The collision between perfectionism and life purpose is often intense. This is because in order to embrace one, you must relinquish the other. Perfectionism and a joyful life of purpose cannot, and do not, peacefully coexist. Today's blog post will show you how the desire to be perfect can easily derail dreams - leaving even the most accomplished person feeling inadequate, stifled, frustrated, fearful and defeated.
Ryane LeCesne is a wife, mother, transformational leadership and lifestyle coach, business CEO and one of my Spelman sisters. She is also a Perfectionist in Recovery. Ryane has graciously joined us today to share her personal journey through the grips of perfectionism, to explain how she recognized it was harming her, and to reveal how she fought through the illusions perfectionism cast around her - freeing her to stand in her Brilliance.
We have teamed up to share this message with you: You are more than enough. You are, and have, all that you need to live your purpose, to live a life full of joy, and to stand in your Brilliance, too!
Are You a Perfectionist?
What exactly IS perfectionism, or a perfectionist? In my work as a psychiatrist and therapist, I have most often seen it show up in my patients as an all-encompassing orientation toward flawlessness. It manifests as striving to reach incredibly (or impossibly!) high standards. And it is coupled with harsh self-criticism from self-perceived shortcomings and failure. This behavior seems to be born from the desire to avoid not only failure, but embarrassment, and feelings of inadequacy.
Psychologists hold conflicting ideas about the possible benefits of perfectionism. It is true that people with this personality characteristic have what many would consider success in their chosen careers. However, the shadow side to their accomplished life is often comprised of insecurity and self-imposed pressure to maintain a "perfect" image. They struggle with feeling sad, anxious, worried, lonely and even depressed.
"Perfectionism is a mental state or way of being where there is some clarity around a goal that feels like it’s out there and the person is not ready enough [to reach it] or is in a state of constant lacking. At times, there is an equal or greater fear of failure, exposure, vulnerability. They feel they can accomplish it, but their mind is like, 'you better not try that or you're going to embarrass yourself.' It's like the person is stuck in the quicksand between confidence and fear of embarrassment," Ryane explains.
And such is the reality for so many - just not feeling they are good, prepared, wealthy, smart, attractive or powerful enough to pursue, accomplish or be worthy of their dreams.
For the purposes of today's post, we're not talking specifically about psychiatric issues that people associate with perfectionism, like OCD. People with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) may very well struggle with these issues, but just because you are a perfectionist does not necessarily mean you have OCPD or OCD.
If you're wondering if you are a perfectionist, ask yourself these questions:
Am I able to enjoy my achievements, even if in attaining them I did not offer a "perfect" performance?
Am I able to overlook tiny mistakes or imperfections in myself and others?
Am I successful because I am motivated to achieve, or do I strive the way I do because I have a fear of failing?
Do I enjoy the journey to my accomplishments or only focus on the final result?
Do I wait for all conditions to be "perfect" before I try to accomplish a goal? Am I procrastinating?
Growing up in Reston, Virginia, Ryane was surrounded by her father's books on self-development, growth, and internal work. Her mother enrolled her in stage acting and singing plays because she held a forward-thinking vision that someday Ryane would be a confident public speaker. It was a vision Ryane admits she did not hold for herself. "I was terrified to speak on stage." However, her time on stage and in performance taught her an invaluable lesson she'd later come to fully understand - the power of standing in and filling her space.
Ryane with her parents, Mr. Alvarez LeCesne and Ms. Brenda Irons-LeCesne
The journey to filling that space was not a linear one, however. After completing her undergraduate studies at Spelman College, Ryane became a kindergarten teacher. "It was really challenging and baffling...learning to teach was like getting a Master’s Degree in life," recalls Ryane. After teaching, she worked at an upstart non-profit organization, later tried her hand at event planning, became an aesthetician, and even worked in pharmaceutical sales. They were all experiences where she excelled. They were experiences she enjoyed. Inside though, she knew they weren't quite right for her.
During this time, she developed the creative idea to host a brunch series for her girlfriends, professional women working in corporate America. Her role in the series was to support people in creating the life they desired. By 2013, Ryane turned her brunch series "passion project" into a coaching business called INSPIRE Brand Consulting.
From the vantage point of a coach, all the twists and turns in her career make sense.
"Because of all the things I've done, I understand how clients present," she says, "and I want them to see they have stories within them."
"She has helped me stand in my Brilliance."
Ryane can say this because she's done the work to become familiar with her own story. Through both her upbringing and her training, Ryane became immersed in ongoing internal work - analyzing her drives, fears, emotions, and purpose. And even while seeing early success in her business, she also found she was struggling with a sense of unworthiness. She experienced times of depression. "Being in business for yourself is a risk, it's scary. It's also the biggest reflection of who you are," she states. "I knew this was my calling...if I didn't follow it, I could have left a hole in myself - I could have developed a long-term sense of failure."
