Embracing Imperfection in Business and In Life


Joey grew up in a family where he needed to compete for positive attention. He was one of five kids and his parents, while they tried their best, were in over their heads. In an attempt to introduce some sanity into his home, Joey learned to be very neat, exacting, and orderly. This worked well to balance his otherwise chaotic environment.


As Joey grew up, his environment changed. He no longer lived with mom, dad, and his four siblings. He became a man who graduated college and was in a romantic relationship with Jenny. He had a good job and was making enough money to save up for his future.


But one thing stayed the same despite the changed circumstances: Joey was still a #perfectionist. He worked hard at his job and in his home life with the same tenacity as he did when he was a kid. He carried around this belief that he wasn’t good enough, which motivated him to strive harder. He was afraid of laziness and would #overcompensate through his strong work ethic to prove to himself that he was diligent.


On some days Joey felt good about himself if he was able to attain his goals at work. He set the bar high so he could feel good about his accomplishments. On such days, he found himself even feeling a sense of #entitlement and superiority to his co-workers. On days when he couldn’t meet the high bar he had set for himself, he struggled with his #selfesteem as he wallowed in self-disappointment.


After a while of feeling in the dumps about himself, Joey developed a #FearOfFailure. He didn’t like feeling like a failure. There was nothing glamorous about that state. So he did what he could to avoid feeling that way. He #procrastinated on his tasks at work. In his mind, if the outcome didn’t turn out as well as he wanted it to, he could save face by stating that he only gave it 10 percent of his efforts. It wasn’t a true representation of his ability.


While Joey’s justification tactics could help him avoid feeling badly about his failure, they didn’t prevent it. When failure did show up, it reinforced Joey’s beliefs that he is “a loser.” As a result, Joey would buckle down and set even higher standards for himself to prove that he was worthy. But the fear did not subside and the pattern of failure and avoidance of failure continued.


After enduring this #SelfSabotaging loop, Joey hired a coach to shine a light on his blind-spots. He wanted to learn what he could do to overcome this stuck point in his life.


Here is what Joey learned:

  • His perfectionism was his way of coping when his environment was chaotic, but it was no longer serving him. He needed to embrace change.

  • Instead of tying his self-worth to his productivity, he needed to work on the belief that he was good enough just the way he was without any qualifiers.

  • Instead of setting himself up for failure by creating unattainable goals, he started creating SMART goals that he could accomplish given his time, qualifications, and everything else on his plate.

  • He began practicing #SelfCompassion rather than being so hard on himself. He found that by doing that, he increased his motivation to work on his goals without fearing failure as much. He knew that no matter the outcome, he was going to be alright.

  • When failure reared its head, he could reframe it to mean that he is trying and learning along the way. When he gave himself credit for his efforts, he continually made progress in his goals no matter the immediate outcome.


Joey took inspiration from two local businesses who were embracing failure in their business models:


Fail Chips packages crushed potato chips into bags and promotes their product as one that is imperfect. These chips are the leftover bits from otherwise regularly shaped chips.


Imperfect Produce found a solution for fruits and vegetables that are not “perfect” enough to be sold in grocery stores. This is usually due to irregular size or shape. They still taste great and as an incentive, customers can save money and have a box of groceries delivered to their doorstep. Nice touch!


As a recovering perfectionist, Joey now enjoys his work more. He has less internal pressure to succeed, less negative self-judgments, and is more aligned with his goals. He likes himself more and feels more comfortable sharing his talents with the world.


If you know someone who is a perfectionist, please share Joey’s story with them. If you yourself are embracing imperfection, please share yours here.


© 2020 Coaching by Sharon. All rights reserved.