Unraveling Perfectionism with Sam Laura Brown | Weight Loss for Unstoppable Moms with Dr. Priyanka Venugopal

Episode #28: Unraveling Perfectionism with Sam Laura Brown

Oct 11, 2022

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Today, I’m thrilled to be bringing you a seriously delicious discussion all about perfectionism. I believe this conversation around unraveling perfectionism is so incredibly important, especially for high-achieving working moms like you. My intention with this podcast is to help you live a lighter life, and this work starts with your brain because it will inevitably translate to your body.

Sam Laura Brown is a perfectionism coach, host of the top-rated podcast The Perfectionism Project and founder of Perfectionists Getting Shit Done - a group coaching program for perfectionists who are building businesses. Sam teaches perfectionists how to follow through with their plans and get out of their own way in their business, and she’s here to share her knowledge with all of you.

Tune in this week to start unraveling your perfectionism and see how perfectionism might be leading to burnout, avoidance, procrastination, and even procrasti-working. We’re discussing why so many smart working moms fall into a pattern of perfectionism, and Sam Laura Brown is sharing her amazing tips for moving away from a fixed perfectionist mindset and into a growth mindset.



If you love what you're learning on the podcast and want to get a real flavor of what it's like to work with me, grab my free training: The Power Start Weight Loss GuideWhen you sign up, you'll get immediate access so you can start implementing my most powerful tools and techniques right now! You'll also be the first to know when The Unstoppable Group enrollment opens again.



What You’ll Learn from this Episode:


  • What perfectionism is and how people use it to avoid shame, judgment, and blame.
  • Why Sam Laura Brown felt called to help perfectionist entrepreneurs get out of their own way.
  • How perfectionism holds us back when it comes to creating forever weight loss, often without us realizing.
  • Why being in a growth mindset allows us to produce higher quality work than when we’re in a fixed perfectionist mindset.
  • The way so many people actually use perfectionism as an avoidance tactic, so you don’t have to go all in when pursuing a goal.
  • How we’re taught from an early age to pursue perfectionism and attach our value to getting the gold star.
  • Why your past results are not evidence of what you’re capable of creating in the future.
  • Sam Laura Brown’s tips for dropping the to-do lists in pursuit of your goals.
  • How to start releasing the perfectionism handbrake, accept that your plans might not work, and step into a growth mindset.

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Full Episode Transcript:

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  • Hey, this is Dr Priyanka Venugopal, and you're listening to Weight Loss For Unstoppable Moms episode 28, Unraveling Perfectionism with Sam Laura Brown. As you know, I have been exploring my own perfectionist tendencies and it started quite a while ago. I shared the very first episode on perfectionism back in episode 19, where I talked about perfectionism as a strategy.

    Today I am bringing you a seriously delicious conversation with my peer and friend and perfectionism coach, Sam Laura Brown. I met Sam about a year ago in a group coaching container that we are both a part of. I think that this conversation around perfectionism is so incredibly important, especially for high-achieving working moms.

    You will know that my intention with this podcast is to help you live a lighter life, and it starts with your brain because it will inevitably translate to your body. I had to invite her to come and talk to us about perfectionism because this is so important. I hope you enjoy the conversation.

    If you want to reach your ideal weight and create lightness for your body, you need to have simplicity, joy, and strategic decisions infused into your life. I'm a physician turned life and weight loss coach for ambitious working moms. I've lost over 60 pounds without counting points, calories or crazy exercise plans. Most importantly, I feel calm and light on the scale and in my life. There's some delicious magic when you learn this work and the skills I'm going to be teaching you.

    Ready? Let's get to it.

    Priyanka: Hello, hello. Welcome back to my unstoppable friends. I am so incredibly thrilled, today we have such a treat. I am bringing you a very special guest, her name is Sam Laura Brown and she's a perfectionist expert. I'm going to have her introduce herself in just a minute but I had to say that it felt to me almost like the universe was calling me to have you come on the podcast. Because, as I was sharing with you before we started recording, I have been kind of unraveling my own perfectionist tendencies.

    And I know that a lot of my audience, a lot of my clients, even though we may not label ourselves as perfectionists, we have certain tendencies that I think show up under the umbrella of perfectionism. And I had recorded a podcast a couple of months ago called perfectionism as a strategy. And that week or that day you posted in a group coaching mastermind that we are both a part of and I remember thinking that I had to have you on. We had to talk about perfectionism as like a continuation of this topic.

    So, Sam, welcome to the podcast. If you could just introduce yourself, tell us about you. And then we're going to get started.

    Sam: Thank you so much for having me. So I am a perfectionism coach, I help perfectionist entrepreneurs get out of their own way in their business. And that really was born out of me being in my own way and not even knowing that I was a perfectionist. But knowing, for me at first, I really just thought I had this motivation problem.

    That was really how it manifested for me. I was kind of on the nothing side of the all or nothing mindset even though I was doing a lot of working and overworking, that I was also really holding myself back in so many ways. And so over the years of really starting to explore myself I realized that it was perfectionism.

    And I really got passionate about helping others with perfectionism because of how many misconceptions there are around it. And that when we have an understanding of what that mindset is, and what the growth mindset is, which is what we want to work towards when we are releasing our perfectionism, it can change so much. Not just in the results that we create, but also in our day to day experience of our lives, the conversations we have with ourselves, how we feel about ourselves, which is incredibly important. So that's why I do what I do.

    Priyanka: It's, you know, I think because you mentioned something, you mentioned all or nothing. And I would say, and this still comes up to me now which is why I was like we have to talk, for me and for my people. But I have really for a very long time kind of thought of my perfectionist tendencies as a good thing and even like prided myself on someone that does really good quality work, excels at like paying attention to detail.

    And I would take so much pride in putting out that kind of work that I don't think I really realized, even now sometimes, like how perfectionism also does hold me back. So what do you think about that piece of it? Where we want to do well, I want to like put out the good quality perfect stuff, but how it's also holding me back.

    Sam: Yeah, so there's a lot we could go into, but I think that just on that specifically what comes to mind is that we kind of get it confused that we can either be a perfectionist and put out high quality work. Or we can be whatever the opposite of a perfectionist is and be really sloppy and reckless with what we do.

