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Fear Of Failure And Perfectionism

Nerissa Shea


When did 'I am such a perfectionist' become a badge of honor?

A long, long time ago (I can still remember…barely), I wrote a thesis for my Master’s Degree entitled 'An Investigation into the relationship between Multidimensional Perfectionism and Motivational Climate in Elite Adult Irish Dancers’ – a mouthful, I know…

Now bear in mind, although THIS study was related to dancers, it is without a doubt applicable to everyone who may perceive themselves as a ‘perfectionist’.

Although perfectionism is often coined an admirable trait and considered necessary in succeeding in the elite world of dance, the multidimensional aspect of perfectionism denotes that there are both adaptive and maladaptive attributes associated with it. Therefore, the same characteristics that make a dancer strive to become an elite artist are those that often lead to increased dissatisfaction with the self.

Simply put, there are two different types of perfectionists!

Type 1: Adaptive – The GOOD kind: individuals set realistic standards and can accept when they fail to achieve these standards – they strive for excellence, not perfectionism.

Type 2: Maladaptive – The BAD kind: is perfectionism that gets in the way and includes setting unrealistic standards, overreacting when not reaching such standards, and needing always to be in control.


Sound familiar? If not, fair play and keep doing what you’re doing, if it does sound familiar, here’s your sister!

Back when I first launched Shea Fitness, I had two full days of consultations with clients and I was SO nervous! All the thoughts came flooding in– what if I’m not good enough? What if I don’t know enough? What if? What if? What if?

Then I took a step back and got to the root of it all, what am I afraid of? FAILING! I am always, deep down, afraid of failing and letting people down. But instead of trying to change these things that make us who we are, USE THEM! I’ve realized that all I can ever do for people is my best and we all make mistakes. No one knows everything and we are all learning. So embrace that and be proud of the fact that you are willing to learn.

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.

- George Bernard Shaw

We, as a culture, need to start embracing our mistakes. I feel that sometimes, due to our education system and the way in which society is devised, we are taught from a very young age that mistakes are bad and you shouldn’t make them. Children are chastised for making mistakes instead of being told to embrace them. I can guarantee that I learned a lot more valuable lessons from the mistakes I have made in my past than the smooth sailing experiences whereby everything went my way. Strive for excellence, not perfectionism! A mistake is only a mistake if we do not learn from it.

"We can choose to be perfect and admired or to be real and loved."

- Glennon Doyle Melton




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