How to overcome fear-based perfectionism

This week, there’s been a theme on many of my coaching calls: the struggle to overcome fear-based perfectionism.  Perfectionism is sometimes a wonderful skill to leverage (remember: very few human behaviors are inherently bad or good). Other times, when perfectionism is rooted in fear, it can block us from moving forward. In this blog, I will share: my philosophy on fear-based perfectionisma surprising practice for how to overcome fear-based perfectionismsome of my favorite mantras to move past the sometimes-crippling need to get things “just right” Let’s start with one very important truth: Your perfectionism has paid off over the years. Perhaps your attention to detail helped you get the grades to attend your dream grad program. Or you were rewarded for catching mistakes or discrepancies in your line of work. It’s also possible the rewards started earlier. Growing up, your allowance may have depended on how thoroughly you cleaned your room. Indeed, perfectionism is a tool …but it can’t be the only tool. Think about construction workers. They head out with jack hammers, drills, and a variety of other equipment. This way, they know they’ll be equipped to address a variety of challenges. You don’t really need to get rid of perfectionism all together. Will your doctors appointment get cancelled if you’re late? Be perfectly on time. Need to find a professional to help out with your taxes, will or other sensitive documents? By all means, use all your perfectionist tendencies to identity the right person for the job. So, if our goal isn’t to leave behind perfectionism, what is it? The goal is to learn to recognize the perfectionism as its happening (i.e. cultivate awareness) and then to make a choice. If the perfectionism feels helpful and empowering, go with it! If it seems to be holding you back, it’s time to try something else. Over the years (and over and over again in my conversations with clients this week), I’ve noticed how there is one particular flavor of perfectionism that seems universally debilitating. Perfectionism Rooted in Fear I typically see this in intelligent, successful people. Blind to the fear that’s actually running the show (or unclear that this is the real reason they can’t move forward), they often try to justify their behavior. They give well-thought-out reasons why they need to wait until conditions are just right, they know more, or they have enough time/money/etc… They argue for the perceived limitations, saying they’re not ready. Ask their closest friends and allies if that person is ready, however, and you will hear a resounding “YES!” Here are a few archetypes of past clients whose perfectionism was disguised as fear: A doctor who wanted to write her first children’s book and spent hundreds of hours editing and re-editing her work A top-performing, highly educated employee who wanted to start his own business, but thought she needed more credentialsA talented artist who almost turned down his first gallery show because he wasn’t 100% satisfied with all of his paintings If these people had let fear win, the world would have missed out on their beautiful contributions. The key to changing the behavior pattern We don’t change our behaviors by making them bad and wrong. This can just send us into a shame cycle. We also don’t change our behavior by trying the same thing over and over again. This results in a frustration cycle. Through my work with people around the world, I’ve discovered there are two key, initial steps we must take toward change: Finding a safe place to acknowledge and talk about the fear Cultivating more self-compassion As I mentioned above, fear-based perfectionism is a challenge faced by accomplished people, many of whom do not sit around talking about their fear. Now, please recall what I said at the beginning of this article: Any human behavior has both payoffs and challenges, and most behaviors are not inherently good or bad. While some people cringe when I mention the idea of sharing feelings, I’ve seen time and time again how learning to talk about fear with trusted confidantes can normalize the experience. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” one of my former clients loved to say. When we can name and discuss our fear, we give the fear less power and can build our sense of support and community. It can also — and this is extremely important — support you in cultivating more self-compassion. Compassion is essential to overcome fear-based perfectionism You may be great at offering compassion to your friends, pet, child or another beloved figure in your life… but not so practiced at offering it to yourself. You probably also know that sometimes compassion is the best way to get things done. You wouldn’t, for instance, yell at a toddler for not being potty trained. You’d show him compassion and then find a creative and loving way to support his progress (for my nephews, we use stickers). Many perfectionists even have a story that self-compassion will make them weak or slow them down. The vast majority of perfectionists I know are at 0 risk of this happening. Self-criticizing <—————————> Self-compassion On the spectrum above, they are so far over to the left, that a few notches toward self-compassion will only improve the quality of their life. Their old strategy of pushing themselves is no longer working, anyway! Do you want to go allllllll the way over to the right? Maybe sometimes. Odds are, however, that you’ll find a sweet spot in the middle that serves as a more sustainable and gentle road to success. By cultivating compassion for their fear, and hence themselves, a perfectionist can find a new strategy to success. Talking to your fear Oftentimes, it’s easier to be gentle with our fear if we can personify it. Just yesterday, a client and I named her fear Koko the Gorilla. A few months ago, another client personified his fear as a much younger version of himself. It felt easier for them to welcome and spend time with …

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Why Is Brand Authenticity Important?