She knew that she couldn't give up her vision, but also knew that she needed some help actualizing it. One day, at a networking event, Ryane had a happenstance encounter with a woman whom would later become her own coach. "I saw that there was something in her I was missing...over the course of our work together, she has helped me stand in my Brilliance," Ryane remarks.
I Realized I Was a Perfectionist When...
One day, during a coaching session, Ryane shared with her coach that something felt off. Despite the fact that she had been in business for several years, was working with clients and things were coming together, she felt there was something holding her back when it came to fully realizing her vision.
"...while you're waiting for perfect, your people aren't being served."
"I told her I felt internally gripped backward, boxed in, I was like, 'What is going on?!'" Ryane's coach asked if she could share what she was perceiving. "For the next twenty minutes she talked," recalls Ryane, "and finally said 'I really think you're suffering from perfectionism. There you are in your office, in your four walls with your degrees, with all the knowledge that you've stored and all the books that you've read, and you are waiting for perfect. And while you're waiting for perfect, your people aren't being served.'" Ryane says that she wept hearing that truth.
"I was like, 'that's the whole purpose of this [business], and I'm not supporting people the way I could because I'm waiting for everything to be perfect before I really get out there.'"
For a month afterward, Ryane worked on processing that session's revelation and says the realization and exposure of herself as a perfectionist felt as vulnerable as jumping from a mountain without a parachute. "It was if I had been living a lie...the expression of my true self required that I lose my shell. It was very painful."
Ryane realized the limits of perfectionism affected every aspect of her life, including her marriage. "I had a lot of internal chatter and projected perfectionism onto our relationship. I realized there was more space for happiness when I allowed us both to show up as ourselves."
Ryane's Work Today
Today, Ryane continues to offer her coaching services through INSPIRE Brand Consulting, and now offers an 8-step curriculum called Finesse School in which women meet together for a monthly group coaching program.
Supporting women who at times feel broken or as though they aren't "enough" is Ryane's calling and passion. She is a voracious reader and spiritual student, finding life inspiration through books like "A Happy Pocket Full of Money" and study of "A Course in Miracles," as well as the Laws of Attraction and Allowance, meditation, internal reflection and guided learning through sermons of trusted spiritual thought leaders.
See some of her work below:
You have a particular Brilliance you can share with the world - we all do! Invest in yourself. Consider receiving coaching, read "The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brene Brown, talk with friends who may be going through the same challenges.
If you feel that perfectionism is holding you back, Ryane recommends the following:
"Get help because fear is allusive. It tells you to stay in the quicksand. It makes it difficult to siphon out fear from truth. Enlist support. Become aware of your mental chatter -your vision, the feelings (e-motions) and the body sensations that go with it. Ask yourself, 'Where do I feel it in my body?' Move in the direction of what you want versus what you don’t want. What is the emotion you need to feel to move from quicksand to inspired motion? People do what they feel, not what they think, so practice a new feeling! For instance, feeling courage. If I were willing to experience that courage, what would I be willing to do? What would I see? Aim to have the feeling that your body is in 'flow' with your purpose. Find a partner that would help to create that."
Please visit Ryane's website here for more information.
Ryane LeCesne is a transformational leadership and lifestyle coach whose mission is to inspire high-achieving women to quantum leap out of the quicksand and to create the lives that they desire. After myriad professional experiences in education, sales, communications, and non-profit leadership, Ryane made her way to entrepreneurship and transformational coaching when she founded INSPIRE Brand Consulting, LLC. in 2013. What started as a passion project to support the growth and personal development of her high-achieving girlfriends ascending corporate ladders, has become a thriving, high-impact boutique coaching practice. Through INSPIRE Finesse School and its scientifically-based and proven 8-Step Quantum Leap Curriculum, Ryane supports executives, business owners, healers, women in career transition, and community leaders to get unstuck and to activate and live their Brilliance. At the heart of all client engagements, Ryane’s core principle is that her clients already have everything they need to make their quantum leaps – her intention is to guide each client through the “inner-work” to recognize her Brilliance within.
She has lead personal development and leadership workshops for:
Executives and leadership teams at the Department of Transportation
Federal CSCs and executives at the 13th African-American Federal Executive Association Conference
The Baltimore-Washington McDonald's Owner/Operators Women’s Group
ColorComm (Women of Color in Corporate Communications)
Corporate Counsel Women of Color Annual Conferences 2016 & 2017
Ryane received her Transformational Leadership Coaching Certificate from the Georgetown University Institute For Transformational Leadership and is an Associate Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation. She received her Master’s Degree in Public Relations and Corporate Communications from Georgetown University, her BA in Sociology from Spelman College, and is a graduate of Foxcroft School.