    And it's really about recognizing that when we're in the growth mindset we're able to produce incredibly high quality work. Even higher of a quality than we're producing when we’re in the perfectionist mindset. And it's not coming from a place of inadequacy and needing to prove ourselves and to avoid shame. But it's really coming from a much cleaner place, a much more grounded place, more sufficient place.

    And so it's not like when we're talking about releasing perfectionism we're talking about giving up high quality work. That's not what we're talking about at all. And so I think it's really important to distinguish the two, that what we're talking about is instead getting into a mindset where we can show up fully and courageously and we're not attaching our self-worth to our results, which only has us achieving more.

    And for all of us, I think that we can identify that if we weren't so fixated on how we're being perceived by others, we would be able to produce a lot higher quality work because we wouldn't be stuck in the overthinking, and the indecision, and the procrastination, and the things that come along with trying so hard to perfect.

    And also, a lot of times when we're scared we won't actually produce that high quality work that we associate ourselves with. We don't produce anything at all and we just end up with a lot of these different strategies to avoid putting in a full effort. So even though we might be people who are working all the time and don't like resting and that kind of thing, that we're actually doing that in a way that allows us to avoid putting in a full effort.

    For example this might manifest as having a lot of different goals at once so that you can always say, “Well, I didn't fully achieve this goal. But it was because I was so busy with this other one.”

    So for example if someone has a business and they're also wanting to lose weight, well, you know, I didn't lose the weight I wanted because I was so busy with the business. But I didn't achieve my business goal because I was so busy trying to focus on my weight loss. And so we get to feel like we’re someone with a lot of potential who is really productive.

    But at the same time, we're not allowing ourselves to give a full effort to either of those things because it feels so vulnerable to put in a full effort and have that effort not be good enough. But we can talk about what perfectionism is and the signs, like how that manifests. But I think it's just really important to make that distinction that we're not sacrificing high quality work at all.

    Priyanka: Yeah, I think that for a long time it almost felt like a badge of honor. Like I am a perfectionist or I am someone that produces high quality work, kind of in my mind thinking that they're the same thing. And the sense that I'm getting, and tell me if this is me understanding what you're saying, is we sometimes use perfectionism as an avoidance tactic to really go all in, like full-heartedly in pursuing a goal. Is that what you mean by when you say like when you have two goals and you're going from one to the other?

    Sam: Yeah, so I love, I'm sure you're probably familiar with Brene Brown and most of the people listening are. She's a shame and vulnerability researcher, and a definition that she shared of perfectionism that was really helpful for me is that perfectionism is a belief that if I just look perfect and do everything perfectly, I can avoid shame, judgment, and blame.

    So really seeing perfectionism not just as a strategy to avoid failure, which a lot of us think that it is. And initially I really thought about perfectionism as being fear of failure. But just digging a little bit deeper and it's that fear of shame. That fear of be disconnected, of being unlovable, or being unworthy.

    And for a lot of us, we associate that as being the potential thing that could happen when we're successful as well, that we will become so successful we’re not relatable anymore, that our friends and family will abandon us. So it's not just about fear of failure or fear of rejection, though those things are certainly there. But it's really this fear of shame.

    The irony being that perfectionists, we’re great at shaming ourselves. But it's really just, I found, so empowering to know that that was all that was going on. That my brain, like any human brain, doesn't want to feel shame, it's a very painful emotion. And so it's a strategy that does feel like it works to help us avoid shame. That if we can just be perfect, or it's more so if I can just avoid being imperfect, then I will be loved. That's basically what's going on in our brains.

    And to just know that we can rewire our brains and that it's not like perfectionism is this toxic thing, or this affliction, or I never talk about a recovering perfectionist. Like when we say that, when we use that terminology, it really frames perfectionism as something bad that we need to recover from. And while I think we're not doing our best work and living our best life when we're in the perfectionist mindset, it's also just a mindset. It's just a set of beliefs that we have.

    And I find that to just have those terms and that language without being attached to it being bad, because then we shame ourselves for, “Oh, I'm a perfectionist and now I realize it's a bad thing and I can't be a perfectionist.” And it just only makes us more perfectionistic about things when my shaming ourselves for that mindset.

    So just knowing it's a set of beliefs, and those beliefs have served us in a lot of ways. And they've really felt effective in a lot of ways. It can be really challenging when we have associations, for example, between perfectionism and high quality work, to let go of that.

    Priyanka: And like what I'm capable of. I would say like, and this was really a lot of my physician training. I remember preparing to go to medical school, or going through medical school to get to residency, or even studying for board exams. I remember that the concept of perfect scores, the concept of doing really well or doing high quality work were all equal. And the idea of perfect work implied it was high quality work and vice versa.

    And one of the things that I've really been exploring for myself, and you touched on it, is for me, I realized it's not only that I want to do perfect work, I want to avoid imperfection. And I talked about this as one of the strategies that I created, I guess, 20, 30, 40, many years ago, that I want to avoid imperfection because I have a self-critical voice in my mind, who will be pretty harsh, I think.

    And that is, it makes so much sense that we want to avoid imperfection, because we want to avoid that feeling.

    Sam: Yeah, and we've associated that like if I can be perfect, then I'll be able to be loved and feel worthy. But that's really hard to be perfect, especially all the time. So if I can just avoid looking imperfect, then maybe I can achieve the same result. Obviously, we're thinking all of this subconsciously.

    And so that's where procrastination, indecision, overwhelmed, like burnout even, like those things come in. And some of those things, for example burnout, you think but how is that me avoiding looking imperfect? But when we burn ourselves out, a lot of times there’s this kind of procrastination guilt cycle going on that we’re procrastinating on things.

    And even if we’re busy working we’re procrastinating on the things that really matter. And we feel really guilty about that and then we do it at the last minute. Or we’re so busy over preparing that we burn ourselves out. And then in the burnout we let ourselves off the hook and say, “Well, I'm just so exhausted, I can't possibly do anything.” And so a lot of perfectionism is us kind of reconciling with ourselves why it's okay that we're not getting the results that we know we're capable of getting.

