By Rachel Karu, Coach & Organizational Expert
Los Angeles, CA

I am a recovering perfectionist. My perfectionism was running the show when I started as a speaker and facilitator.

I am a big believer that any strength overdone or misapplied is a development area. For example: Great to be confident. If you are too confident, you are cocky. Wonderful to be trusting. If you are too trusting, you are gullible.

Through much reflection and feedback received from my audiences, I learned that I was overdoing my perfectionism and found I am more successful and better received when I allow myself to be vulnerable.

When I first started speaking I treated each speaking engagement as a production complete with props, brainteasers, candy, and koosh balls. I created color coded facilitator guides facilitator guides, laying out each moment of my talk down to the minute.  I was a good speaker but something was missing. I knew I could have a greater impact.

My perfectionism was in the driver’s seat and getting in the way of my success.

Some of the feedback I was receiving was favorable but there was a theme that participants wanted to hear more about my personal experiences.  At that time I rarely shared much about myself because my perfectionism had me believe that I would be judged if I spoke of my personal challenges. I thought I would be viewed as weak for letting on that I am human and had my share of struggles.

I believed, like many that being vulnerable was a weakness. I especially felt that way being a woman in a male dominated corporate setting. Certainly people would like my professional persona right? After all I symbolized perfectionism – what else could they want from me?

I have learned over the years that perfectionism is a myth. We are all mirrors for each other. When I speak from a perfectionist point of view, few people can relate to me. I reflect perfectionism to them and they can’t find themselves. They think “how can I relate to this woman who has it all together? I cannot live up to her standards.

Perfectionism divides people and creates walls.

I have changed my approach. I am still structured and feel like a one person party production company complete with toys, games, activities, and candy. But now I have a new speaking weapon. I call it my gentle strength. It is my ability to stay grounded in my authenticity. I now share my struggles, stories, challenges, and imperfections when I speak. I even found a way to integrate my creative self-expression by singing during some of my speaking engagements.

What have I learned?

Being vulnerable is a strength. People relate to us when we are real and are willing to reveal the good, bad, and the ugly. This has taken my abilities as a speaker from good to great!

I encourage you to play with this concept as a woman speaker. How can you bring all of who you are as a speaker? Do you trust yourself and your audience enough to be authentic and reveal your true self instead of holding up your persona or mask?

I invite you to step into this and see what impact it has on your success as a speaker.

Rachel Karu, MS, ACC, is a professional and personal coach as well as an organization consultant specializing in training and development. She has more than 18 years of professional and personal development experience. With primary expertise in coaching and training people in the areas of intra/interpersonal skills, she provides counseling in areas including: career management, communication and listening skills, team effectiveness, life balance, value clarification, communicating boundaries, providing/receiving feedback, setting expectations, corporate leadership development and time management.