The Truth About Fear & Perfectionism & How To Beat Them

perfectionism overcoming, overcoming fear, advice for 20 somethings, tips for your 20s

It’s been a long time since I did an “Ask Rachel” post, so coming at you with one that I think a lot of us have struggled with at some point in our life:

I just want to know how you stayed motivated in your first year of blogging and got over perfectionism and fear? I am currently struggling with all of that and it’s keeping me from actually doing my dreams.The months keep passing by and I still haven’t been motivated enough. 

*ICYMI: You can submit any question here and I may answer it on the blog in the “Ask Rachel” series!

I want to note that my response to this question is going to be broader than just blogging. If you want more specific blogging related feedback, stay tuned to the bottom of the post for suggested reading.

But, today I want to talk about overcoming fear and perfectionism on a broader scale. I want to touch on some of the truths about fear and perfectionism in our twenties and hopefully get you thinking of ways to reframe them so you can overcome them forever.

I think perfectionism and fear are things that hold us all back in our careers and passions; whether that’s blogging, being a therapist, engineer, musician, whatever! As millennials, most of us were told that we are special and can do anything we set our minds to growing up. But the reality we all know: we can’t all be special and all of our dreams can’t come true — enter fear and the need to be perfect. *Queue panic attack*

So let’s start with fear:

False

Evidence

Appearing

Real

When we look at little kids they are fearless. They know exactly what they want and usually will say it. I think back to my younger self and I knew I wanted to write. I spent all of my time writing. Until my biological father told me “left handed people are stupid in my country” and made me re-write everything with my right hand. Can you guess what that led to? A fear of writing! Which grew into a hatred of anything related to english and writing.

Most of our fears are rooted in some sort of negative feedback we received from others, ourselves, or the world. At some point, something told us that we needed to fear this thing for self preservation. Which leads me back to that little acronym I just wrote: it’s false evidence appearing real. Usually — I mean a healthy does of fear when it comes to putting your hand on a stove is probably a reality. But when it comes to our careers and passions and relationships, the acronym holds true 99.99999% of the time.

How do I overcome the fear?

Look at what caused it in the first place.

Usually, it’s someone else’s baggage that projected onto us. At some point most of us will internalize that other persons baggage as our own truth. How sad is that? IMO, Our twenties are about unlearning all the B.S. that people told us we “should” believe or feel, and get to know ourselves.

I ask myself, “What’s the worst that can happen?”

Usually the worst that can happen isn’t that scary.

People won’t like it? They’ll quickly forget about it and move on.

My feelings get hurt? Well emotions are like waves in the ocean. They come and go. Each one with a peak, and crash, leaving you with peace in between the sets. They aren’t permanent or ever lasting, just temporary blips in a pretty big sea.

I fail. Which would be the most beautiful gift of all. You see when we fail, we have these beautiful opportunities to grow and connect. It’s only through those moments of failing, that we have the choice to fail forward. To grow in strength and character. That’s the gift. Life isn’t about the destination, it’s about the journey, and that journey will consist of countless “failures,” bumps, scrapes, and bruises.

Life isn't about the destination, it's about the journey.Click To Tweet

Which leads me to perfectionism.

Perfectionism is a funny thing. Logically we all know it unattainable. Yet, so many of us feel this need to strive for it, but why? Imagine for a moment that you actually were perfect. What would that look like? Feel like? What relationships would you have in your life? I mean really think about that. Because the reality is, perfectionism isn’t relatable, it’s isolating.

Perfectionism isn't relatable, it's isolating. Click To Tweet

Life is beautiful because we make mistakes, and connect with others through our vulnerabilities and we can only do that when we are humble and honest with ourselves. If we try to zip it all in under the facade of perfectionism, that’s lonely AF. Don’t strive for perfectionism, strive for greatness. Strive to impact others in a positive way. If you use that as your compass instead of perfectionism, you’re going to be alright.

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advice for yours 20s, perfectionism tips, overcome fear, motivational quotes

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  • I have such a hard time with comparison and trying to do things perfectly, but this past year I have really worked on focusing on the things I can control and the good instead of all of the things I wish I could change. Great post!