Let me tell you a story about how my commitment to brand authenticity was tested. Six years ago, shortly after launching my business, I began a weekly newsletter called Fuck Yes Fridays. I remember clicking “send” for the first time. I was PSYCHED, my branding felt ON POINT and I was ALL IN to support people in leaving the mediocre behind. My mission then (and now) was to help others create a values-based business and lifestyle that went far beyond “good,” or even “hell yes.” The email went out.  I waited. And then the response came: Many people LOVED the branding… and others were appalled by it (I know now that these are not my ideal audience members, but at the time their response made me feel scared about the viability of my business). After receiving a few nasty comments, I made the decision to silence my voice. Goodbye, brand authenticity. –> Oof. Writing that sentence makes me cringe. <– Can you relate? Have you ever felt like you needed to squash the real you in order to fit in, find clients or otherwise be successful? This is a lie. Don’t believe it. Now that I’ve studied marketing, led one of my businesses through the foremost incubator for creative companies in the world, and become a six-figure entrepreneur, I know a few more things about brand authenticity than I did at the time of that story. Thing #1: You want a memorable brand. Your job is to stand out and get noticed. This does mean, however, that people will have opinions about you and your work.  “If you’re remarkable, it’s likely that some people won’t like you. That’s part of the definition of remarkable. Nobody gets unanimous praise–ever.” Seth Godin, Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable  But you know what? People who don’t like you, think you’re weird or don’t understand what the hell you’re doing will often still talk about you. And that’s free promotion.  Thing #2: Your audience needs YOU, specifically. You will say things, offer services, etc… in a way that speaks to your ideal clients. You are meant to serve a distinct population, not everyone. By using YOUR colors, speaking in YOUR voice, and being willing to say things that feel true to YOU (which may or may not include drooping the the F-bomb if you’re anything like me!), the RIGHT people will find you. Even better, these people will be over-the-moon that you’re there. They will feel connected to you. They will feel like you GET them. Even if they’ve seen others offering the same service or sharing a similar message, it’s possible your people never feel connected to it.  For instance, three different coaches might talk about reaching your goals in different ways: Coach 1: We will use the principles of neuroscience to support you in establishing new habits! Coach 2: Let’s talk about energetic alignment, the law of attraction and quantum physics Coach 3: It’s time to clarify what you want and then create concrete steps to getting there And on, and on and on.  I’ve seen coaches from each of these different categories (and many more) cultivate thriving businesses and raving fans. The same person who goes to coach no. 1, however, may be completely different than the person who goes to coach no. 2. These service providers carve out their niche by being themselves and embracing their unique methodology.  Being authentic also means less wasted time on calls with potential collaborators or clients, since people will already have a feel for who you are and what you value. Thing #3: We live in an ABUNDANT world with TONS of people who need different things You know that influencer who has 1 million followers? There are SO MANY PEOPLE on this planet that there could be 0 overlap between these people and your big, future audience. If you buy into any story about scarcity, you may try to mimic others out there. This will not be as fulfilling or sustainable as showing up as yourself. Be yourself and the right people will come to you. You will like these people better. They will like you better. Your relationship with them is based in authenticity and truth. The process is similar to dating. Put on a mask, and you might get lots of people interested in you that aren’t actually a great match. Thing #4: Being yourself makes decision making simple WWID — what would I do? If you’re trying to be someone else, mimic another person, or do things the “right” way (the “right” way is a complete myth, BTW), decision making can be a challenge. When you’re you, you know your values, priorities, and goals. Because of this, you can make aligned decisions more quickly (which is key to our next-level of success). You won’t hem and haw wondering ‘What would this OTHER person do?” Since being an entrepreneur in this world means trying something, seeing what works, and then iterating, fast decision making is absolutely key to moving forward. Which of these tips about brand authenticity resonates most for you? Share in the comments below. Also — as you may have guessed — Fuck Yes Fridays are back. Sign up for my mailing list to get my updates in your inbox! Embrace the Adventure, Meg

What Does It Mean to be a First-Generation Entrepreneur?

