Fail again and again: We only know if something works through feedback, whether in business or personal relationships. The more you take action and gather feedback, the faster you’ll get to your goals. Price Pritchett wrote that a rocket ship is off course 90% of the time as it heads to the moon. Basically, it’s failing and course-correcting constantly as it reaches its goal. I like to remind myself that a baby doesn’t pop out of the womb singing arias. We often see final products but don’t get to witness all the failed attempts along the way. I believe we celebrate heroes because we know intrinsically that heroism comes from repeatedly overcoming failed attempts.
Many successful people are perfectionists. At the same time, they have the ability to say “Done is Better Than Perfect” and just complete and wrap up a project. What is the best way to overcome the stalling and procrastination that perfectionism causes? How does one overcome the fear of potential critique or the fear of not being successful? In this interview series, called How To Get Past Your Perfectionism And ‘Just Do It’, we are interviewing successful leaders who can share stories and lessons from their experience about “how to overcome the hesitation caused by perfectionism.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michelle Boulé.
Michelle Boulé is a Transformational Life and Business Coach, Healer, and Dancer who helps compassionate creatives and entrepreneurs all over the world clarify and manifest their visions with more confidence, impact, and alignment towards their truth. She runs a coaching business, offering online group programs, private coaching, in-person retreats, speaking, and teaching. Her work draws from over 20 years of practice in somatic therapies, energy medicine, mindset psychology, spirituality, and her award-winning, international career in contemporary dance.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in a small rural town in Illinois, one of four kids. We were raised by my mom, dad, and my Filipino grandma. My Dad modeled discipline and a hard work ethic, and my Mom always encouraged our learning through trips to the library and educational workbooks and games. I’m half Filipino, so that was a big part of my cultural upbringing. It basically meant lots of laughter and family parties with food and dancing. I have fun memories of the whole family practicing the moonwalk in the family room or roller skating in the basement to Janet Jackson.
I started taking dance classes when I was five. A typical type A achiever, I got straight A’s and only one B my whole life. By the time I was 16 years old, I was dancing six days a week, usually for four to six hours per day, but I had to quit because of injuries. Stopping was a traumatic transition that coincided with a hard relationship breakup.
I unknowingly ended up at a university with an excellent dance program and found my way back to dancing again at 19. This initiated my lifelong fascination with body therapies/somatic practices and eventually consciousness, energy medicine, and human potential. I moved to New York one week after college graduation and began an international career in contemporary dance.
I’m definitely the “black sheep” of the family, in that I pursued an artistic path, became an entrepreneur, and didn’t go the traditional route of getting married and having kids.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“There is a gift in the wound.” For the 21 years I lived in New York City, I worked with an incredible chiropractor who reminded me of this quote through many tearful sessions. My wounds were actually my gifts. After my sessions with him, I couldn’t jump right back onto the subway to go home. Sometimes I’d slowly walk up to 50 NYC blocks to process and integrate everything that came up in our short, but powerful sessions.
Whenever I got injured or hit a setback in life, I learned to not ask “Is it time to stop?” but instead to ask “Where can I grow? Where’s the opportunity here?” I believe our bodies course-correct us to the path of our highest potential. For example, through working with this chiropractor, I’d learn that my back pain was actually from unresolved anger and associated insecurity I was holding in my body.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Addiction to Perfection: The Still Unravished Bride by Marion Woodman, sat on my shelves for 10 years before I picked it up at the right time. My German breathwork and voice teacher recommended this book to me, during sessions where she’d be digging her fist into my solar plexus (a Shiatsu massage technique), encouraging me to stop thinking and get into my body. She’d say, “Michelle, if you want to think about your experience, get a Ph.D. and write a dissertation, but right now I want you to feel.” I was protecting myself from feeling by staying in my head. Overthinking can be a perfectionist’s tactic to avoid experiencing the present moment.
My biggest takeaway from Marion’s book was her explanation of how a loving parent or teacher may try to help you figure out the “right” way to do something by hovering over and correcting your actions. However, if you’re not allowed to discover “your” way of doing things — to fail AND to succeed from the decisions you’ve made — you never learn to trust yourself and may forever live with a subconscious desire to please your parents, or an authority figure other than yourself. Self-trust develops when you learn that YOU are the authority in your life, that you’re safe to claim who YOU are and how YOU do things. Once you start to give yourself permission to discover that, you start to discover your power and live the life you’re here to live.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- No complaints: When I was in my early 20s working in a tech office in New York City, I got frustrated because I knew I was a talented dancer, but no one was asking me to dance for them. (Contemporary dance work in NYC usually comes from invitations.) I was spending my days in an office, filing, bookkeeping, and ordering lunches for my boss. My partner at the time encouraged me to not complain but instead go to work with a different energy, grateful for what I had. I started celebrating my time at the filing cabinets, waltzing through the office with my old school CD Walkman and a better attitude. Before I knew it, I had more dance job offers coming to me than I could say yes to. No hustle, no working harder… just a huge shift in how I was showing up.
