I’m the youngest of three, and when I was a little girl my parents used to tell me that they got it right the third time, that I was the perfect child. They meant well, but this set me up to strive for perfection and to fear failure because it would mean others would find out that I wasn’t, in fact, perfect. I’ve spent a lot of time working through this, and on today’s episode I have the “perfect” guest to discuss issues around perfectionism and how to combat it. Petra Kolber is a leading happiness, movement, and fitness expert, and her new book is called The Perfection Detox: Tame Your Inner Critic, Live Bravely, and Unleash Your Joy, (available at Amazon).
When I was younger, perfectionism was all about being the perfect daughter; for Petra it was about being perfect on the outside so she could hide the chaos of her family life that was inside of her. Petra talks about how she came to understand her own perfectionism and recognize that, instead of making her a better person, it was actually holding her back and making her world smaller.
Petra discusses “enoughness” and how this leads to so many doubts, and to the fear that we’re going to be discovered as a fraud. These doubts hold us back, they push us into waiting versus doing, or watching instead of taking an active role in our own life. And it’s important to realize that fear and anxiety can sometimes be a sign that you’re about to do something very meaningful to you. What’s important is recognizing what’s under the fear and then figuring out what action we need to take to address the source of the fear.
Petra’s book is full of practical techniques for eliminating the harmful effects of perfectionism, and one of the earlier things she teaches is how to notice the “noise,” the critiques we say to ourselves frequently, and then she gives practical strategies for addressing these thoughts. The most frequent self-critiques are often tied to the same root belief; for Petra they tended to be around her sense of “enoughness,” that she wasn’t smart enough. More recently it tends to be around, “Am I young enough?” But being able to recognize this allows her to work with and eventually dismiss the impact of these thoughts. There are no quick fixes here – this takes work – but Petra shows us how we can actually do this successfully.
By being kinder and more loving to ourselves, we’re better able to be kind to other women because we’re less competitive and making fewer comparisons with them. It strengthens our sense of community with other women, we can talk more openly with other women about our struggles, and we’re better able to help and support other women, and in return they’ll be able to support us when we need it.
Perfection doesn’t allow for spontaneity, for creativity, for curiosity, for failure, so how can we live bravely perfectly? We can’t. Perfection doesn't allow us to live bravely. And Petra’s book is a wonderful tool for combatting perfectionism and the limitations it brings, and for living a braver, more fulfilling life.
To learn more about Petra Kolber and her book, please go to
And near the end of the episode, Petra mentions The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, which you can find at Amazon.
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May you live purposefully, may you love yourself, and may you love life.
Bye for now!