    So for example, with leaving things until the last minute, which is a big one for perfectionists, which people don't commonly associate with it, is that it's kind of this belief of like we have this potential and we want to protect it rather than pursue it. And so if we leave things until the last minute and they don't go well we can say, “Well, I would have done better if I had tried harder, I didn't even give it my full effort.”

    And this, I have a law degree, a finance degree, and I'm sure it's very similar to a medical school mindset, where you're really rewarded for just a result, not how you actually got the results.

    Priyanka: I mean, we're rewarded from the age of three. From the age of three and four we are just, I mean brainwashed might be a strong word, but is it kind of? I don't know, I feel like we're just taught in every angle to pursue perfectionism and to pursue the A pluses and the gold stars. And we start to really attach a lot of our value, I know for sure I did and I think a lot of my listeners, you attach some of your value, like your human value, even though you don't realize it, like your human value with the quality of work you produce.

    And that, to me, is where it, for me, has gotten messy. Or it's like how do you, you can see the video, I'm like separating my hands like how do you unmarry your sense of self, who you are as a human, really saying that you're worthy and valuable apart from what you're capable of producing, what you actually produce?

    Sam: Yeah, I'll talk about that in a second, but I think just to finish that example, because a lot of the entrepreneurs I work with were really praised highly for being intelligent and being smart. And so we associate I'm loved when I look smart, and when I'm doing the right thing, and following the rules and that kind of mindset. And so, for example, with this tactic of leaving things until the last minute. If we leave it to the last minute and we don't do well we can say, “Well, I didn't try my hardest and I'm pretty smart, so I would have done better.”

    But it really reinforces itself when we leave it to the last minute and we do well in terms of getting the results. There might have been burnout, it might have been a miserable experience, but we get the result. And this happened to me a lot, I got good grades and it's this like quiet pride of, “And just imagine how well I would have done if I had actually tried.”

    And it really reinforces this self-image that we have around being smart and looking smart and that our worthiness and lovability is attached to how smart we look. And that's why I love helping entrepreneurs, particularly because business, it's an intellectual game in a lot of ways and it brings up a lot of this perfectionism. Like it really came up strongly for me when I started my business.

    But weight loss as well, it definitely comes up there, all or nothing mindset, all that kind of thing. And so just knowing that there's nothing, if you can relate to this there's nothing wrong with your brain. It's actually working really effectively at doing what it's designed to do and help you avoid pain.

    Priyanka: Yeah, everybody, did you hear that? There's nothing wrong with your brain. This is normal. It's okay. And like now we just get to dive in and like explore it.

    Sam: I like to think of it as a perfectionism handbrake, that it's not who you are to be a perfectionist, it's just a set of beliefs. And we have this handbrake, everyone has one, and we turn it on when we feel unsafe. And so for a lot of us, we've just gotten so used to having it on and we have it on a lot. Though in some areas of our life we might not really have it on at all.

    But say for weight loss for some people, for business for others, different things that it feels unsafe to be seen as who we are to be in that vulnerability of like the messiness, and I'm putting in the full effort but I'm not getting the result and all of that kind of thing that we just turn this handbrake on, and we just need to release it. It’s not this big thing, because people can hear this and think, “Well, now I have this new mountain of work to do. And I have to untangle this and get to the root of it.”

    And particularly for perfectionists, because we tend towards that all or nothing mindset, is that we can then be a bit all or nothing about trying not to be a perfectionist. And so I really like to encourage my clients and people I work with and anyone who is listening to not see it as this a big thing you need to do. But there's just this little handbrake on and you just need to learn to release it. And there's a lot of practical ways to do that. And it's not this all or nothing thing either of I'm either a perfectionist or I'm not.

    And that's why I really like to talk about the growth mindset because it's really hard to focus on not being a perfectionist. And I get really frustrated with a lot of the advice about perfectionism, which is just focus on done is better than perfect and all those kinds of things. Which are lovely, but in practice it's like but what do I do when I just really want to overwork this thing and keep tweaking it, or I’ll over prepare?  Like all these different things, but what do I actually do?

    And so it's just knowing that it's just a mindset, like a mindset that we have. There are other ones that we can have as well and be in. But just knowing it's a set of beliefs that have served me to a point and they still continue to serve me, that's why we still have them. And I can change my brain and I can change the way I'm thinking. And I can do that incrementally and it's not like you have to change all of the perfectionist beliefs to get any benefit. You can change just one little belief and see a huge shift in your life.

    Priyanka: You were talking about the perfectionism mindset and the growth mindset. And when I think about like, you know, the high achieving working mom, she's like at the office, she's at work and she, right now, has a set of beliefs where maybe the handbrake is on. How would she know that that's her?

    Like if somebody's listening and they'll go, “I'm not really a perfectionist. Maybe I am.” How would someone know that? She's at the workplace, I mean, I have a couple of clients and myself that are coming to mind. But I'm curious how you define those set of, like what are those beliefs that have the handbrake on?

    Sam: Yeah, so I don't talk, I mean, I do definitely talk about the beliefs. But what I tend to share with people the signs, because they're the things that are easy to spot. And then we can kind of look at, okay, well what are the thoughts creating that behavior?

    So procrastination is a big one that can come up in lots of different ways for perfectionists particularly. And who you're talking about it's going to be procrastiworking, like busy work, procrasticleaning, like productive procrastination. We tend to, because we tie our worth to our results, it feels very vulnerable to rest and take time off so we tend not to do a lot of that Which is why clean, guilt free rest is something I teach on.

    But we need to just know that procrastination probably isn't going to look like just, I mean, there might be some scrolling of social media and things. But a lot of the times it looks like prioritizing tasks that aren't the most important. I need the house to be clean before I can get anything done, like those kinds of things that are really procrastination. But they're productive, so we can justify them and still feel like a productive person.

    And there's overwhelm is another big sign. And that's really about the thinking the thoughts of there's not enough time, I don't know what to do, I don't know where to start, a lot of indecision going on there. Burnout is another sign. So I haven't burned out for quite a few years now, but I used to be very much in this cycle of procrastinating until the last minute because that had served me well in school in terms of results.

