We address these questions in the fifth video of our How to Build Confidence Video Series. We also discuss the danger of perfectionism by sharing the story of an outstanding teenage athlete, student and person with a lot of performance anxiety, especially when competing in her sport. She discovered that perfectionism was the underlying cause of it.
The video concludes with suggestions on how to overcome perfectionism.
Join speaker agent Kim Tracy and me in learning about the relationship between confidence and perfectionism. Either watch the video or read the text below, which was edited to enhance readability.
Kim: Hi, I’m Kim Tracy with the Maxwell James Speaker Agency. So excited to be here with Dr. TC North. We’ve done some really good videos in the past that have focused on different aspects of confidence. And with the high performers that you work with, I wanted to know: How many are perfectionists, and what is the relationship between confidence and perfectionism?
TC: Yeah, great topic for us today, Kim. A lot of the performers that I’ve worked with actually are perfectionists. Perfectionism will certainly help you become good or great at what you do. The problem with perfectionism, though, is that it’s actually unattainable. The downside is that people are often very anxious, and that anxiety can lead to depression over time. It’s easy to feel like a failure, because you can never actually be what you think you are because no one can ever be perfect.
Kim: Perfect. Can you share with me an example of somebody that you’ve worked with and why perfectionism was such a challenge?
TC: Yes, this came up in our conversation earlier because I just had a client the other day — a real incredible young lady. I don’t work with a lot of athletes anymore, but I’m working with this young lady because she has performance anxiety, and that’s in my sweet spot. So, I did work with her, and I’m really honored to work with her because she’s a great person. She’s a great athlete; she’s a great student; she’s just a great kid — so I was real excited to help her. When we dug into why she was so anxious and why she was so anxious about performing well, it came down to her belief that she has to be perfect.
Kim: Oh, why?
TC: Great question — that was the other part of digging in. Because of confidentiality, I’ll leave that part out just in case anybody identifies who this young lady is; she’s an amazing young lady. But what I’ll say is in general, I’ve worked with people for decades now. And what I find at the bottom of performance anxiety and perfectionism is it always comes from childhood. Stuff happens — it’s things people say; it’s experiences you have; it’s almost always related to early life experiences. So that I can say in general.
Kim: So, being that I’m Asian, wouldn’t perfectionism be helpful to people who are high performers?
TC: Well, it is. And if you don’t want to be happy, it’s OK to continue.
Kim: Bam. TC North at his best!
TC: Take that! There’s the juxtaposition that people don’t understand that you can be absolutely accepting of yourself. You can be accepting of yourself, Kim, and you can strive to be better. Most people think I’m either striving to be better or I’m accepting myself for who I am. They don’t understand that you actually have more energy to get better when you completely accept yourself just the way you are. Why is that?
Kim: You’re the expert — you tell me!
TC: Turned one around on you, didn’t I?
Kim: That’s why you’re answering the questions and I’m asking them!
TC: The reason is: If I’m always worried about being perfect and I’m getting anxious, that’s energy — I’m using energy I actually don’t have to improve. So if I can accept myself and be joyous in who I am, bringing this joy and positivity in my life gives me energy. Now I’m putting that energy into improvement. That’s a whole ton of energy to get better! That’s the irony of the whole perfectionism thing; you actually can get better faster by letting go of the perfectionism and really being self-accepting and still striving to get better.
Kim: So this is very simple and profound, yes?
TC: Yes, my favorite!
Kim: I know — simple and profound! What advice do you have for those of us who might have a little bit of perfectionism inside of us?
TC: Well, let’s look at two sides. What shouldn’t you do? I heard a comic, Steven Wright, on the radio, and this is what he said: “I used to practice all the time, because I heard practice makes perfect. Then I heard you can’t be perfect, so I quit practicing.” Ha! I don’t know why; it struck me as funny.
Kim: It’s fantastic! So now, what would be beneficial?
TC: What would be beneficial is to really learn to accept yourself and really come to peace with who you are, just the way you are right now — all the flaws, all of the imperfections, all of that — just to really come to peace with that. And then put your energy into creating or going forward in whatever aspects of your life — your professional life, your business life, whatever parts of your life — put all of your energy into getting better while accepting yourself and enjoying yourself and your life just the way you are.
Kim: That is very, very true. Now is there any special equation that you can share with our viewers?
TC: The equation is: Self-acceptance, self-love and self-improvement all go together.
Kim: OK, perfect. If you’d like to bring TC North in for one of his amazing keynotes or workshops, please contact me, Kim Tracy, through MaxwellJames.net. Thank you so much, TC!
TC: You’re welcome, Kim!
My speaker agent Kim Tracy at the Maxwell James Agency produced this video. Please contact her if you’re interested in having me deliver a keynote, workshop or webinar on building confidence and personal power and becoming more mindful. Or contact me if you’d like to discuss personal work with me to build your confidence and presence.