Perfectionism is a perspective. Your version of perfect might be someone else’s version of excellence. Your obsession with perfectionism could actually make you seem intimidating to your audience. You won’t know for certain whether someone thinks you’re good or not good enough because you can’t control their perspective, so stop trying. When I first started creating content, I was consumed by making it perfect. Later on, I heard that people stopped paying attention because they felt what I did wasn’t attainable for them and they couldn’t relate to me. I had to relax and start sharing things in a way that wasn’t perfect. It changed and improved the connection I had with my audience by making me more relatable.
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 Sandy Grigsby.
Sandy Grigsby is a Confidence Catalyst®, Personal Branding Portrait Photographer, TEDx Speaker, and Personal Brand Image Expert. She guides people through a process of uncovering their own unique style, confidence, and self-worth, to launch a powerful, authentic, and alluring personal brand. Sandy is also the founder of Briofive, LLC, a leading brand photography studio focused on personal branding, women’s empowerment, and executive leadership.
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 biracial family with a Swiss mother from the German part of Switzerland and a Black American father from Texas. I remember being the apple of my father’s eye. He doted on me, spoiled me, and taught me many great things with patience, love, and clarity. Our home was small but comfortable — life was fun and complete.
After my brother was born, my parents needed more space for the growing family. The pressure of raising two kids, paying the mortgage on a large home, and dealing with racial discrimination in the workplace, took a heavy toll on my father. He was a jack of all trades, one who could learn, create, and do virtually anything — a full fledged perfectionist.
To cope with the ongoing stress, he leaned into his perfectionism and his creativity. He remodeled our home, started a side business doing custom cabinetry, and made sure everything he did was of the highest caliber.
His life outside our home was blatantly unfair due to racial discrimination. As an information systems expert, he was continuously passed up for promotions and his successes were always credited to his superiors. Over time, to prove his worth, he became an increasingly demanding perfectionist, and his anger and frustration experienced at work spilled over into our family life. As I watched my father, who was my role model, his perfectionism rubbed off on me.
As I grew older, my father began controlling every decision I made. I started to doubt if anything I did was ever good enough. As a child, I was chided for not doing math fractions correctly, my sport was chosen for me, and I had no input on the musical instrument I would play — my father took complete control of my life, and he became angry when I didn’t do things perfectly. In order to please him and avoid his wrath, I became the model child, constantly seeking perfection. In high school I obsessed over my hair, makeup, and how I wore my clothes. My socks had to match my shirt, which matched my belt, which matched my shoes. If things weren’t perfect, I had panic attacks and meltdowns. My journey to becoming a perfectionist became an obsession and a huge problem in my life — eventually leading to fear of success, codependency, and self-isolation.
It took me years to channel the perfectionism that I learned from my father into a formidable strength, using my natural gift of learning quickly and applying my talents to produce the highest standard of excellence.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life lesson quote is actually one that came to me during self-reflection: “Confidence comes with experience, not excuses.”
For decades, I lacked confidence and it was really difficult for me to figure out why. I worked hard and excelled in my industry, but everytime the spotlight was focused on me, I would hide and not want to be seen. It wasn’t until I deeply explored my inner self that I realized my lack of confidence stemmed from my perfectionism and low self-worth.
With this awareness, I started to claim my own accomplishments by simply doing my tasks and practicing over and over again. By taking action repetitively, my confidence level grew, which resulted in amazing outcomes. The time, repetitive effort, patience, and tenacity (without making any excuses) finally paid off. Although I still battle with perfectionism, I learned to “do it anyway” and gained confidence through my experience every time.
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?
Two books come to mind that really resonated with me and impacted me greatly. The Untethered Soul, by Michael Alan Singer changed my life. It made me realize that my past experiences were the triggers to my current behavior, and that I could overwrite those reactions with a change in mindset, set new rules for my life, and accept my own greatness. I highly recommend this read to everyone because no matter what happens in your life, you aren’t bound by it, and there is so much more to you than what you’re currently experiencing.
The second book was a compliment to the first, The Five Second Rule, by Mel Robbins. This book gave me the tools to get up and go. It helped me take the necessary actions to change my life, get out of a funk, and get back on track. Mel Robbins is a master at taking action, her books should be taught in schools!
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?
The three character traits I feel were instrumental to my success are: compassion, confidence, and willingness to learn and grow.
I developed a deep compassion for others after experiencing much trauma in my life. When I work with clients, I really understand their fears, doubts, and self-worth issues. Life can shape us in ways we don’t even recognize until we’re so affected that we become immobilized. I see the fear my clients have when trying to launch their personal brands, resulting in procrastination, staying in the shadows to not be seen, and sharing very little that puts them in the spotlight. Since I’ve also experienced hardships, I recognize my clients’ worries and understand when they feel like they’re not good enough. Having compassion allows me to support, guide, and uplift them to a place of strength and power. Their story of transformation and confidence always leads back to me — it’s my stamp on the world and my success marker.