    I didn't enjoy the experience, like studying and all that, it was very stressful. But it felt like it worked so I was in this kind of leave to the last minute, that's when I do my best work, give this last big effort. And then I need to like do nothing for a week because I'm just completely spent. And then that repeating, because especially when it seems to work, we get the result we want, that it feels like well burnout is just the cost, so that’s something that people might notice for themselves.

    All or nothing thinking, so with weight loss particularly, I'm sure most people listening will be familiar with this, it's stuff like if you're trying to stick to a certain diet or whatever, eating plan, and you ruin it, that you then need to ditch the whole thing and wait till Monday. And just being able to do things and say maybe it's working out, to do it very consistently until you miss a day and then you don't do it for three months, like that kind of thinking.

    And also people pleasing in fear of judgment is the fifth sign. A lot of times as well we’re people pleasing ourselves and trying to avoid disappointing ourselves by setting really small goals or vague goals or different things like that. But also wanting to be liked by others. Like if we think about this all being about avoiding shame and avoiding that disconnection that shame is really a signal of, that we want others to like us, we tend to say yes to things we want to say no to and say no to things we want to say yes to, and kind of have that going on there as well.

    So those are the five signs that I talk about when it comes to perfectionism. There are different beliefs coming from that. But yeah,

    Priyanka: When you think about burnout, the one thing that's coming to my mind is like sometimes I will experience or notice burnout, but that's not just from overworking, but it's also overthinking. That struck me when you said procrastiworking. I'm like, oh, but I'm thinking. It's like I think my thinking is productive, but it's really just like dwelling and ruminating and like replaying decisions maybe that I've already made, and like remaking them or second guessing.

    And I'm just wondering whether that piece of it, where we are procrastiworking and then burning ourselves out, like you catch yourself in one of these five. So there's, like you said, there's procrastiworking or procrastination, there was the overwhelm, there was burnout, all or nothing thinking, and what was the fifth one that you said?

    Sam: People pleasing.

    Priyanka: The people pleasing. So everything you said, I'm like, “Yep, yep, yep, I've definitely done some flavor of that or definitely a combination.” When I catch myself in these moments, I'm like, “Oh yeah, this is me doing that people pleasing thing,” or “This is me doing that burnout thing.” How do I gently put the handbrake back down? Like how do I catch it or notice it enough to have an impact for me?

    Sam: Yeah, so just to quickly go back to something you said about burnout, because I think it's so important to talk about, especially as a mother myself and with mothers listening. That we can be in this conversation with ourselves about balance and there needing to be this perfect blend of work and family life and all these different things.

    And it's just so powerful to know that burnout doesn't come from how many hours you're working. That you can work a lot of hours and not burn out at all. You can work three hours a week and be completely burnt out. And it's about how you're thinking and the energy that you're working from.

    So, for example, if we're in the perfectionist mindset and we have thoughts driving us like, this has to be perfect and those kinds of things, like that has a lot of different ways it can manifest that thought.

    Priyanka: Yeah, like some flavor of that.

    Sam: Some flavor of that.

    Priyanka: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

    Sam: Yeah, that then we’re in this place of working from inadequacy, needing to prove ourselves, needing to, kind of just we’re trying to compensate for something we think we might not have and that others might notice that we're not out actually good enough. And so when we're working from that energy, that does lead to, like they’re all connected, it does lead to us overthinking and being undecided, second guessing, all of those different things which are mentally exhausting. Which is really what burnout is about.

    Priyanka: Yeah.

    Sam: Or alternatively when we're in the growth mindset, and I talk about them as being on a spectrum, so you’re not in one way or the other, you're somewhere along that line.

    Priyanka: Right.

    Sam: As we get closer and closer to being fully in that growth mindset, that we're able to work from this place where we're not having to prove anything, we're really working from sufficiency, and adequacy, and like my worth is not attached to this and I'm doing this just because I want to. And because there's that lightness there, then I can actually do it fully and I can do it the way I really want to do it and all of that.

    Priyanka: Yeah.

    Sam: So we can work for very long periods of time from that mindset without burning out.

    Priyanka: Which is huge.

    Sam: Yeah, the mindset, like when people talk about work life balance, and how many hours to work and rest and that kind of thing, I really teach clean rest, resting without guilt because it's having that mental break. And it really helps to teach us so many different things about like that question you had, about untangling your self-worth from your results and releasing the handbrake, that it does so much for that.

    But to just know that if you're asking yourself how many hours of each, it's really the wrong question. But it's about looking at the thoughts that are driving those things. And then cleaning them up, even just a little bit, and getting more growth minded about it so that you're working from a different energy.

    One that's very consistent and sustainable, and not one where it feels like your worth is on the line every time you try to do something because that is so exhausting when we’re in this mindset of I have to prove myself. And at any moment everyone could find out that I'm not good enough and I'm completely unlovable and they've had all wrong. When we work from that place it is miserable. Even if we're super successful.

    Priyanka: It's like, I think, for me especially, I think you called it, how did you say it? Like when you entered the entrepreneurial journey. I will say for me, going from my physician life to becoming an entrepreneur, it has felt like I'm entering a brand new playground, is what I call it. And it has no rules. I'm used, you know, I'm like someone that’s like, give me the protocol, steps A, B, C.

    And what is so interesting is as a physician and like in practice, I felt very decisive. There's a strategy, it's very clear, the path is laid out, you just like make executive decisions. And of course there's nuance and a flavor of the way I might make a decision versus another physician. But it is a totally different ballgame when you're in a line of work or an entrepreneur where there is no protocol.

    To me, it felt like this whole free playground, like we are just swinging around. And there's no rhyme or reason, I think, for me trying to create rules when no rules existed. That, to me, is where I think I felt fatigue. Like I want to do it right, I want to do it really well. I want to be giving high quality content to my people. And I think that that's absolutely where the fatigue can for sure come in.

    Sam: Yeah, and with that as well, it's like in medicine, being a physician that it's not this place where you’re going to need to fail a lot to succeed. It’s like no, that's not what we're doing when we're doing patient care.

