You Don't Have to Be Good at Everything: Find Your Niche and Avoid Perfectionism
Women's leadership coach Antoinette Dale Henderson explains how finding your niche, your area of interest and expertise, can help you progress in life and work
When striving to be your best, perfectionistic tendencies may crop up – how can you keep these in check?
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One of the quickest routes to powering up your potential is creating your own niche. Although it can be tempting to want to know a lot about many things, this will take an extremely long time and could simply position you as a Jill of All Trades, but Ms-tress of None.
Becoming an expert
Taking the time to become knowledgeable about a subject immediately elevates your authority, as it differentiates you, thereby enhancing your worth and status. Maybe you want to be the only ‘go-to’ person in your organisation who understands a particular system or tool. Perhaps you want to become a subject matter expert in a particular field. If you run your own business, perhaps there’s a gap in the market for your unique skillset.
A key consideration when thinking about what your niche might be is whether it fires you up or not. Whether it’s because you’re ready for the next promotion, or because you simply want to communicate your views with credibility and impact, acquiring knowledge will be far more enjoyable if it’s in an area that you love.
Sometimes we forget why we do what we do, we lose our mojo and when the going gets tough, we think about throwing in the towel. This happens to all of us, but it will happen far less if we’ve chosen a subject that we’re passionate about and we keep that fire alive by stoking the flames through acquiring more knowledge.
If you want to define your niche, the first step is to identify what you find interesting and what you’re best at. Consider too what might be your ‘one thing’.
- What do you enjoy most?
- How does it relate to your overall purpose?
The next step is to assess, as objectively as you can, the knowledge you possess and where there are gaps. This is a valuable exercise at any point in your career, but particularly useful if you’re considering a career change or returning to work after a break.
Although it’s important to do your best, this can sometimes flip over into perfectionism which can sometimes lead us to being our own worst enemy. I’ve worked with many women who feel like they need to know everything about a particular topic before they can say anything about it.
Often fuelled by comparison, constantly seeking perfection can negatively impact on your self-esteem because, like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, it’s unachievable. If unchecked, it can even be a risk factor for a range of mental health conditions, including obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders, social anxiety and workaholism, as well as physical problems like chronic stress and heart disease.
Speaking as a recovering perfectionist, it can be a powerful driver if applied to selected areas of your life – maybe you are on a quest to bake the perfect chocolate cheesecake or develop a best-in-class product. However, it can become destructive when applied to everything. It is time-consuming and energy-sapping, hinders productivity and fuels self-loathing because nothing is ever good enough.
To counter perfectionism, my advice to clients is to differentiate between ‘gold-plated, Rolls-Royce projects’ and those that will pootle along nicely as a ‘Mini Metro’, so you can direct your perfectionism at the things that matter, not every single item on your to-do list, and in general, care less about being perfect, and more about getting the job done.
Antoinette Dale Henderson is a women’s leadership coach and the author of Power Up: The smart woman’s guide to unleashing her potential.