“The maxim ‘Nothing avails but perfection’ may be spelt shorter: ‘Paralysis.’” — Winston Churchill
If you’re a high-achiever, you expect nothing but the best out of yourself — in everything you do. But when it comes to speaking, perfectionism leads only to frustration and diminished impact. Here are three reasons why seeking perfection is detrimental to your development as a speaker and a leader.
1. Perfectionism hurts your rhythm
One of the reasons you should stop trying to seek perfection is because it stifles your rhythm. If you are constantly monitoring what you are saying and editing your words as you go along, you will have frequent “ahs,” “ers,” and even long pauses — as Churchill said, paralysis.
These interruptions will diminish both your message and your leadership presence. Great speakers are able to get into a rhythm right when they start speaking, and they’re able to maintain that momentum throughout — like a runner getting into stride. So, focus on flowing, not being flawless.
2. Perfectionism makes you robotic
Another reason you should stop trying to seek perfection is because you won’t come across as authentic. To be authentic, you have to be spontaneous and fully present. If you’re thinking about what you wrote on a page yesterday, you’re not thinking about what you’re saying in the moment today.
Also, focusing on what you wrote causes your facial expression to become fixed. Your facial expressions should reflect what you’re actually saying, not what you’re thinking about. Just as a mountain biker can’t think about the bumps he just went over, you need to stay fully present so that you communicate authenticity, not stiffness.
3. Perfectionism makes you obsess over the negatives
Finally, seeking speaking perfection often means an unhealthy obsession with mistakes. You remember oh-so-well the time you got out of sync with your PowerPoint, the time you couldn’t think of the right word, and — horrors — the time you made a grammatical mistake.
They say that great athletes have short memories, meaning they learn from their mistakes but don’t dwell on them. Similarly, you need to stop beating yourself up over missteps and start focusing on what you do well.
We want our leaders to be competent, of course, but we also want them to be real people. And real people make mistakes. So, when you speak, don’t worry about being perfect — just be your best, authentically.