    Priyanka: That’s not what we do, no.

    Sam: But in business it really is, you need to fail a lot. The same in weight loss, you need to experiment, you need to play around with it, you need to figure out what works for you, it's probably going to look different to everyone else. And there's so much freedom in that. For a lot of us, that's why we got into it. And yet if we have this attachment to needing to be told what to do because we don't trust ourselves.

    We don't trust ourselves to make the plans. We don't trust ourselves to execute the plans. And we don't trust ourselves to be with whatever feelings there are however it goes, I think, is the main thing that we don't feel safe being with how we feel. So we're trying to control for that and make sure we never feel bad because we don't know what to do once we feel bad. And that's a big problem.

    So I think, for sure, entrepreneurship, it brings up a lot for perfectionists who love having the rules to follow and the structure.

    Priyanka: I think a big piece for me and I think that this is probably true of many working moms, is before I just believed failure was bad. And it was just like it felt like a truth, not a thought, not a belief. But just failing is not good, failing is bad. Put in any flavor of that that we probably have come up with.

    And what I'm learning, I think, as I leave my small bubble and expand to do newer, bigger things that, wait a second, and it's not just with weight loss. It’s with so many, as a mom, as a mom, I mean, this is like I mean a huge area for, I think, growth mindset, which I can't wait to talk to you about. How we can really look at failure. I don't even like the word failure because it has such heavy connotations to it. But how can we befriend ourself in that and just glean, I like to call it gleaning wisdom. We're getting to glean gold every time we fail.

    But I know that I avoid it. I know I'm going to glean gold. I know that there's wisdom. Every time I have like a fail as a mom, or a fail in my work, or a fail as a wife, or as a daughter, name the role, I'm sure that there's golden wisdom there. And yet, I still know I avoid it. I'm like, “I don't want to do it. I want to avoid imperfection.”

    Sam: Inevitably we’re going to have experiences that are failures. And when we're in that perfectionist mindset we don't want to evaluate, we don't want to look at what went down and how it happened. We just kind of bury our head in the sand and just don't even want to go there.

    Priyanka: Or I say I'm resting, I’m resting.

    Sam: Yeah.

    Priyanka: I can’t evaluate because I'm resting. Probably because I'm burned out from the overworking and the overthinking. I mean, I don't know, yeah. 

    Sam: Yeah, so we can talk about the perfectionist or fixed mindset and the growth mindset. I think this is a really great segue to it. Because when we're in the fixed mindset, which Dr. Carol Dweck has created fixed mindset and growth mindset and she has an incredible book called Mindset that she shares these things.

    And when we're in that fixed mindset of perfectionism, we believe that our intelligence and talents and abilities are fixed and can't be changed or can't significantly be changed. We can maybe get a little bit smarter, but not much. And so when we're in that mindset, and this is going back to like what are the key kind of perfectionist beliefs. It's really about effort is a sign of inadequacy so I need to have everything be natural and effortless.

    And say, for example, if someone wants to wake up early, they're wanting to wake up early naturally. Like we have a lot of this association. Or people are praised for their natural talent, their natural abilities. Like if you look at the media there's a lot of praise around how naturally gifted someone is.

    And so we see effort and putting in a full effort, especially to something that might not work. We can put in a full effort to things that are kind of within our reach. But a full effort into something that might not work out feels so vulnerable when we do that. And like what you were saying before about failure, when we're in that fixed mindset we intellectually understand all of these amazing things about failure. And yet we live by the mantra that it's better to not try than it is to fail.

    So if failure is something that might happen, we tend to not try either. Like we completely avoid trying the thing or we have all these little subtle ways of letting ourselves off the hook, not being fully committed, being busy with other things. Like we have these ways of not going all in because we don't want to say to ourselves, or say to anyone else, I really gave it my best and my best wasn't good enough.

    Priyanka: Oh, it's that piece. I feel like there's, like my heart is exploding or like there’s a dagger coming at me. That's exactly what it is, it's if I gave it my all and my all wasn't good enough, the world has ended. The world has ended. I mean, it's huge. Oh my gosh, yeah.

    Sam: It comes back to that fear of shame. And also related to what we were just saying about evaluation and reflecting, that when we're in that fixed mindset and we believe that our abilities are what they are, that we get in this mindset of my best might not be good enough. Instead of recognizing that if we give our best and then we don't get the result we want and we reflect on that, that we can have a new best, a better best.

    But in the fixed mindset we don't think that, we just think there’s my best and everything I do is therefore evidence of whether I'm good enough. And so we might intellectually understand like in the growth mindset, someone who's in that mindset actually lives by that mantra, that it's better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all. Like we've all heard that, we can all say that and share it with a friend.

    Priyanka: Yeah, it's like lip service. I have said that to my kid and it's totally lip service. It's like not even, no.

    Sam: But it's looking at our actions and are we living by the mantra it's better to not try than to fail? Or are we living by it's better to have tried and failed? Like tried fully to keep going off to something even when it doesn't look like it's working, Like weight loss I feel like is such a beautiful example. I often talk about weight loss examples and things.

    Priyanka: I think especially like with what you're talking about for the fixed mindset with this idea of like I gave it my all and I failed, or I gave it my all and I didn't get what I wanted. I have seen so many times women, and especially like who we're talking to, really use their past results as evidence of what they're capable of creating in their future.

    I know that I did this forever. I'm like, oh, I've tried Weight Watchers, and I've tried counting, and calories. And I did lose a lot of weight and then see, look, but I gained it back. And I know that I have historically used that previously. And I know so many listeners have used their past attempts, their past efforts, their past results as evidence of what they're capable of tomorrow.

    And I think that maybe this is what the growth mindset addresses is that, would you say that that's true?

    Sam: Yeah, so when we're using our past results as evidence of what we can achieve in the future, that really is coming from the belief that what I'm capable of can't really be changed very much. So of course, when we're thinking that way it makes total sense to look to what we've achieved in the past to give us an indication of what we might achieve in the future, even though it's completely inaccurate and that's not actually how it works.

    It feels very logical and safe, and realistic to do that. And it further solidifies and builds into that belief we have that we’re smart. And the smart thing to do is to be realistic and to look to the past and to not hope for too much.