From the time I was little, I knew I was meant to be an entrepreneur.  I loved creating things. While growing up, I sold lemonade, homemade birthday and holiday cards, and a lot more. I loved to lead. I started a scary story club when I was 10, a cappella groups in high school and college, and organized gatherings that brought people together. I valued freedom. I wasn’t made to work for others, in one place or a typical 9 – 5 schedule. I would rather have worked 12 hours a day on my own terms than 8 hours a day for someone else. Plus, I just felt like entrepreneurship was for me. I knew in my bones that I was destined to have a business. Nevertheless, starting a company felt terrifying. Why? I was a first-generation entrepreneur, and I had no idea where to start. What is a first generation entrepreneur? A first generation entrepreneur did not grow up in a family of entrepreneurs. Most commonly, their close friends, mentors or role models are not business owners. They do not interact with anyone regularly for whom successful entrepreneurship is the norm. They may have interacted with aspiring entrepreneurs who never dedicated themselves to a business idea or who did not succeed and went back to a day job. What are the unique challenges of a first-generation entrepreneur? Entrepreneurship is not normalized: They didn’t grow up hearing their parents talk business around the dinner table. In fact, business ownership may be feared or has a stigma. The people who surround first-generation entrepreneurs often have negative stereotypes about entrepreneurship… and this is what the would-be entrepreneur hears about day in and day out. Because of this, it’s hard for the first-generation entrepreneur to know the difference between interpretation and fact. Is starting a business truly inherently risky? Or are there tried-and-tested ways to mitigate risk? Can a businesses only be a side hustle or hobby for people like them? Or can anyone who is courageous and hardworking follow steps and best practices that will dramatically increase the chance of success?They can’t just go to business school: It would be great if an MBA prepared you to be a successful entrepreneur… but it doesn’t. In fact, it might just leave you with debt that makes it even scarier or impractical to start a company. I’ve heard so many entrepreneurs battle with the question of whether or not they should get an MBA, and this is an experience I know well. In my desperation to avoid starting a company, I applied for business school. Ultimately, I received a full ride… and turned it down. I wanted to start my business NOW and I realized pursuing my MBA would require me to learn a lot of things that didn’t directly apply to my company. In short, more school would have made me feel safe, but was ultimately just a clever form of procrastination. Six years into being an entrepreneur, I see ways that an MBA could have benefitted me, but I still believe I made the right choice not to pursue this path. Mentors are not built in: A big reason I didn’t start my business earlier (in fact, it took me 10 years) is because I didn’t know who to turn to for support. When I met entrepreneurs, they were willing to answer a few questions, but not to discuss business with me every week. I couldn’t call those entrepreneurs when I was scared and have them say “I really understand” and look at my numbers, marketing strategy, etc… Instead, I had to find my own mentors and hire them so I could get the amount of support I truly needed. This leads to my next point: Their first years in business are not just about starting a company: The first-generation entrepreneur often balances their launch with assuaging the fears of or educating their families and friends. What does it mean to be an entrepreneur? And is it really a good idea to invest in your dream or in yourself? Many people are confronted by the idea of investing in themselves via a massage once a month or buying organic food. It makes sense, then, that the idea of a first-generation entrepreneur hiring a life or business coach (or both, as I did in my first year) could seem crazy. And yet… many first-generation entrepreneurs need this level of support. The learning curve is steep: Because they weren’t exposed to entrepreneurship early on, first-generation entrepreneurs often have to learn their lessons by trying new things, making mistakes and then re-adjusting or pivoting. This process may be terrifying, since — per point no. 1 — it’s not normalized. In many cases, the learning process is so far outside their comfort zone that they ultimately give up. What can the aspiring first-generation entrepreneur do to support themselves? Stop asking for advice before you start: While having some conversations can be supportive, having conversation after conversation as a way to avoid failure or stall your learning curve is not helpful. Commit to the learning curve and ask for advice after you’ve really started to apply yourself to the entrepreneurship process. It will make your conversations much richer and you will earn the respect of the entrepreneurs you encounter. If you feel fear, get support: It took me 10 years to start my business because I was scared. I wish I’d met a life or business coach earlier who understood the value of mindset and could support me with fear-related self-sabotages. Plus: Accountability. Anyone who is stalled by fear needs someone who knows how to lovingly hold them accountable and challenge them around facing the underlying fears or limiting beliefs that keep people stuck.Find a community: You may find solace is being around other entrepreneurs. My own community, The Thriving Creator, is one amazing place to get connected to fellow business owners.Do something, anything: Again, any action you take will lead to lessons learned. As long as …

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How do I work through fear, insecurity and anxiety?

