Embrace Your Ambition: The Perfectionist's Guide to Collaborative Success and Self-Compassion for Women Entrepreneurs

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Do you identify as a "perfectionist?" It's a term that ambitious women often use to describe themselves.

Perfectionists tend to be goal-driven, have high standards, like a lot of control, and always see room for improvement. These aren't necessarily bad qualities, but the message we get from society makes it sound like being a perfectionist is a negative.

In the book, The Perfectionist's Guide to Losing Control by Katherine Morgan Schafler, the author points out that perfectionists do need to manage their emotions in a healthy way, but perfectionism itself is not a bad thing.

Perfectionism is layered and looks different between different people. So, there isn't one universally accepted definition of perfectionism. In fact, the current definitions of perfectionism don't include the positive qualities.

This book has provided relief for me because I've always thought that I still have many perfectionist qualities that help me operate despite being in "recovery." Further, I don't really want to rid myself of my values and skills. Being a recovering perfectionist means I'm still working on managing the crazy but leaning into my strengths at the same time.

Self-Punishment is a Perfectionist Personality Tendency

Keeping the crazy expectations within reason requires daily maintenance. Perfectionists need to work on how we treat ourselves. If something doesn’t go perfectly according to your expectations, it’s seen as a failure. When you don’t achieve your goal, you punish yourself. You may not even be aware that you’re punishing yourself.

Self-punishment looks like negatively comparing yourself to others, minimizing any success you’ve achieved so far, focusing on completing a to-do list instead of meaningful engagement, endless people-pleasing, and pushing people away and disassociating.

Punishment may be the only strategy you’ve ever learned to deal with your emotions. But the more effective and research-proven way to handle disappointment is through self-compassion.

Now before you roll your eyes and think I’m going to tell you to take a bubble bath, I’m not. Self-compassion is more involved than that.

“The most jaw-to-the-floor shocking thing we come to discover is that feeling our feelings (otherwise known as emotional regulation) is something we actually have to learn how to do.”

The learning process involves lots of repetition and that can be frustrating. The perfectionist personality assumes that repetition means we’re failing. Yet repetition means we’re learning.

You’re showing yourself compassion when your default to disappointment becomes what can I learn from this and improve on. You still have your high standards and will continue to chase an ideal. But now you’re in an adaptive mindset and can shift from focusing on the mistake to acknowledging your emotions.

Perfectionists tend to bury emotions. It’s a protective, maladaptive strategy. So know this: you have permission to feel all the emotions. You’re allowed to be angry. You’re allowed to feel confused, worried, embarrassed, jealous, and disrespected. It’s important to recognize and process these feelings without blaming yourself.

How to Practice Self-Compassion

Choose kindness and focus on the problem rather than your character
Problem: The engagement on my social media is decreasing and I need a way to increase leads.
Character: I’m doing social media all wrong and am terrible at generating new leads.

Ask for help
Asking for help does not mean you are weak. This is a massive mindset lesson I have personally learned. Suffering is mistaken for strength and stubbornness is mistaken for pride. Human beings rely on each other for survival. Make your life easier and ask for help.

Do what restores you
Relaxation can take many forms. You’ll gravitate to your preferred method. Examples include walking, dancing, cooking, going out to dinner, painting, writing, playing an instrument, gardening, organizing, and window shopping.

Sleep is a mental health intervention. Skimping on 7-8 hours of sleep each night in order to be more productive often results in less productivity, less creativity, and less energy. Prioritize sleep and reap the healthy benefits such as less brain fog, less stress, and less carb-cravings.

Your Fluid Personality

We somehow get the message that you shouldn't be a perfectionist. But if you strip away a perfectionist's ambition, what remains is average. The goal is not to be average. That's like asking a perfectionist to become someone she's not.

Like most people, perfectionists need various forms of healing. Healing is not linear and the work is in the daily self-compassion. While being ambitious is not likely to change (nor should it,) how you handle stress and other negative emotions is a skill to master.

As much as 60% of your personality is malleable. Letting go of what no longer serves you is the ultimate achievement. Acceptance of who you are is such an amazing result of growth and personal development!




Sara Lewis

Sara Lewis is a perfectionist who is both healing and embracing her personality. Sara is also an introverted entrepreneur who loves rest, alone time, and retreats. Because she recognizes the value of rejuvenating experiences, she founded the Lakefront Retreat Network. When she’s not working, you can find Sara relaxing at home, walking her dog, or reading a personal development book.


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