    But when we're in that growth mindset and we're really recognizing not just intellectually, but we're actually living from the beliefs that it's better to have tried and failed than never tried at all, and that our intelligence and talents and abilities can be improved upon with effort and with practice.

    That's when we're really able to show up fully and to not be in this place where we're constantly, like all those signs I mentioned, the different ways that we withhold giving a full effort, really when you think about it. And so it's really about getting into or more towards that growth mindset where we know that our best can get better.

    But in the fixed mindset, the perfectionist mindset, we think our best is as good as it's ever going to be and so I need to protect that. And I don't really want to show anyone my full best because that's really scary for people to see that. I don't even know if I want to see that because it might not be everything I've told myself it's going to be in my head.

    Priyanka: And it can't change and we're telling ourselves like that's all that we're capable of. And I can see it happen time and time again, especially with weight loss, that we then create that as our self-fulfilling prophecy, right?

    When we really are steeped in that belief or those set of beliefs where the handbrake is up, really far up. And we're really steeping in those past results, we just keep creating more of those past results again and again.

    Sam: Yeah, and it's really about like when I was saying before weight loss is such a great example of things. That when you are losing weight or like doing any big thing in terms of creating a new reality for yourself, that there is going to be, in the beginning, a lot of motivation. Not any results, but that's okay because we have this optimism of like, well, I haven't even started trying yet, so anything's possible.

    And then you start and the motivation begins to wane, usually pretty dramatically. Within a few days, maybe a few hours, definitely within a few weeks that motivation has gone. And we don't yet have results. We might have small results, but we definitely haven't got the main result that we're going for.

    And so I like to call that like the dip where we’re like in between those two things, the motivation and the results. It's inevitable when we're doing anything in life. And yet when we're in that perfectionist, fixed mindset and we’re feeling that giving a full effort to something that might not work, or to anything really, is a vulnerable thing to do. In that dip we quit in all these subtle ways.

    But when we're in a growth mindset, because we're not attaching our worth to the result and we have different thoughts about what it means to put in a full effort, so it doesn't feel vulnerable and unsafe, we're able to keep showing up and doing the things and get to the ultimate result that we want.

    But say, for example with someone with weight loss, oh, well, I'm going to try a different diet, this one clearly isn't working. Or I have vacation this week, so I'm going to do it, like all these little subtle ways that we quit on our goals and we'd love to restart things to try and get back into that motivation, even though the motivation isn't going to be there when we get the results. So we like to rely on it, even though it's very unreliable.

    But being growth minded is, I really like to focus on that, as I was saying in the beginning, rather than not being a perfectionist because it actually gives us something to work on and to focus on. Rather than trying to focus on, for example, with eating it's like you can focus on, I don't know, eating vegetables and whatever. Or you can focus on not eating the cookie. It's easy to focus on what you need to actually do rather than focus on not doing something. So yeah, I like to talk about it that way.

    Priyanka: If somebody is listening to this, because I'm thinking about so many examples for myself and for my clients where you're at work, you're in the office, and you find yourself in that perfectionist mindset. You're in that, maybe you're procrastiworking or you're ruminating. And in that moment, you can catch it. And you know that you want to practice being in a growth mindset.

    What are some of the tangible things that someone can do in that moment when they catch themselves? They’re like, “Oh yeah, okay, this is what I'm doing.” How do they switch out of that?

    Sam: Yeah, so it really depends on, I guess the thought that is creating that. Say a lot of times it's this thought about this has to be perfect. And it's knowing that, I mean there are lots of different ways to approach it and different practical things you can do. And I like to look for better feeling beliefs that are believable already without having to do a lot of thought work.

    But something I teach is power planning, which is a planning method that not only helps entrepreneurs be a lot more productive and manage their time, but also do this perfectionism work so you can notice when these things are going on. Because a lot of times because it's so subtle and we're little ninjas at doing this stuff.

    But just to share an example from when I've been in that kind of mindset. And what I did is I was writing some emails for a launch of my program. And I really found myself in this mindset of this has to be perfect, I have to say it the right way. This isn't going to be good enough, and like that kind of thinking. Which I'm sure we're all familiar with.

    And so because I noticed that and because I could see in my calendar how long I had planned to write these emails. And the reason I noticed this was because I could see it was taking longer than I had planned. And so sometimes we just underestimate how long a task is going to take. And that it’s not a problem when that happens, but it's just really helpful to just see like, oh, why is this taking so much longer?

    For me as well, I've written so many emails over the years, I know pretty much how long it takes me to write an email when I'm not in my own way about it and not overthinking it. So I could see like, I'm overthinking this.

    And so I was able to just stop and so what I did was basically wrote down like, what was I thinking about these emails? What thoughts was I having that was having me overthink, that was having me like tweak or like write a sentence and then edit it, and then edit it, and then edit. And then write the next sentence, and then read them both together and then edit them together. And it was just very tedious, and not fun at all and taking a lot of time.

    And so I was able to identify the thoughts that I was having that was creating that. And I was able to then from that with that awareness, a lot of times awareness, as much as we like to think like but when I do want to have the awareness? Just having the awareness and having it in a really self-compassionate way, not like, “Oh, here I go again with this thought.” It's like, “Oh, of course, my brain is thinking this. Totally normal, that's not a problem at all.”

    And so how would I need to be thinking in order to get this completed in the time that I want to complete it in? Because what I'd actually been telling myself is I’m not really feeling, this is how the thought actually came up to me consciously. I’m not really feeling motivated, so I might actually have an early lunch and then I'm going to watch a video, like a YouTube video or a marketing video, whatever. I’ll watch that while I'm eating, get re-inspired and then I’ll do the work.

    Priyanka: Yeah, yeah, oh no, this is totally unfamiliar. Yeah.

    Sam: That's what I was thinking. Like that's the actual thought at the conscious level. And so I was like, okay, and because I could see the emails were taking longer than I planned and I hadn't planned to have lunch, I think it was like 11am. I was like I haven't planned to have lunch at 11.