— It’s okay to acknowledge something’s a struggle because life is hard at times. But now I know to check my attitude and shift to gratitude if anything starts to feel like it’s heading south in my life or business.
- A willingness to invest in your growth: Also in my early 20s, I was seeing an amazing talk therapist, and I told her I wanted to come to therapy weekly, while also working with a voice teacher and Alexander Technique teacher every week. Shoveling out a couple of hundred dollars every week was a big stretch for me with a dancer’s income, but she told me it was possible. I chose to believe her. I got even more organized and aware of my finances, let go of expenses that weren’t moving me towards that goal, and within a month, I was doing everything I wanted.
— Today, I encourage any business owner to invest in having a coach, in addition to regular healing or bodywork (massage, acupuncture, energy medicine, etc.), and to not cut expenses to add in those things, but to become the person who generates the income that makes these things non-negotiables!
— If you want your business to grow, YOU have to grow, and there are people out there with more information than you currently have. Leveraging their knowledge is actually a money-saver, not to mention serious care for your body, mind, and soul. Today I invest well over my past annual income to grow my business and myself. The first year I hired a coach, I invested more money than my total income the previous year, but I increased my income by 350% within 7 months.
- Solutions only, with total faith: My success as a dancer and choreographer came from only focusing on where I was going and doing everything in the best possible way. I didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about how things weren’t going to work. In rehearsals, I always explored how to make a movement even clearer and more efficient. I was meticulous with the details. As a business owner, I do the same thing. If I start to focus on how something won’t work, I know that’s what I’ll create. So I change my thinking immediately to focus on the solution and take action with total faith.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Let’s begin with a definition of terms so that each of us and our readers are on the same page. What exactly is a perfectionist? Can you explain?
A perfectionist tries to make no mistakes at all, to create something or be someone who can’t be touched by criticism. While the effort is admirable, the motivation behind it usually comes from low self-esteem or lack of self-love. A perfectionist believes love and acceptance come from being flawless in the eyes of others. They push themselves towards unrealistic expectations. What’s missing is the basic understanding and acceptance that they are worthy of love no matter what.
A high-achiever is different because they don’t associate their self-worth with what they accomplish. They’re inspired or pulled to aim high and can celebrate both wins and failures.
The premise of this interview series is making the assumption that being a perfectionist is not a positive thing. But presumably, seeking perfection can’t be entirely bad. What are the positive aspects of being a perfectionist? Can you give a story or example to explain what you mean?
The positive side is that a perfectionist is often highly tuned to details and can tap into a drive to create things of incredibly high quality. I used to watch videos of my choreography and analyze moments second by second with a composer while we were collaborating on the sound design. Or I’d spend hours working on a single dance movement to understand every aspect of it before teaching or performing. In both instances, something beautiful was created through a desire for excellence. A healthy expression of perfectionism can help someone go the extra mile.
As a business owner, I spend hours every day studying personal development, success, and what I call “spiritual prosperity” because it helps me show up at my best, as an effective coach, teacher, and creative. I also know to be very mindful with myself and my clients to make sure this attention to detail isn’t driven by fear or anxiety.
What are the negative aspects of being a perfectionist? Can you give a story or example to explain what you mean?
When there’s a deep fear of the consequences of doing something wrong, a perfectionist can get paralyzed by procrastination or indecision. This gets coupled with depression, anxiety, or a retreat into loneliness and isolation. The perfectionist’s unattainable standards create a relentless loop of impossibility, where they self-sabotage and nothing happens to move their personal or professional goals forward.
I’ve coached clients in sales, which is an essential business (and life) skill that requires lots of practice, failure, and rejection. Done ethically, sales calls forth the courage to be direct, vulnerable, and humble, and to step past common beliefs about being pushy, slimy, or “salesy.” A perfectionist might be so afraid of rejection and doing it wrong that they avoid sales, and their business fails. Or they may hide from promoting their work, so they lose opportunities to authentically connect with and serve their ideal clients or customers with the services they’re looking for.
From your experience or perspective, what are some of the common reasons that cause a perfectionist to “get stuck” and not move forward? Can you explain?
Because something is never quite good enough, a perfectionist might try to endlessly edit something like a website or social post for example, and avoid sharing their work or themselves with the world. They’re subscribing to the idea of “perfect first,” instead of seeing life as a process of attempts that leads towards better results each time. Because the pain of rejection or losing approval is so high, the perfectionist keeps themselves stuck instead.
Everyone has a core wound that says they are unlovable or unworthy. It develops from all the ways we manipulate ourselves to win love from our parents or caretakers. Even the best of parents can’t be perfect! If mom or dad comes home exhausted from work every day and gets frustrated by a child’s highly playful, creative energy, the child starts to shut down that part of themselves because they see that it upsets mom and dad. The child knows their survival depends on keeping mom and dad happy, so they will manipulate themselves unconsciously to get their needs met, due to a fear of abandonment.
