The Perfectly Hidden Wound

The Perfectly Hidden Wound

The Perfectly Hidden Wound

The Perfectly Hidden Wound

I never knew this until recently, but I am a recovering perfectionist. My aim in this newsletter is to share my personal story and shed some light on a growing epidemic: Perfectionism.

I honestly thought that my innate need to function at an exhaustingly high level was just normal. The obsessive need to – practice my sports, eat the “right” foods, walk the “right” way, enunciate my words when I speak, write “correctly” – were all just a standard expectation in the world I grew up in. The only problem was, I didn’t know what “correctly” and “right” meant.


Because every time I thought I met the standard put upon me by the figures of authority in my life, the bar got raised higher or the target got changed.

Not only was I juggling all these daily expectations in my every day life, I was becoming hypervigilant of how to please my authority figures (at home, in my sport, in my work and in my relationships). It led me to perceive the world as a dangerous place where I constantly needed to change my behavior in order to avoid perceived punishment, which for me was to take “love” away.

While the world saw a very successful individual who was an inspiration to many, what I felt on the inside was fear, shame, guilt and never feeling that I would ever be worthy of anyone’s love, including my own. You could say that I developed a coping strategy for the silent screams and the loneliness I was experiencing on the inside by excelling in many activities in my life, especially in sports.
I was born in an environment where rigid structure, and discipline was just the way things were.

As I reflect back, mental health was something no one talked about yet many around me struggled with. I felt that I needed to excel in everything I did to keep those around me happy and receive “love”. I also knew that I couldn’t afford to make mistakes for if I did there was a fear of hearing those dreaded words “I’m disappointed in you.”, or “If you don’t do this, I’ll be disappointed”.

As a young child and adolescent those words sounded just like “I won’t love you if you make a mistake” and “If you don’t do this, I’ll take love away from you”. To me, I couldn’t afford to make mistakes for It truly felt like I would never be loved.

As a manifestation of this thought process, I did everything I could to become the best at my sports. I also developed exceedingly high and rigid standards on how I ate (ie: how I held my fork and knife and how I sat up at the table, etc), how I spoke, how I wrote, how I walked, how I dressed, etc. Many times, the need to excel felt so overwhelming that I became paralyzed, like when a person freezes when a wild animal charges toward them.

While all this was happening, I was deeply suffering inside. I couldn’t tell anyone that I struggled with reading and writing, I couldn’t tell anyone that I had constant back pain while practicing my sports, and I couldn’t tell anyone that I was beyond terrified of authority figures. I became the best at everything I could control and even tried to control what was outside of my control.

I became a bonafide perfectionist

In the book “Perfectly Hidden Depression: How to Break Free from the Perfectionism That Masks Your Depression” by Margaret Robinson Rutherford, Ph.D, she defines 10 characteristics of perfectionists:

  • Have a constant, critical, and shaming inner voice.
  • Demonstrate a heightened or excessive sense of responsibility.
  • Detach from painful emotions by staying in your head
  • Worry and need to control yourself and your environment.
  • Intensely focus on tasks, using accomplishment to feel valuable.
  • Focus on the well-being of others but don’t allow them into your inner world.
  • Discount personal hurt or sorrow and struggle with self-compassion.
  • May have an accompanying mental health issue, such as an eating disorder, anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or addiction.
  • Believe strongly in counting your blessings as the foundation of well-being.
  • May enjoy success within a professional structure but struggle with emotional intimacy in relationships.

Yup! That was pretty much me!

My perfectionism traits were:

People pleasing, rescuing and feeling that, if something didn’t go well it was 100% my fault. Any failure on my part only validated the feeling that I wasn’t deserving of anyone’s love. I would seek validation, yet could not absorb a single molecule of a compliment if I did receive one. To me it felt selfish and undeserving. On the inside, I would think, “Oh but if you only knew….” and that I had brought anything bad that ever happened to me upon myself for not being good enough.

I don’t think I truly recognized the degree to which perfectionism was becoming detrimental to my physical, mental and emotional wellbeing until about 10 years ago when I finally hit the wall and searched for help.

Through therapy, and a lot of intention and awareness around this, I now recognize the traits that have been my coping strategy to feel safe in a world that felt anything but. Through baby steps I was able to shift my mindset to one of empowerment and self love.

If you see yourself in this story, if you focus on what you’re doing wrong vs what you’re doing right, if you’re someone who appears to others to have the perfect life, but underneath that façade painful secrets exist, plagued by perfectionism and worry that you hide your true authentic self, then read on.

