Acknowledge your fears: When I kept postponing leaving my 9–5 job or starting my podcast. I had to ask myself what is the fear that I am not acknowledging and how am I holding myself back. You can ask yourself: Are my fears accurate? Some fears are based on distorted thoughts. When I work with clients I use cognitive behavior therapy to help them become aware of and change overly negative and unrealistic thoughts.
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 Monica Denais.
Monica Denais is a Dallas Based, Latinx Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, and Podcast Coach for wellness and mental health professionals. Monica helps women entrepreneurs stop questioning themselves so that they can feel confident in life and business. Monica is also the host of the Café with Monica podcast, where she brings amazing entrepreneurs to cover all things life, mental health, and entrepreneurship.
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?
Thanks for having me. I grew up in Laredo, Texas in a Hispanic household where I was raised by my mom and grandparents. My mother had me at a very young age and that led to her having to drop out of school and start working. I often spent my childhood with my cousins who were always around and my grandparents. I didn’t know that having a mom who was always busy would create a significant impact on me. I didn’t know at the time the pressures she had to raise a child by herself. My grandmother was very strict with my mom. My mother would often come home tired and irritated. She was still a kid. Because of this, I grew up becoming very independent and often enjoyed spending time alone.
I became an overachiever to a fault. I often based my worthiness on how much I could achieve. I put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed and achieve as many things as I could. Because I achieved at such a young age my family often just expected that from me it no longer held value but it was just something I did which was hard because it felt like I could never do enough to please those around me.
I attended Laredo Early College High School, which allowed me to graduate with 2 years of college under my belt.
When I was 18, I wanted to get out of the house to start living my life away from family. It was essential to get out of the environment that had caused me pain for so long. The relationship with my mother was strained, and I wanted to create space for myself and her so that we could heal. I am happy I did that because it allowed us to see each other as humans who both were struggling.
I then pursued a degree in counseling. Counseling helped me gain personal insight into my trauma. It also helped me become someone who could help those who were struggling with similar experiences as I did. Counseling also helped me have open and honest conversations with my mother and create healthy boundaries with my family.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what”- Atticus, To Kill A Mockingbird
This quote resonated with me growing up and still does because courage is taking the loop even if you feel you are going to fail. I realized that my pursuit of perfectionism hindered my ability to lean into courage and hold me back from truly stepping into my purpose in life. When I was able to embrace courage and uncertainty I was able to reap so many rewards and learn lessons.
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?
The book that most resonated with me growing up was, “To Kill A Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee. I learned so many lessons on courage, prejudice, and standing up for what you believe in. It’s a book I revisit often because it holds such a special place in my heart. It is the reason why I grew to love reading and getting lost in a book. At the time reading felt like an escape from reality, but in actuality, it is a pleasure and a part of my self-care.
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?
- Resilience- Having resilience allowed me to take risks in my business. It was the glue that held me together despite my childhood experiences. Having resiliency allowed me to take the leap and quit my 9–5 job to fully embrace my business.
- Self-Confidence: Self-confidence allowed me to get out of my comfort zone and start a podcast while I was still a counseling intern. I believed in myself and my voice. When you believe in yourself you can enter taking risks knowing that no matter the outcome you will be okay.
- Resourcefulness: When I first started with my business instead of focusing on all the new shiny objects I focused on what I had. When we focus on what we have and use the tools at our disposal we are able to focus on our goals. There will always be someone who has more than you, but it is what you make of what you have that is important.
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 is someone who has high unrealistic expectations for themselves or others. This can be driven from our own beliefs of what it means to achieve excellence and holding ourselves to those standards in excess. Perfectionists tend to put their worthiness in achievements and tend to have all or nothing thinking.
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?
For me, being a perfectionist has allowed me to be where I am today. It has taught me how working hard can lead to good results. Perfectionism has allowed me to double-check my work and I deliver any type of project the way I want it. It has also motivated me to continue learning and fine-tuning my skills as a therapist.
What are the negative aspects of being a perfectionist? Can you give a story or example to explain what you mean?
Perfectionism has also hindered me from showing up and truly embracing my purpose. I had always wanted to start a youtube channel, but the perfectionist in me could never do it. I was so worried about the outcome that it never happened. Perfectionism has also led me to burnout and people-pleasing, and it is a constant thing that I have to be aware of because I can be so focused on doing that I can neglect to rest and put boundaries.
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?
The common theme I have seen in clients and even in my own personal life have been fears. Each perfectionist has fears they don’t want to come true. This could be fear of failure, rejection, judgement, embarrassment, not being understood, not being liked, being alone, criticism, and not being good enough.
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.
- Acknowledge your fears: When I kept postponing leaving my 9–5 job or starting my podcast. I had to ask myself what is the fear that I am not acknowledging and how am I holding myself back. You can ask yourself: Are my fears accurate? Some fears are based on distorted thoughts. When I work with clients I use cognitive behavior therapy to help them become aware of and change overly negative and unrealistic thoughts.
- Give yourself self-compassion: It can be hard to be kind to yourself. For me, I often would push myself by being self-critical but it never led to any good results. It only made me procrastinate or redo things over and over again. An example of this is when I started editing my podcast episodes I told myself you are only going to get better over time. It is okay not to be perfect, no one is.
- You are allowed to challenge your perfectionist thinking: Ask yourself how do I know that this thought is accurate? Where does my belief stem from? How likely is my thought to come true? I
- Shifting “I should” to “I prefer”: We can often create standards for ourselves that feel like shoulds like they need to be this way or else, but by shifting, “I should” to “I prefer”, this helps you realize that it is simply a preference not a right away of doing things.
- Sometimes You Need Momentum: The biggest struggle I had with perfectionism was procrastinating. That is why I created strategies for myself to build my momentum.One of the go-to strategies that I learned through cognitive behavioral therapy is the Five Minute Rule. Because sometimes getting started is usually the hardest part of any task, but often the task isn’t as difficult. The five-minute rule works by committing to do something for just five minutes — and then you can quit if you want. Most things are tolerable for five minutes and psychologically it’s much easier to motivate yourself for five minutes than five hours. It helps gain momentum.
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?
It would focus on destigmatizing mental health in minority communities. We are still so far from creating a safe environment for minority communities to feel mental health is accessible and a priority for their overall wellbeing. I hope to inspire those to reach out for help and change the narratives that asking for help means weakness or means that something is wrong with you.
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!
It would be pretty cool to meet Brene Brown. She is such an inspiration as a therapist and researcher on vulnerability and shame. Her work has greatly inspired how I approach my life and how I also help clients, plus she has a kick ass sense of humor.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!