Having confidence is another trait I’m most proud of. People who know me superficially are always shocked when they discover I once lacked confidence. At one point, my confidence was so low that I spoke with a stutter. I lived in so much fear and anxiety that I even came down with shingles in my late twenties. Claiming my confidence and redefining how I saw myself helped me to generate my own success and empower others to do the same. I stood up for my beliefs, and said no to things that didn’t serve or empower me. I started asking for what I was worth, and more importantly, I became a leader to those who also needed confidence to uplift them.
The third character trait is my willingness to learn and grow. Once I recognized I needed to be in charge of my own success and be confident, I knew I had to learn more and grow as a human being. I took action and signed up for programs that elevated my community, increased my knowledge, and motivated me to be greater. I joined masterminds, read books, and spent time with people who were 100 times more successful than I was. This was a total game changer. It opened my mind to real learning, growing and never assuming that I knew more than anyone else. I became a sponge, and it paid off. Today, I educate and mentor others looking to elevate their lives. I continue to learn and grow from people I respect and admire, but in this process, I have also become someone that others respect and admire. If I can do it, anyone can too.
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 strives to have things feel, look, and be flawless in every way, and refuses to accept anything less than their expectations. They judge themselves harshly for not meeting their extreme standards.
A perfectionist will spend hours upon hours obsessing over things that could take far less time to complete. They procrastinate on starting because they know that it will take them forever to finish, all for the sake of getting it just right. They value getting things perfect over their relationships, health, and even their career. They can come across as narcissistic and opinionated, regardless of the consequences. For example, a business owner might delay the launch of a product over and over because it doesn’t meet all of their expectations, thus spending too much time perfecting minor details, instead of bringing in revenue to take care of the business and the employees.
Perfectionists must get out of their own way and realize that nothing can be perfected until it has been put out there and then worked on over time.
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?
I would say a perfectionist with good common sense is a very positive thing. Perfectionists strive to create things of a higher quality, they don’t stop until it’s done right, and they master the craft because they keep going until the standard is met. For that fact, they’re often high achievers who bring about change by envisioning a new or better way, method, or concept for all to enjoy in the world. Think of the gold medal standard, life saving medications, gorgeous architecture, beautiful clothes and styles, all are breakthroughs on the road to perfecting what already exists.
If I weren’t a perfectionist, my clients wouldn’t have such high quality photos that fully represent them with confidence. My unique photography style that stands out from the rest was created simply because I obsessed about all the little details and strived for perfection. This caught the eye of executives, CEO’s, and entrepreneurs that were looking for distinct, high level work that they couldn’t find from the majority of photography studios. The constant perfecting of my craft allowed me to charge top dollars because I consistently delivered exceptional results. Perfectionism was my driving force to working and reworking the images until I developed a process and formula to get bookings, perform the services, and provide the best results and experience for all of my clients.
Perfectionism also extends beyond work as well, as it helps to create the foundation of a person’s character. As a perfectionist, I always strive to do my best for friends, family, and clients. I’ve become more compassionate to their needs, more loyal, and more dedicated to providing them with incredible results. It brings me joy to know that friends and family trust me, and I am fueled to continue perfecting my craft for them.
What are the negative aspects of being a perfectionist? Can you give a story or example to explain what you mean?
The negative aspect of being a perfectionist is that it can absolutely consume you. It can slow you down on the most basic things, cause you to stress out, become increasingly anxious, and put a strain on your health.
Perfectionists tend to obsess over their work or tasks, spending far too much time on getting things done. Personally, I’ve missed out on incredible opportunities because I obsessed about getting something perfect rather than done, missing deadlines and even saying no because I didn’t feel like I had enough time to do it perfectly.
Aside from work-related, the time spent on creating perfection could’ve been better spent with family, friends, or even pets. Once they’re gone, you can never get them back. Years ago, I had a beautiful Yorkie I absolutely adored. While I spent countless hours retouching client photos to perfection and obsessing over social media to attract new clients, my Yorkie waited patiently, always sitting beside me, reminding me to take breaks, and just loved me unconditionally. When she suddenly fell ill and passed away, I was left with the devastating realization that I wasted all the time I could’ve spent with her, and beat myself up mentally for a long time. I had to face the hard truth: because I was a perfectionist, I sometimes didn’t cherish what I had right in front of me.
Being a perfectionist can help propel you to success, but it can also cost you more than you realize. It’s time to let go of minute perfectionism, so you don’t miss out on the loved ones around you.
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?