Fear. Insecurity. Anxiety. It’s not very festive…. but it’s REAL.  And, while most of my friends, family and clients have been expressing ample gratitude for what they have, MOST are experiencing at least one of the feelings I listed above.  I’ve been a part of discussions about this in my virtual coworking community, business mastermind and plenty of other places. Inspired by them, here are some of my top suggestions for alleviating fear, insecurity and anxiety as they arise.  Give yourself space to feel your feelings: Rather than operate on top of negative emotions, pause and see what’s there. I sometimes think about my emotions as children. When they’re upset, I don’t ignore them. I kneel down and ask “What’s wrong, love?” Then, I listen. Often, I write down everything I hear (a sort of journaling exercise). Emotions, like children, often get louder when they’re ignored. Set very achievable goals: On days when you’re not feeling great, choose one or two tasks you can complete and then celebrate the hell out of doing them. Our success is more about consistent action than about achieving off-the-chart results each day. If you can keep moving and positively reinforce that progress, rather than beat yourself up for not having peak productivity, you’re much better off.Ritual: Is there a way to infuse your core values into a ritual? For example, some of my core values are creativity, freedom and connection. I’ve created a morning ritual where I go for a quick walk around the block while listening to grounding music on Spotify and sipping my morning Rasa. It helps quell my anxiety (an ongoing challenge) and gets me ready to start my day. Make sure you feel aligned with what you’re offering through your business: Do you believe in all your services or products? If not, trying to sell them likely increases anxiety or stress. If something feels off, chat with a coach, colleague or friend about your concerns.Do a calendar inventory: Do you really need all those meetings on your calendar? Are there some you have out of habit vs. from a real need? Are there any you can cut down by 10 – 30 minutes if you and the other parties came prepared to dive in? Community: Cultivate your social support (read tips from the Mayo Clinic here). During the pandemic, fight the urge to just stay home. Create explicit agreements with your friends about meeting up and then go have a great time. Even an hour or two can lift your spirits. Go for a walk, go snowshoeing or have a bonfire. If Zoom is the way you stay in touch with friends or family far away, find creative ways to have those calls: set up game nights, read each other stories or make the same dinner at the same time.Give yourself something to look forward to: Can’t travel or visit friends/family right now? Do some research and plan a REALLY FUN trip that you can take in the future. So far during this pandemic, I’ve planned amazing trips to Italy and Japan. If you REALLY need variety/adventure to feel like yourself, consider some of the new virtual AirBnB experiences. You can meditate with monks in Bali, take a tour of street art in Japan or do yoga with an Olympic athlete.Eat well: Check out this resource from UCLA that highlights stress-reducing foods.Take a wonder walk: Head outside and practice taking in everything around you with wide-eyed wonder. The more over the top you go with this, the more fun/relaxing it is. Wonder walks are also great (and often hilarious) to do with friends.Workout (hot tip: “exercise snacks”): Make these non-negotiable even if it’s just 15 minutes of jogging in place each morning. You can also try “exercise snacks,” and do sets of squats, pushups or other types of exercise throughout the day. Exercise is proven to make you happier and offers many other benefits, too. Turn off technology: Give yourself permission to not look at your phone or your computer until a certain time in the morning. In the evening, do the same. If you’re noticing that this is difficult, you may need to find a stress-reducing hobby or ritual to replace the screen. This could be reading fantasy books, playing the guitar, journaling before bed, listening to a pre-downloaded podcast or music (with your phone on airplane mode), creating art or taking long walks with a friend or family member. Remember: You need time to just BE in order to balance the time you spend working or giving to others. How do you reduce stress, anxiety and fear? Let me know below.