Take the Mindset quiz to see where you land.

I started to take courses and built credentials so that I could help others with their mindset, build their inner strength and resilience and become the person they were truly meant to be. Most importantly I want to pass on to you the subject of perfect imperfection by creating the Perfect Imperfection program.

Champion Mindset

This passion project that has been 30 years in the making and has brought so much meaning to me and to the lives of every person that has taken the program so far.

I want to give others the opportunity to let go of perfectionism and learn to be OK with being human.

Some may feel reluctant to pursue this program for fear of exposure and loss of control, as they consider coming to terms with recognizing the carefully created shield, they have built for themselves.

This is why I created the program as self-paced and 100% confidential. This program gently balances the perceived loss of control with a new definition of safety around self-acceptance, fulfillment and a feeling of expansiveness.

This program is designed to encourage you to make changes within yourself at your own pace and without pressure to “perform” for any one, including yourself.

As you begin to peel back the layers of that shield and begin to honor your true authentic self, powerful changes will come your way.

Your true potential (mentally, physically and emotionally) will unfold, perhaps for the very first time in your life!

Champion Mindset is created to educate, guide and support you on your quest to truly thrive in an imperfect world. Our graduates are now noticing that; yes, crappy things still happen AND it is not a reflection of their worth and it does not make them any less deserving of love.

Here’s what some had to say:

  • “The most helpful topic for me was reframing self-talk”
  • “This program moves you from resistance to resilience!”
  • “I loved learning more about the inner critic. It was a game changer!”
  • “Just by changing one word in my vocabulary it changed the way I see and do things.”
  • “I’m so happy I took this course. I feel so inspired!”
  • “Thank you, Ann-Marie, for this course. I’m looking forward to the next course!”
  • “You awakened a sleeping force that is and has been me all along!”
  • “I recently heard Ann-Marie speak and found her information very insightful and helpful. This program sounds amazing and very timely with that everyone has experienced last year.”
  • “This is the program I have been waiting for! I will recommend it to friends and colleagues. It will resonate with so many people, and may (like it did for me) open the door to emotional healing.”

“Champion Mindset is the mindset I’m leaning into these days. Battling my critical inner demons using skills learned in Ann-Marie Flinn’s Champion Mindset program is moving me forward to self-love and acceptance.”

If no one tells you today, let me be the first to say YOU matter and your imperfections are what makes you authentic and a true Champion!

Click Here to learn more about the Champion Mindset Program!

I look forward to seeing you there,
To the Champion in YOU!

Ann-Marie Flinn


What is unhealthy Perfectionism?

What is unhealthy Perfectionism?

What is unhealthy Perfectionism?

What are the signs?

What’s the difference between unhealthy perfectionism

and the healthy pursuit of excellence? 

I was recently a keynote speaker at a large women’s conference where I presented Perfect Imperfection.  Part of my talk included the idea of giving ourselves a bit of slack when it comes to the rigid standards perfectionist’s place on themselves when wanting to achieve goals.  The audience of 500+ in attendance loved it!  Yet there was one comment from a high achieving woman that got me thinking. 

While she praised my talk, she also asked:  
“Doesn’t everyone try to achieve goals and standards?  Isn’t that just a normal part of life?  I mean, you don’t get ahead in life by being a slacker, right?” 
I thought I may have missed the mark in how I was communicating the idea of Perfect Imperfection
It got me thinking: if given another opportunity, how would I course correct  the narrative to modify how I explained the idea of flexible standards?  So, in the spirit of perfect imperfection, allow me to clarify the difference between unhealthy perfectionism and the healthy striving for excellence.     


Let’s take an example from the setting of an athlete: 


Setting personally demanding goals, like that of an elite athlete can be done in a way that is positive for the individual. 

Take my sport of body sculpting (aka: bodybuilding) for example.  This sport requires intense focus and discipline at the gym, and in the kitchen.  The body is “sculpted” in a way that gives the illusion of perfection onstage.  When prepping for a competition, we would not see the high standards for performance as a problem; rather we might see that as an integral part of high achievement. 
Where perfectionism becomes unhealthy is when those very high standards of achievement are so rigid that, if anything less than a 1st place finish or a body that isn’t “stage ready” all year round is seen as failure.  If intense self-criticism shows up and creates a inner belief  that the athlete has performed poorly and/or has failed as a person, that is when these high standards become unhealthy.   

