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The dangers of perfectionism. Thumbnail

The dangers of perfectionism.

Photo above by Aubrey Odom-Mabey on Unsplash.

I often refer to myself as a recovering perfectionist.

Sure, it’s a bit tongue in cheek. But keeping my perfectionism in check can be one of my bigger struggles.

The real challenge is that my perfectionism is insidious.

I say that because I’ve often felt that I’ve successfully reigned in my perfectionist tendencies, instead embracing small and imperfect steps towards my goals.

But then… I’ll find myself stuck, discouraged, or otherwise dismayed… and when I really take a look at what’s going on, I’m often surprised to discover it’s just my perfectionism showing up in a different form.

Just last week, I was struggling to get back into the swing of work. I was feeling a touch overwhelmed. Despite typically enjoying my work, my motivation was largely absent.

Perusing my personal email inbox (a favorite - if painful - tool for procrastination), I happened upon an email on motivation from the School of Life. I thought, “yah, i could use me some of that” and clicked through to see what inspiration I might find.

Only a part of me was surprised to see that the subject of perfectionism came up in the context of finding motivation.

There is no greater obstacle to effectiveness than perfectionism. We get frustrated when our efforts don’t match up to our ideals of what our work should be. As a result, we delay, procrastinate and fall into despair.

It was the “fall into despair” that really grabbed me. I started to wonder if this funk I found myself in was nothing more than my (insidious) perfectionism showing up in a new way.

And guess what? It sure was.

In fact, feeling stuck and despairing was not at all a new way that my perfectionism was showing up.

It was rather that I had never recognized my perfectionism as the cause of this particular flavor of stuck. That’s how my perfectionism is insidious.

Recognizing this situation didn’t make my stuckness magically or immediately go away. But it did throw me a bit of a life line which allowed me to, over the course of a few days, pull myself out of the muck of being stuck.

What does this have to do with your finances?

Overwhelm, hints of despair, perhaps even a dash of hopelessness. It’s common for folks to feel this way about their personal finances - at least from time to time.

So if that’s how you feel - know you’re in good company!

That probably won’t make you feel 100% better immediately. But as you’re likely well aware, naming things AND recognizing that they are very common human experiences can help lessen their burden.

I’ve come to believe that a lot of money and financial despair ties directly back to perfectionism.

I believe a lot of us have this mistaken, perhaps subconscious, belief that perfection is required for us to be financially successful, or find financial peace of mind.

We suspect we can’t save enough, get our finances in order, pay off our student loans, or figure out investing. We’ll never be able to feel safe and secure around money, because we can’t do this money stuff perfectly.

So we might as well not even bother getting started.

Thankfully, none of that is true - at all.

Perfection is absolutely not required to meet your financial - and life - goals. No one does financial stuff perfectly - not even financial planners like me. Because we’re all human, and perfection is simply not something us humans do.

The only thing that’s required to help you reach your important financial goals is to take small, messy, imperfect - even inconsistent - action. Repeatedly engaging with your money life, checking in with what’s going on and seeing what that next right step is - that’s how you reach your goals (and experience a whole lot less financial anxiety and worry along the way).

When it comes to money, one of my favorite sayings from AA hits the nail on the head:

Easy does it. But do it!

PS: Finding it a bit difficult to get started engaging with your money life? Yah, that happens! And it’s ok. If it would help (and I find it often does), schedule a time to chat with me. Many folks have shared how simply having that initial conversation with me gets them feeling more optimistic, organized and inspired to take some long-avoided actions!

That's a Wrap 🎬

That's it for this today's post. I know we covered a lot and yet it is but one small part of navigating the entirety of your financial life.

If this all feels a bit much, give me a shout. I work one-on-one with therapists from all over the country helping them address issues just like the ones we talked about today! Learn the different ways you might work with me on my services page.


Turning Point is a registered investment advisor in the state of California. Please visit turningpointhq.com for important information and additional disclosures. This article is provided for general information and illustration purposes only. Nothing contained in the material constitutes financial, legal or tax advice; a recommendation for purchase or sale of any security; or investment advisory services. I encourage you to consult a financial planner, accountant, and/or legal counsel for advice specific to your situation. Read the full Disclaimer here.