How I Outcompeted my PR Company

A few months ago, I hired a PR company for three reasons: 1) To help me promote my book Dance Adventures2) To see if I could outperform them when it came to PR 3) To practice investing in myself at a higher level (this company’s services cost about $3,000/month) Now in the final phases of our contract, I feel grateful for what I’ve learned and also excited that I DID outperform them. What I valued about this experience Working with the PR company allowed me to cast a wider net with my publicity efforts, as I spent my time reaching out to publications that they did not contact. It was also a great accountability structure. I checked in with one of the women assigned to my book once a week about what we both had accomplished and outstanding articles I needed to write. The PR company’s efforts also landed me some opportunities I’m not sure I would have secured otherwise. This included my interview with an NBC affiliate, the chance to have a journalist at 60 minutes read my book, and features in publications that I had never heard of (but who have many readers). I wrote for Confetti Travel Café, Business Done Write, Thought Leaders LLC, and several other publications. What I learned (and what you can apply to your own PR efforts) 1. It starts with a good press release: No surprise there. While I have experience writing press releases from my time in journalism school, working as a writer/editor in NYC, and working in business development/fundraising, I thought the PR company brought some cool new ideas (you can see the full press release here — note that this is the template, rather than the custom versions they sent to each media outlets). The PR company included quotes from my advance readers and descriptions of a few stories from the anthology they thought would get the most attention from major media outlets. Finally, they customized each press release with a few titles of stories I could write for a given publication, based on its unique interests. 2. Know your dream placements: I spent 20 – 30 hours creating my “PR Wish List.” This included more than 150 news outlets — from podcasts to newspapers to magazines — where I thought the book could be featured. I made sure these publications would have an interest in the subject matter, based on previous stories they published. I also created a list of all of the universities/organizations/companies that I and the other authors featured in the anthology were connected to. I knew these could also be great allies for book promotion. My point person at the PR company said it was the “most exquisitely organized” media outreach list she’d ever seen. I felt proud of this, since I wanted to make sure I did everything I could to support the PR company’s efforts. 3. It’s great to get others involved: Using my PR Wish List, I scoured Linkedin to find my connections to various publications. Sometimes, I knew someone who worked there (thanks, j-school!). Other times, I had to ask a friend for an introduction. Sometimes asking for these introductions was easy. Other times it felt vulnerable and challenging. In the end, I secured many intros and a few cool opportunities. When you ask, people can always say “no,” but you might be surprised at how often they say “yes.” I also got the authors and Dance Adventures’ early readers involved. I sent them the press release, examples of emails to send out to their alumni magazines or other networks, and volunteered to support them in writing letters to any media outlet they wanted to contact. We also did some very fun author interviews, which you can check out here. And, last but not least, there was my mom! She wanted to try to secure publicity for Dance Adventures on NPR, Ellen and in a few other places. One Sunday morning, we sat down together and typed those out. We thought about what would inspire and delight the editors/hosts, and came up with the subject line: “Proud Mama Reaching Out.” We were delighted when, not long after, NPR reached out for an interview. 4. I looked at current events: When it comes to pitching ideas, many editors are looking for things that are timely. In other words, they want you to have a good idea and for it to fit in with current events or trends. I went with pitches (such as my story on equitable editing, which will be out in early 2021) that would further conversations already happening in the United States. 5. Don’t be afraid to follow up: If I didn’t see a clip that was promised, or didn’t hear back about a pitch, I reached out. If I still didn’t hear back, I would contact the editor again a week later. I decided on the mindset that my follow up emails (as long as they were spaced reasonably far apart) were supportive to extremely busy editors. This kept me going, even when it felt like there was radio silence. While there were other lessons, I will pause here for now. I am excited to share more about this process with my clients, as they work to get the word out about their own projects. I am also delighted that my diligence, organization and vision created so much opportunity. It is a testament to the inner work I’ve done (which has taught me to keep going even when I feel daunted) and to my skills as a writer and editor. I would love to hear your takeaways from this post! Please comment below. Some of the publicity we secured for Dance Adventures: “Meet The Women Behind the Dance Travel Trend” on Unearth WomenInterview on NPR‘s “City Lights” (forthcoming)A great feature on author Kara Nepomuceno in the Del Mar TimesA blog for the National Dance Education OrganizationWatch all my YouTube interviews with the authorsA Book Review from DivineLong-form, nonfiction story in …

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