    And so the way I teach the planning tool you make little tweaks to your calendar to kind of keep it as a reflection of what you actually did. And so I was like, I'm going to have to make a little tweak to my calendar. And so that's just a little alarm bell to me of like, why am I making this tweak? And it's not like with every single time I do that I'm consciously thinking about it.

    But a few times at least during the week I'm like, “Okay, what's going on here? I hadn't planned to have lunch. And yet here I am wanting to have an early lunch and get re-motivated.” So then I could identify like what were the actual thoughts?

    It wasn't that I was hungry. It wasn't that I needed to get motivated. It was my brain was thinking this has to be perfect and this is horrible to sit in this feeling of this has to be perfect and it isn't. So I want to avoid it and do something productive, eating and learning at the same time, isn't that productive?

    Priyanka: I mean our brains are brilliant, it comes up with amazing. this is why I call it a strategy. Like it was a strategy that worked for so many reasons and I mean, we got to avoid discomfort. So you’ll just like write it down, you'll kind of catch, and what Sam is describing, I would say, is like a self-coaching practice effectively.

    And for those of you that are unfamiliar with what self-coaching is, it’s just you get to start reflecting and journaling on the thoughts that you're having that's driving you to procrastiwork or like to pull up the YouTube videos. You just take a moment, or a few moments to really pause and say, “What am I thinking right now? What's happening here for me? What am I telling myself that's making me show up in this way?”

    Sam: Yeah, and this is like how I was saying that initially I didn't even know I was a perfectionist, I just thought I had a motivation problem because stuff like this was happening. Like, I need to just have an early lunch and watch something to get re-inspired and re-motivated. Instead of actually looking at the real thoughts that were creating it, which was, this has to be perfect and it isn't, and I feel ashamed in that. And so I don't want to sit here and try and write this email so I'm going to go and eat lunch and watch a video.

    So, yes, this really is a self-coaching practice. And I talk about this a lot on my podcast, The Perfectionism Project, I share a lot of my own self-coaching, especially during a launch and things like that. So regardless of if people do launches, it's just a really nice container to have a lot of your thoughts come up and work through them.

    So I then identified how do I actually want to be thinking about these emails in a way that is really believable to me? So it was really about thinking about the person on the other end of those emails and different things like that. But it'll be different in every situation, so it's not like there are certain thoughts, but it's just having awareness around the actual thoughts that are driving.

    And in the beginning it might be challenging to notice those, and that's okay. I've been doing this work for about 10 years now, so it's not like you have to be like, “Oh, I have this whole self-coaching practice that I do when I notice this.”

    Priyanka: Which is important, like you're describing that, even I think you mentioned this even at the start, it's not like there's something to cure. We will all find ourselves in this tendency of wanting to avoid the imperfection. And I think that this is like 10 years in, it's like you'll still catch it and it's not a problem for you.

    Sam: Yeah, I teach this stuff for a living and my brain still likes to go there. And that's not a problem. And I find it so helpful to not be like, “Oh, here I go again.” It's like, “Oh, it's just a thought.” But I don't really even think of it as perfectionism, I think of it mainly as just a thought pattern, like where my brain feels comfortable.

    For a lot of perfectionists overwhelm is our emotional home. We love feeling behind, that’s a whole other conversation. But we can have this addiction to feeling behind and overwhelmed and not on top of things because it feels so much more comfortable to be there because we're avoiding the full effort, than to be like, “I know exactly what to do but maybe my best isn't good enough.”

    Priyanka: Is not good enough, this is such a huge one. I mean, it really is a huge one, yeah.

    Sam: Yeah, so when I did that then, just to finish that up, then I identified how I wanted to be thinking about it. I set a, so for me this was really helpful, it depends on where people are at. But I set a timer for writing those emails, knowing that I could write them, like if I was focused and I didn't overthink it, then I knew from writing so many emails before how long it usually takes me.

    So it wasn't like this kind of unrealistic, I'm going to write each email in five minutes kind of thing, or I need 10 hours to do it. It was like giving myself 20 minutes for each email and then I'm going to have lunch at the time that I had planned to have lunch. And I set my timer and I knew that if I'm going to get this done, I need to not overthink it. I need to just be connected to who I'm helping and what I'm saying and write the thing.

    And just telling myself too, I can always come back to this. Like if I have spare time, come back to this later. Those emails weren't getting sent that day, I can come back to it. But just like giving my brain that little backdoor.

    Priyanka: It’s like I love the sense that you like release the handbrake just a little bit. Just it's like I got that, you know, that feeling of you just kind of like let the break down just for a minute and like just got to work.

    Sam: My brain could be like, could recognize, okay, we're just going to do the thing. And also, if it's not good enough we can, because that thought about high quality and that kind of thing, just kind of like calming that side of my brain down of like we can always come back later if we have extra time.

    And usually what happens, like almost always when I do it this way, this is something that does happen quite a lot, is that I do the work. It's much better than before because I'm not overthinking. And because I'm not working from this place of inadequacy there's no need to come back and perfect it and tweak it and do the fine tuning.

    And if I do need to do that, it's so obvious. There's no drama about should I? Shouldn't I? It's just like, I'm doing it, here's the changes I need to make and they're done. Or it's fine and I'm going to put it out into the world and let my ideas meet reality and like be in that.

    But just knowing that when I'm having that drama about do I need to make an edit to it? And is it good enough? That's the perfectionist thoughts, not the growth minded ones. But I hope that example is helpful, that just knowing that it's not going to manifest in the most obvious way. A lot of times it's just wanting to have an early lunch, watch a video, work on a different task, different things.

    Priyanka: I mean procrastiworking, I love your word, I want to use it. we’re procrastiworking. It's like such a very subtle, but it has a very obvious effect on your result line. Procrastiworking, it's like very, very big.

    Sam: So it's knowing as well, it's not like, cool, I've “caught” it and now I'm not going to do that anymore. It's just knowing that our brains are wanting still to have us avoid the shame that might come from being imperfect. And it's still just we're wired to want to do the comfortable thing.

    And so as you evolve and get more growth minded, and get better at noticing things and you have more self-awareness, your brain is just, in a way, getting better and better at creating even more subtle distractions. So for example, like more subtle ways of procrastiworking.