If a child repeatedly got messages about the “right” way to be or do something and wasn’t encouraged to discover who they are through their way of doing something, it’s difficult to develop self-esteem, trust, and confidence. That creates a pattern of constantly trying to please their parents, which can affect a person subconsciously their entire life.
When that person grows into adulthood, they’re still living with someone else in their mind as the authority. I say “in their mind” because I’ve seen clients do this whose parents aren’t even alive anymore; however, they still claim real estate in a person’s psyche as the bosses.
When a person realizes that they are the only person who is responsible for their self-worth and aren’t subject to judgment from another person, they discover incredible freedom. They claim themselves as the authority in their life experience and are free to express themselves as exactly who they are.
Here is the central question of our discussion. What are the five things a perfectionist needs to know to get past their perfectionism and “just do it?” Please share a story or example for each.
#1 — Fail again and again: We only know if something works through feedback, whether in business or personal relationships. The more you take action and gather feedback, the faster you’ll get to your goals. Price Pritchett wrote that a rocket ship is off course 90% of the time as it heads to the moon. Basically, it’s failing and course-correcting constantly as it reaches its goal. I like to remind myself that a baby doesn’t pop out of the womb singing arias. We often see final products but don’t get to witness all the failed attempts along the way. I believe we celebrate heroes because we know intrinsically that heroism comes from repeatedly overcoming failed attempts.
#2 — Remember this is one moment in a long trajectory of time: Before going on stage in a performance, I’d tell myself that this is just a single moment in a longer process. I’d do my best, while feeling grateful for the gift of having people witness me in that moment. It relieved pressure around a single performance being the be-all and end-all. There will always be room for growth, but if you show up as you are and do your best, you contribute to our collective human evolution. Other people and generations can learn from what you do and build upon your contributions, failures, and successes!
#3 — Laugh, laugh, and laugh again: When the pressure feels high, get your funny on and enjoy yourself! Humor eases tension and gives you an opportunity to soften and connect. A good laugh takes you off alert and relaxes your nervous system, so you can shift from survival into creative expression. I collaborated with a choreographer for 15 years, and whenever we were stuck, we’d watch a funny video or dance wildly in the studio. This shifted our bodies and minds away from “stuck,” put our focus on something entirely different, and allowed us to reapproach our work refreshed.
#4 — Embrace being bad at something: I experienced a huge shift in my life when I went from feeling paralyzed because I wasn’t good at something to realizing what an exciting relief it was to be bad at something! I was always impressed by my sister who’d get excited when she found someone who was a better squash player than she was, because she knew she was about to grow. Find something you’re bad at, do it, and realize you’re still safe and loved. One of my mentors told me, “Michelle, I want you to make bad decisions!” She said this so that I could stop worrying about doing it right, experience “failure,” and know that I was safe to keep going.
#5 –You’re not what you do, your successes, or your failures: It helps to focus on how we’re here to realize just how much we’re one with everything. Once you start to live by this truth, you’ll create circumstances and communities where it feels safe to share, because you know your self-worth is beyond anything you do in this life. Also knowing simply that “everything is data” helps you to not take things personally, but just see it all as information we are gifted to create an even more beautiful life journey.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
With nearly 40 years of dance and artistic experience, I want to help people feel safe and empowered in their bodies and creative expression. I’ve developed a movement practice, alongside my energy healing, coaching, and creative work, that gives people a safe space to practice embodying who they’re here to be and what they’re here to do! I want people to know how transformative it is to go beyond living in their minds, to experience the wisdom and power that’s coursing through their bodies. Learning to listen to this embodied, intuitive wisdom builds courage and guides us to our fullest potential and highest expression. I believe this level of attunement would create huge shifts in people’s personal lives, and empower them to contribute in ways beyond their imaginations.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Can I have lunch with Marie Forleo, please? She’s an incredible example of leadership, joy for life, humor, success, and an “I don’t give a sh*t, I’m going to do what I want” attitude that actually lets her show up as her highest self and serve an incredible number of people with deep care. Now that’s exciting!
Can I also have lunch with Dr. Joe Dispenza? His practical work in combining spirituality, neurology, science, and human potential has been life-changing for me and aligns with everything I’ve studied over the past 25 years about how we are powerful co-creators with the Universe.
How can our readers follow you online?
Sign up for my free audio practice “Realign Towards Your Dreams” at michelleboule.com, and you’ll get a 15-minute practice you can do every day to make sure you’re aligned body, mind, and spirit towards the truth of who you’re here to be and what you’re here to do. You’ll also get a weekly inspiration email from me, so you can stay centered on creating a beautiful and successful life and business. You can also follow me on Instagram and Facebook.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!