It was 8 am on a Monday morning and I was meeting with a woman who was paired with me in a mentoring relationship through one of our women’s affinity groups. Being a mentor to individuals who are looking to grow in their role or career gives me a tremendous sense of satisfaction. Much of my career has been dedicated to mentoring women. In the workplace, women still need more advocacy and support, mentoring is a big way that I pay it forward for up and coming women.
Today I was meeting with a young woman, Kristin, for the first time. We had been introduced during a project she was managing but that was the extent of our knowledge of each other. She bounced into my office at two minutes before 8, with a big smile and a big hello. We shook hands and sat down to talk.
As is generally the case, we started out with some small talk regarding the weekend, but she jumped in quickly. Her enthusiasm was truly contagious, excitedly she exclaimed that she was thrilled to have me as a mentor. She shared that I had a very good reputation. I smiled and thanked her, and we began to discuss what she wanted out of the mentorship.
Kristin’s story was interesting as she had changed careers and was learning project management in construction and renovation (we are renovating a lot of spaces right now!). She came out of food service. She is ambitious and conscientious. But I did see a slight lack of confidence. Before I could even start to approach that she shared that she had high standards and didn’t like when she didn’t meet them.
Bam. That sounded like something I would say. She continued to share that she worried about what people thought of her and didn’t want to let them down. She was a perfectionist. Again, I was struck by her comments and shared with her that I have battled these things as well. Sometimes I still battle them, like right now.
I let her know that I came across a really interesting quote this week that resonated with me on this subject.
“Perfectionism is a fear of failure disguised as high standards.”
I could tell by the look on her face that she was thinking what I had thought when I read that, “yes, it is.” It surprised me and then it did not surprise me that this felt like a punch in the gut and at the same time, it felt like a big yawn, yeah I know this. Hard to describe, but it was almost as if I knew this but I never had admit it.
We talked for a while about this quote and its relevance to how we felt. I have always thought I held myself to a really high standard, but now I wonder if it is more about fear than high standards. I think I live in fear of failure less than I used to but still more than I should. I fear failure at work, I fear failure in new hobbies or things I say I want to try, I fear failure in relationships. My confidence in myself wanes at times as well, I’m sure from that fear of failure.
Once we finished the meeting and she left, I sat at my desk looking out the window deep in thought. Just as I was rehashing the quote and meaning for me, I realized that the carvings in the building across the street looked like butterflies. I smiled. I had seen them before and reveled in their resemblance, but at this moment they also became a sign. You can focus on doing the best job possible, without an expectation of perfect. And be happy in the result knowing you have done the best job you could do with the information you had at that moment. You can focus on doing the best job possible without allowing fear to try to motivate.