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The Struggle Against Perfectionism: Empowering Women Entrepreneurs

In today's fast-paced world, the pressure to be perfect is everywhere – from social media's curated lives to the glossy covers of magazines.

Perfectionism, often portrayed as a desirable trait, can be a double-edged sword, especially for women* in business who aspire to become successful entrepreneurs.

The intersection of perfectionism, societal expectations, and entrepreneurship can create a unique set of challenges, leading to the development of imposter syndrome. So... how exactly does one combat perfectionism and the impending imposter syndrome that inevitably arises from it?

The Perfect Paradox: Society's Pressure on Women

Society often places unrealistic expectations on women, expecting them to be multitasking marvels who excel in their careers, maintain impeccable homes, and meet family demands flawlessly.

This societal pressure can be overwhelming and lead to perfectionism. Women are often expected to conform to unrealistic beauty standards, excel in a male-dominated workforce, and handle domestic responsibilities – all while maintaining a poised exterior.

Couple that with the unique challenges of running your own business and it can often feel impossible to make any sort of progress toward your goals. So, what's a girl to do?

Perfectionism's Impact on Women in Business

For women who decide to venture into entrepreneurship, the pressure to be perfect is amplified a thousand fold. Because the entrepreneurial journey is rife with challenges, setbacks, and risks it can often be a breeding ground for perfectionist tendencies to run wild and unchecked -- a quality that Dr. Katherine Morgan Schafler calls "maladaptive perfectionism" (The Perfectionist's Guide to Losing Control).

Maladaptive perfectionism can become a barrier to progress as it fuels the fear of making mistakes and keeps many of us trapped in our sympathetic nervous system. This fear can prevent us from taking the calculated risks necessary for business growth.

Entrepreneurship requires innovation, adaptability, and the ability to learn from failures. Maladaptive perfectionism can stifle these, hindering our businesses growth and development and keeping us from achieving the goals we so desperately want to accomplish (and are more than qualified for!)

The Imposter Syndrome Conundrum

The quest for perfection often gives rise to imposter syndrome, a psychological phenomenon where you can doubt your achievements and fear being exposed as a fraud. This "convenient" phenomenon is rampant in the entrepreneurship community and can be especially common in women entrepreneurs who constantly feel the need to prove their competence in a competitive business landscape.

Imposter syndrome can erode confidence and hinder decision-making, further exacerbating the challenges faced by women in business.

Cultivating Tools to Combat Imposter Syndrome

So, then, what are we to do? Because -- I don't know about you -- but I'm not about to stick my head in the sand and pretend that none of this is happening.

  1. Mindfulness and Self-Compassion: Practicing mindfulness helps you become more aware of your thoughts and emotions, enabling you to challenge negative self-perceptions. Self-compassion involves treating oneself with kindness and understanding, just as you would treat a friend. This practice can counteract the harsh self-criticism that often accompanies maladaptive perfectionism.

  2. Setting Realistic Goals: Shifting focus from unattainable perfection to realistic, achievable goals can alleviate the pressure to be flawless. This is an example of what Dr. Schafler calls "adaptive perfectionism". Break down larger goals into smaller, manageable steps, celebrating each achievement along the way.

  3. Embracing Failure as Growth: Instead of viewing failure as a sign of incompetence, reframe it as an opportunity for growth and learning. Many successful entrepreneurs have encountered failures on their path to success. By acknowledging mistakes and using them as stepping stones, we can navigate the entrepreneurial landscape more effectively.

  4. Building a Supportive Network: Surrounding yourself with mentors, peers, and supporters can provide a strong foundation for combating imposter syndrome. Sharing experiences and learning from others' journeys can normalize challenges and build resilience.

  5. Seeking Professional Help: If imposter syndrome is significantly impacting your well-being and business endeavors, seeking the guidance of a trusted therapist or counselor can provide effective strategies to overcome these challenges.

The challenges of perfectionism and imposter syndrome are very real for women in business, particularly those pursuing entrepreneurship. The pressure to conform to societal expectations and excel in all areas of life can hinder personal and professional growth.

However, by cultivating self-awareness, setting realistic goals, embracing failure, building a support network, and seeking help when needed, we can combat imposter syndrome and thrive in the competitive business world. It's time to shift the narrative from perfectionism to progress and empower women to embrace their journey, imperfections and all.

*NOTE: In this blog, the term women refers to anyone who has been socialized as a woman at some point in their lives and has, therefore, experienced the societal pressures that are often associated with them.

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