Traps of Perfectionism & Itty Bitty Shouldy Committee

Traps of Perfectionism & Itty Bitty Shouldy Committee


In this episode we explore the trap of perfectionism and the voice of Itty Bitty Should-y Committee. 

You know this voice. It's the voice inside our heads that tell us to stay small, safe, and to not take that audacious risk. 

Then we break down communication into four parts, so that we can focus our energy and attention on the parts we can control and not worry over things not in our control.



Today I want to talk to you about something I was struggling with just this morning: perfectionism. 

I tried to record this podcast episode about eight times. I’d start, and then I’d fumble a word or I would say something a little awkwardly, and then I would stop. Delete. Re-record. And then I’d try again. And then I’d lose my train of thought. And then I’d say something and I’m like, “Ugh, this is terrible, no one’s gonna listen to this.”  Stop. Delete. Re-record. It went on and on and on. I was struggling with my own perfectionism. 

And a lot of people do.

Especially the kinds of people that I work with who are people who want to be thought leaders, people who want to impact change in the world, people who want to leave a better world for the next generation.

Because we are so ambitious, sometimes we are held back by our desire to please, to be perfect, and to perform. 

Behind that desire is this fear that if you don’t impress the people who are watching you please, perform and perfect, that you won’t be accepted. That somehow, you won’t belong and that you won’t be worthy.

You hear that fear through the voice of the Itty Bitty Shouldy Committee. 

I call it the Itty Bitty Shouldy Committee because it tells you to stay itty bitty, and it tells you all the shoulds. You should be perfect. You should over-perform. You should take care of other people’s feelings. You should stay quiet if you don’t have the perfect answer. You should impress all the people.

If you listen to this voice, it holds you back. The reality is we all have a version of this voice. You might call it something else. You might give it a name like Hilda. You might call it The Saboteur. It’s the voice that tells you to stay safe, small, don’t take that risk. Don’t do that scary thing that can actually help you grow, that can actually help you thrive. 

You know what I’m talking about, right?

We’ve all heard it. “Who do you think you are? You’re gonna fail.”

It’s the voice that’s inside of us that is the most difficult, the most challenging to quiet down.

So how do we deal with this? I think it’s really helpful to recognize that when you communicate your brave ideas, or when you engage in that difficult conversation or negotiation, four different things are happening. And some of them you can control, and some of them you cannot control. So focus just only on the things you can control.

So, what are the four things?

First: What you mean.

What you desire to say, to express, to put out into the world. It’s inside you. It’s an internal experience. Does it make you feel good, or does it make you feel agitated? Only you can know, and only you can put those feelings or the desire inside you into words.

Second: What you say.

And what you say is an approximation, or a description of that internal experience. So, sometimes it’s not exactly the same as what you see or envision in your mind, but it’s how you best put it into words. So, it helps to say what you mean in very, very simple and clear terms so that you can be easily understood. 

Third: What people hear.

Are people always listening?

I think you know the answer. No. They’re not always listening. Even the people who are closest to us are not always listening.

People are distracted by visual information, people are distracted by their smartphones, by Twitter, etc. And you can’t control that. You simply can’t. And you can’t control the last part of this either.

Fourth: What they make it to mean.

How they interpret what they hear or parts of what they hear.

Take for example, I have this ongoing discussion with my life partner, and he’s taller than me. He’s got a deeper tone of voice, and even though he’s right next to me I sometimes struggle to hear what he says. I often, I frequently struggle to hear everything he says. And we’re always saying, “What did you say? What did you say?”

Even in small everyday conversations, you can see how the need to be heard, the need to be liked, the need to be approved of, or the trap of perfectionism can really put a relationship or communication at risk.

It’s because you can’t control what people hear or they don’t hear, but all you can control is how you express what you want to say. 

So how do we get rid of perfectionism?

I don’t think it’s possible.

It’s not possible to shut down that voice that says you should stay small and quiet and safe, but as long as we just focus our action and our words on what we can control: our thoughts, our behavior, and our words.

It’s because what other people think, what other people hear, what other people perceive is really none of our business. I can say one thing and people can hear a completely different thing and make it mean and start thinking about some completely unrelated thing, and I have no control over that. It’s not my business.

I’d like to end this with a quote by Tony Robbins. I read it this morning actually, as I was struggling with my own perfectionism and wanting to put out a perfect podcast episode.

“If your happiness requires other people to behave the way you want, then what are the chances you’re going to stay happy?”

Very slim, no? 

I’d like to rephrase this, since we’re talking about thriving.

If you’re thriving requires other people to behave, or to listen, or to approve and like you, what are the chances that you’re going to thrive? Very little.

So, put the ball back in your court. As Wayne Gretzky says, “You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.”

Put yourself out there. Put your best foot forward. Step up. Say what you mean so that you can thrive on your own terms. 

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