A very common reason that causes a perfectionist to get stuck is procrastination, not wanting to do the thing you know you should be doing. Perfectionists think about how they don’t have enough time, have limitations, and the tedious and time-consuming work ahead of them. They procrastinate by not dealing with it, often finding comfort in other distractions or fun and easy tasks. There is no joy in this, though, as it leads to constant anxiety and stress, which is worse than just dedicating time and getting started.
Another reason a perfectionist can get stuck is that they obsess over the details so much, they can’t move forward until this one thing is resolved. This is a huge roadblock, it makes them feel anxious and frozen from taking action. They wrack their brains on how to do or improve this one element, without realizing they can move on to another task and come back to the one that stumped them in the first place. My recommendation is to leave it as “good enough” for a time, and then circle back later to make it better. For a true perfectionist, this may seem like an impossible task.
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.
Here are five things a perfectionist needs to know to get past their perfectionism and “just do it”.
1. Perfectionism is a perspective. Your version of perfect might be someone else’s version of excellence. Your obsession with perfectionism could actually make you seem intimidating to your audience. You won’t know for certain whether someone thinks you’re good or not good enough because you can’t control their perspective, so stop trying. When I first started creating content, I was consumed by making it perfect. Later on, I heard that people stopped paying attention because they felt what I did wasn’t attainable for them and they couldn’t relate to me. I had to relax and start sharing things in a way that wasn’t perfect. It changed and improved the connection I had with my audience by making me more relatable.
2. Procrastination is your growth indicator. When you procrastinate, your subconscious is telling you that what you’re about to do will make you feel uncomfortable. This realization is actually good news. It means you’re growing into a better version of you. I’m guilty of procrastinating too, but when I actually overcome that feeling and get things done, amazing opportunities come my way. It’s the same for my clients, and the same for you. It’s time to stop procrastinating and get things done because you are evolving.
3. Gather feedback to get it perfect. Steve Jobs said, “Ship, then test.” It’s how Apple products achieved perfection, making Apple a huge success. Once you receive customer feedback you can make refinements. When I started out as a photographer, I was terrible, and I cringed when clients told me they didn’t like a photo I thought was good. I listened to their feedback and made note of the things they loved. Eventually, I was able to figure out quickly and effectively what they wanted. Now, I slay my photo sessions and I don’t worry about whether they’re perfect or not, as the love from clients speaks volumes.
4. Don’t destroy your health. I used to spend countless hours focused on making my social media content perfect, missing much needed family and pet time,
and other awesome life experiences. In the end, it just wasn’t worth it, not to mention the stress I put on my body. Being a perfectionist takes a toll, all those sleepless nights, nervousness, and anxiety, ultimately heading towards burnout. Stop it. Turn your perfectionism into an opportunity for more relaxation time! Whenever you find yourself obsessing over something, just stop, do it quickly, and then go relax and do something fun.
5. Time to practice the art of being Wabi-Sabi. Wabi-Sabi is the Japanese art of finding perfection in the imperfect. Nothing is perfect from the start, and perfection emerges with the passage of time. Each time you do something, you’re adding to your arsenal of creating perfection. When I create content for my Instagram Reels, I only allow myself to do a few takes, and then when I edit, I try to cut out as much as possible. In the beginning, editing took hours and hours, now it takes minutes because I’m experienced and know how to do it fast while making it look great. Doing things with added imperfections makes the work so much better. It also builds your confidence with the experience.
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?
The movement that I’m currently working towards is to inspire and bring confidence to everyone who has a dream.
Imagine if everyone on the planet lived with confidence. The key to confidence is to get over past traumas, negative self-talk, and self-doubt, so that you value and respect yourself, and in return, can truly value and respect others.
Life is no longer about what I can get, how much I can make, or what I don’t have. It’s about what I can do to help, what I can create, and who I can love.
With true confidence and trust in oneself, you are capable of doing anything. Perfectionism is no longer an issue, as you simply trust you will do well. You have faith in others because they trust in themselves. You walk with power, grace, and love. You spread inspiration, compassion, and success to everyone you touch.
With this movement the world could change. People would be happier, live longer, and we would find greater unity and harmony in life.
My movement is confidence, and it starts with me.
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!
I would LOVE to have lunch with Dr. Joe Dispenza, author of Becoming Supernatural, How Common People Become Uncommon. I’ve had so many friends take his program and work with him personally, and everyone raves about him. I’ve never been able to make one of his retreats, as I was either traveling or booked with photo sessions. I just love the way he thinks, how he changes lives, and his commitment to healing people through alternative and self-activating techniques. Having lunch with him would be a dream come true, as I truly think he is supernatural!
How can our readers follow you online?
My website: https://www.sandyinfocus.com