Reflections of a Recovering Perfectionist

I don’t always enjoy getting feedback. I bet most people reading this don’t like it either. It would be great to sail through life doing everything perfectly but that’s not reality. Although I don’t always enjoy feedback, I’ve learned to embrace it. In my case, feedback stings because I used to be a perfectionist. 

Quick Backstory

I was raised by a Marine. For some of you reading this, nothing more needs to be said. My father had high expectations for me, especially when it came to grades. Education was a big thing in the Ahearn family, going back to my grandfather who was a professor at NYU and other prestigious colleges. 

I vividly remember bringing a report card home in eighth grade: six As and a C. My father’s response was, “What happened in English?” That took place more than 40 years ago and the fact that I still remember it shows it had a big impact on me. It set in motion a need to be perfect.  

Interestingly, when Jane and I went to an open house during our daughter Abigail’s freshman year of high school I was confronted with a similar situation. Abigail’s grades were good except in science. I kept my mouth shut, not wanting to saddle her with my burden. 

No matter how well I did, it was never quite good enough. In my mind feedback wasn’t received as an opportunity to grow and do better, it filtered through me as, “Not good enough.” I never took time to enjoy what I’d accomplished or how far I’d come. It was always about what could have been better and how far I still had to go.


Over time, I slowly learned to change how I thought about feedback. There’s no denying on a gut level it still bothers me a little and sometimes even stings. But I’ve learned that I can acknowledge how I feel then set aside my emotions and choose a different thought process concerning the feedback.

Most of the feedback I receive comes from people who know me. I know they’re rooting for me and their feedback is only intended for good. Reminding myself of that helps.

I’ve also learned to enjoy the process of growth. Now, whenever I give a presentation, I almost always feel like it’s the best one I’ve given. After enjoying that feeling I look for ways to make it better. However, now I do so because I enjoy improving my skills and know the better I get, the more people I can help. It’s fun. 

Current State

This all came to mind recently when I received feedback from people on my upcoming book, The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness

Writing a book is a little like having a kid. Both are creations that emanate from you. Just as most parents think their kid is just the best thing ever, authors tend to feel similar about their writing. Someone criticizing your kid would sting and some of the feedback I received felt like that.  

I spent a good bit of time processing what people shared. I also talked it over with Jane. Now I’m diving back into the book. It may delay its publication, but it will be worth it because the finished product will be even better.  


Most of the time you can’t help how you feel. Feelings come from a lifetime of experience and conditioning. But that doesn’t mean you have to be ruled by your emotions. 

Denying how you feel doesn’t work either. I’ve found the best approach is to honestly acknowledge how you feel. Next, take a breath and assess the situation. What story are you telling yourself? Sometimes people are trying to tear you down, but you don’t need to listen to them. Focus on the people who are your fans, the ones cheering for your success. 

None of this is easy but if you struggle with perfectionism or feedback like I did, you too can turn the corner. It won’t happen by chance, it will take some deliberate work, and it’s so worth it.

Brian Ahearn

Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, he’s one of a dozen people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His second book, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was an Amazon new release bestseller in several categories. 

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by 400,000 people around the world.

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