  • Shannon

    Thank you SO MUCH for this article – I have been a perfectionist all my life, as well as someone wrought with multiple anxieties, so this article was exactly what I needed this morning. Your words are very empowering. I love the metaphor of our feelings being like “waves in the ocean” – that is so very true, and from now on I am most definitely going to keep this in mind. I find I ALWAYS emotionally attach myself to my work – it feels like an extension of me – so, when other people dislike it or something, I take it too personally, like a direct attack on me as a person. I truly believe having these little thoughts at the back of my mind will really help me cope with that. So thank you, thank you, thank you, for taking the time to help us all take a step back, and ground ourselves in reality.

  • yessss to having to unlearn all the things we are told we should feel/want! I also love “People won’t like it? They’ll quickly forget about it and move on.” Maybe whatever it is wasn’t for those people anyways!

  • kathy

    I was told growing up I would never amount to anything. Needless to say based on my past I was fearful to try anything and when I did attempt something it had to be perfect, which of course is impossible. It took decades for me to understand the role my past played in my attempts at success. I now am trying writing and have written my first book. Thanks for your article it is a good reminder:-)

  • Loved this post so much. I grew up always trying to be the best at everything, and that has honestly resulted in me being way too controlling in my adult life. I always want things a certain way so that I know what to expect. But where is the fun in that? I love that acronym of FEAR – definitely going to keep that one close by.

  • Great advice! One way that I got over my fear of starting my blog is I knew it would make me happier than an alternative career. I am so glad that I did, because I am happier now than ever before.

  • Elizabeth Johnson

    Yes!!! I struggle with perfectionism and you are absolutely right. It is unattainable and completely isolating. I am better than I was in high school when it comes to dealing with it but still a work in progress.

  • This was such a great read! I tend to be a perfectionist and it can suck sometimes because I hesitate to mobilize on things I could be great at because I’m afraid it won’t turn out “perfect.” I really just need to get over the fear and take that first step.

  • I love this post! We really do need to overcome this. Unfortunately I think social media purports the quest for many people to be perfect, which is reality no one is. I like how you put it- strive for greatness. We all can be our own kind of great!

  • Lisa Roe

    I so need to become more childlike when it comes to my blog and just go for it more often!

  • Wishing I could transport myself back to my 8 year old self when I was a die-hard dreamer and thought I could anything and everything. But you’re right, asking yourself, “what’s the worst that can happen?” Gives a ton of perspective and reminds us of all the things that can go RIGHT!

  • I definitely struggle with this sometimes myself. Being a perfectionist is totally frustrating because that perfection will never be achieved. =/

  • Lauren Falardeau Pariseau

    Fear + Perfectionism are constant, especially when perception is everything in social media. But we can let that stop us! There’s a really great quote that I can exactly remember but it’s along the lines of “if you’re not embarrassed my your early work, then you started too late.” That’s what reading your post made me think of!

  • mckenna bleu

    I really enjoyed reading this post. Could not agree more with Lauren’s comment. Love that quote!

  • I loved this post. It really hits home for me!

  • Such a powerful post! Thanks for sharing this great read.

  • Michele Dawn

    This makes so much sense. Sometimes I find myself being a perfectionist, but we have to remind ourselves that is a lonely place. I feel alot of pressure from social media when it comes to perfectionism.

  • I’ve read this article a handful of times because it always brings me back to center when things are getting a little out of hand. It’s a great article and I love having it to read over and over.

  • Taylor Smith

    I love this. I am SUCH a perfectionist that sometimes it hinders me.

  • Omgggg *perfectionist here*! So many points hit home but it is something I am working on!

  • Daynna Hartjes

    YES, THIS IS AMAZING! I was actually just talking about this with someone the other day and how perfectionism and fear can really hold people back. I feel like I definitely struggle with imposter syndrome as a fairly new blogger still, but I get through it knowing that even though someone might have written about something similar to me I have my own unique perspective that nobody else can provide people with. Everyone’s perspectives are different and beautiful. Is it scary to put things out there knowing I’m learning as I go? Absolutely! But knowing that everyone else is doing so as well makes me feel a lot more at ease. Thanks so much for sharing this post, Rachel! Beautiful as always! <3

  • So much YES to all of this! I definitely struggle a lot with perfectionism, which end up with me just not doing anything to avoid it. Which is worse than just not being perfect. Definitely needed this today!