    Your brain is highly intelligent, it's going to keep evolving with you. And that's not a problem. None of this is a problem, you can still live such a happy and fulfilled and successful life with these perfectionist thoughts while you're doing this work.

    Priyanka: When I imagine a listener, or myself, thinking in that moment, like I catch myself going off track, right, making all the changes and okay, this is like we're not following the plan, to practice awareness around what is it that I'm thinking here that's making me go off the desired route? And just catching that.

    And I think the biggest thing is that our brains will keep evolving with us, like keep creating more strategies, potentially. But I'm wondering if we want to befriend ourselves, we just start practicing awareness. Is there anything else that you can imagine would help someone that's new to this work of unraveling perfectionism and wanting to get into a growth mindset? Anything else that they could do?

    Sam: Yeah, so just on that as well, when you mentioned about getting off the desired route, and this is why, and I won't go into it too much. But if anyone's interested in this and works from a to-do list, then I recommend listening to my podcast, The perfectionism Project, because I talk about this.

    Priyanka: Get a calendar people, no to-do lists. No to-do lists.

    Sam: We work from the endless to-do list because we don't even, it lets us be fuzzy about the desired route. So we don't even notice if we're going off track, which is why it's really important, as uncomfortable as it can be for us, especially if we're lacking self-trust currently and we don't believe that we can follow through and we're going to do what we say, and we feel like it's negotiable, and all these different things. We can re-learn all of that.

    But it will feel uncomfortable to say this is what I'm going to do this week. And this is when I'm going to, like I'm setting myself up with a plan so I can notice if I'm going off plan and do something about it. We love just being like, no, I have like 50 things I'm going to do this week and it's going to be so productive. And then we don't have the opportunity for that insight.

    The other thing I would say, in terms of what is another strategy or something else that would help, and this relates back to the planning as well, but having a goal. One clear goal. So in business I teach the growth goal, but set above, just not too far above but just above what you currently believe is possible so that you can't, it’s not that you can't achieve that goal with your perfectionism handbrake on, but it becomes really challenging.

    Because when we set these realistic goals where we don't disappoint ourselves, we can get there with all of our current perfectionist beliefs intact. But I love having a goal that calls some of those into question and really exposes how my handbrake is on.

    Priyanka: The inadequacy.

    Sam: Yeah.

    Priyanka: Yeah, like let yourself get to inadequate, let's bring it to the surface and then work ourselves through that.

    Sam: Having a goal is so important. It informs whether something, like I was saying about if someone looked at my calendar they can be like, “You're not procrastiworking.” I'm like, but I am because this is the goal I have.

    Priyanka: Right. And I think what you're talking, we could probably talk for four more hours on all of the topics. But I think what you're really saying, and this is a huge topic, which is like women and a lot of my clients are used to working off of a to-do list. And we want to put the green check mark, you know, to cross the list, it feels so good.

    And what you're talking about is like actually creating a concrete strategy, like in a calendar where your goals are just done. If you follow your plan, your goals are just done. And you'll get to uncover all of the drama that comes up when you don't follow the plan.

    Sam: And part of it, which I think is a really beautiful way to tie it all together, is that your plan might not work. So you can be very productive at following through and you can really develop that skill and be following through consistently and sustainably, and ultimately then effectively and courageously as well. And your plan might not work.

    And so this is the thing that we go, “Okay, well, if I just follow the perfect plan,” that has us overthinking what we put in the calendar because we're like, “Well, I don't know if it's going to work.” And because we're looking to achieve a goal we've never achieved before, so it stops us from being able to look to, I mean we still love looking at the past as for what's possible. But we're not able to fully rely on that.

    And so it really brings up this like, I could create this plan and follow through with it. And I might not get to the goal, like to my next milestone. I might not make it. And having our own back in that and giving a full effort anyway is so important. Because if we had this smaller goal that's already something we could achieve, like we already have the self-image and beliefs and everything to get there and it's not really a stretch at all, then we know how to do it. And we can, it just doesn't bring up any of this work to do.

    And it's also just not fun when you know, you have so much more potential than you're currently embodying and sharing with the world, to just be living this little small version. Even though we love checking off the things off the to-do list, and when we do power planning we still put a check mark in the calendar, so you still get that.

    But it's knowing that if you are someone who feels like you have more potential and you have more to live into, even if you achieve the smaller goals, it's ultimately unsatisfying, because you're not getting to meet who you actually are and to see that.

    And so we want to have realistic weekly plans and not be like, “I'm going to do a million things this week” and whatever. But you do want to have a goal that you are going to be a different person at the end of pursuing that, regardless of whether or not you achieve it. And a big part of it is getting comfortable with the possibility that your hypothesis for how to get there might not work. And that's okay and it's still worth it and you're still going to go all in on it.

    And learning how to be all in on a plan that might not work is part of the skill set. A really big part of it. 

    Priyanka: This could be, we could have like a part two, three, and four to this conversation because that is, I think, huge. I feel like we could really keep going, but I want to let everyone know how can they learn more about working with you or learning more about perfectionism? Tell everyone how they can find you.

    Sam: Sure, so the best place would be my podcast, The Perfectionism Project. And on Instagram, I'm @perfectionismproject as well. My group coaching program is called Perfectionists Getting Shit Done. It is for perfectionist entrepreneurs, so if you have a business, then I highly recommend finding out more.

    But the best way to do that is to go to the podcast. I talk about power planning and the growth call and all that kind of stuff there. And yeah, if you enjoyed this, then you'll probably enjoy my podcast as well. So that's the best place to go.

    Priyanka; Especially that last piece, the plan might not work.

    Sam: Yeah.

    Priyanka: And I'm like, “What do you mean the plan might not work? It has to work, it’s the plan.” I made a plan for it to work, Sam, I mean.

    Sam: Yeah.

    Priyanka: Well, you're going to have to coach me at some point on that topic.

    Sam: Happy to.

    Priyanka: Thank you so, so, so much. Coming on, this has been awesome.

    Sam: Thank you so much for having me.

    Priyanka: Love it, bye.

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