself. I can’t do anything right!”
  • Procrastination. You procrastinate because getting it right all of time is impossible.
  • Disregard achievements. You never celebrate your successes because nothing is ever good enough.

Give yourself permission to be imperfect

You are human. You make mistakes. You will never be perfect.

All successful people fail. All unsuccessful people fail. The difference between the two? Successful people use their failures as catalysts for growth and change. They see their many failures as experiments – this didn’t work, but this did.

If you don’t get things right, that is okay. You can still be safe and loved even though you are not perfect.


When exhausted women ask, “Why am I so tired all the time?” I help them to explore their story to see what has happened in the past that is draining their energy today. 

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