  • Jae

    Every day is a struggle, especially for someone who claims to be a “perfectionist.” I think it’s the number one thing that stresses me out when in reality, I could just let it go and move on. Thank you for sharing these inspiring tips, Rachel!

  • Anna Hubbard

    I struggled a lot in the past trying to be perfect, and it was very unhealthy. It eventually got to the point where I had to step back and look at things in the bigger picture, and I realized there is no such thing as perfection. Things got a lot better after that! Loved this post, Rachel!

  • This is such a great post! I wish I had read something like this and believed it when I was in my teens, my college years would have been so much easier. I think you should offer the quote about impacting others in a positive way as a printable download. It is a great reminder!

  • This was such a wonderful post and I think something that so many of us struggle with! I have let fear hold me back from a lot, especially starting my blog. I was scared of what people would think or if they wouldn’t like my posts, but I realized that I shouldn’t let that hold me back and I’ve never looked back 🙂

  • I don’t consider myself a perfectionist but I do let fear hold me back sometimes. I can become obsessed with worrying about failure and it is really counterproductive.

  • Yes to this! I try so hard to remember that perfect doesn’t exist.

  • I love that you put life is beautiful because we make mistakes. No one is perfect no matter how they appear. I will admit at times I want everything to be perfect when it comes to certain things but sometimes that doesn’t happen.

  • I’ve been really trying to see failure as a catalyst for growth but it’s hard to get into that mindset! I’ve always struggled not necessarily with perfectionism but with what other people think about the things I’m doing. I do feel like as you get older it gets a little easier to not care about anyone else but since I’ve started grad school I’ve been sort of embarrassed about my blog and I’ve been trying to hide it from my classmates!

  • Stephanie Parrell

    So true! I recently wrote a post “Becoming Fearless” and it had many of the same points. I think when you bol it dont and expose fear for what it is it is the same essence and it has no real power only the power that we give it. Great post! And I love the quotes alos 🙂

  • Nope! Terrorist attacks and spiders are all negative feedback! I used it in a more clinical sense I guess – so feedback isn’t just words that you received or actions done directly unto you. Feedback is any stimulus from the world that you’ve internalized. For instance spiders, although someone has never been bit by one they may have heard a story about spiders burrowing into their skin and hatching eggs ( think we all heard that as a kid) but that person held onto it super tightly and internalized that it could happen to them = fear. Terrorist attacks are the same thing, it’s negative feedback that we aren’t safe and secure, death is a possibility.

  • Laila

    I usually run into a lot of trouble trying to be completely perfect, it’s such a silly thing to go after! I’ve been trying lately to just do my best with whatever task I have and if it’s not perfect – so what, I gave it my best effort!

  • Shannon Paige

    Love this! So true, my therapist asks me all the time (when it comes to anxieties) : and what is the worst case scenario? When you actually think about it,. its usually not that bad and most of it is in our heads. lol But can definitely come from past experiences or things said to us, too!

  • Ash Neverson

    This was so inspiring to read! I still struggle with perfectionism on my Instagram feed & even blog posts and it has hindered me from simply enjoying the ride. It sucks but getting over it is a process we are all taking. Thank you for sharing.

  • Your blog always inspires me. These are both things I deal with on the daily. I love what you said about perfectionism and how we know we can’t achieve it, but we’re constantly trying. With the help of my boyfriend, I’ve been working on defeating my need to attain it and work on my living with my anxiety and conquering it in a healthy way.

  • Kaitlyn Fickle Killebrew

    As usual, needed this post! I always strive to be the best I can be, but sometimes it’s hard to get past perfectionism!

  • Love this post! I’m seriously always struggling with this.

  • I truly loved reading this! I loved that acronym for FEAR because it’s so true. My number one “Life Rule” is to always stay fearless. In fact, one of my favorite quotes is “never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”

    Thanks, Danielle

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