Translate this to every day life

This same scenario can also be seen in any aspect of life.  Take education, your career, being a parent, a partner, a friend, etc.  If striving for excellence in any part of life is so rigid that the person measures their self-worth around whether they win or lose, then striving for excellence turns into unhealthy perfectionism.
For some it may be difficult to see where the healthy pursuit of excellence ends and unhealthy perfectionism begins.  The main difference between the two are (as quoted in the book Overcoming Perfectionism):
  • In unhealthy perfectionism the person’s view of themselves is dependant on how well they think they achieve their own demanding standards. 
  • In unhealthy perfectionism the person continues to pursue their self-imposed rigid standards despite negative consequences. 
Coming back to my example of an elite athlete, there is a fine line between pursuing high standards to achieve a particular physique, and the obsession around perfection all year long.  If the athlete puts unrealistically high standards on how he/she looks 365 days a year and measures their self-worth by what they see in the mirror every day then it becomes unhealthy perfectionism.  The self-worth is dependant on pushing themselves so hard to have that “perfect body” that it actually becomes detrimental.

It might feel weird to consider self-care, relaxation, taking a break, or loosening the reins as a strategy for the healthy pursuit of excellence.  What I can tell you is that, this mindset is the secret sauce that the world’s top athletes, leaders and trail blazers apply to sustain exceptional long-term success.  I call it “Intentional Recovery”.   

To be clear, setting goals and standards that you want to achieve is a normal and healthy part of life.

However, when you become so self critical of yourself with comments like: “I should have done better!”, I am a failure because…”, “I’m always missing the goal!”, or even “I’m such an idiot”, then it’s difficult to thrive and feel joy in any accomplishment that you set.   This is the work that I do with my clients in my Change Champ Coaching 


Today is a breakthrough day!

Join the hundred who have already registered for the Perfect Imperfection online program! 

This program is NOT about lowering your standards. It’s about addressing the over dependence of your self-worth on striving and achievement.
This 5-week self paced program is created to help you pursue excellence in a healthy way.  It’s evidence-based methods can break the cycle of “never good enough”, so you can excel AND feel good about yourself.  

  • Discover the unconscious beliefs that are driving you. We call them, your inner critic
  • Unearth your internal Super Hero that will lead you to trust your intuition
  • Find creative tools to strengthen your resilience so you can bounce back when things get tough
  • Notice when “Should” and comparison paralyzes your true self
  • And so much more!

Created with you in mind, this program offers you a plethora of opportunities to discover who you know deep down inside the person you were always been meant to be. 

Isn’t it time to invest in your future? 

It’s time to empower yourself and embrace your true authenticity. 

It’s time to be Perfectly Imperfect   




Register today

Join the hundreds who have already registered for the Perfect Imperfection program.  Learn to thrive in an imperfect world

Change Champ Blog

Change Champ Blog

Having Ta-Da Moments

Learning to embrace mistakes


I remember the days (many moons ago) of being a competitive figure skater, practicing my spins and jumps over and over and over again.  One year, as was I practicing for a regional competition and a challenging new routine, I spent way more time on my butt than on my feet.  At times I would get so frustrated that all I wanted to do was quit!  Thankfully, I had an amazing coach that, whenever I stumbled, fell or felt frustrated would simply look at me, hold his hands way up in the air and yell “TA-DAAAAA!!!!  It was my prompt to continue to smile, get back on my skates, refocus and keep going.  Over time as I continued to practice, I was falling less, smiling more and embracing the challenge of my “best-in- class” winning routine.  As my coach would say: I would continue to “show up”.

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with executives, athletes and entrepreneurs who had the desire to “show up” in whatever was passionate for them.  They too would metaphorically stumble, fall and feel like quitting when things got difficult.  It was times like this where we would work on discovering their inner critic, their super hero and how to dial things up or down with intentional baby steps.  We would visualize seeing those set-backs and the challenge of striving for what was important to them as “Ta-Da” moments.  

Wouldn’t it be great if you could take a “Ta-Da” moment when you have stumbled, screwed up or made a mistake?  That’s the mindset around Refocus to show up.  

It is possible that you could say to yourself in those moments: “Ta-Daaaa! – I get to take a moment to refocus and start again” and “what did I get to learn from this?”.

Embracing the idea of refocus to show up gives you permission to be Perfectly Imperfect with your actions and attempts for moving forward with what you’re aiming for. 

 If you catch yourself being judgmental, saying something harsh, and/or beating yourself up, just know that you get to practice saying: “Ta Da!” 

As I often say, the work of shifting if your mindset is  not easy.  So, give yourself some self-compassion.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and creating the new mindset of Perfect Imperfection takes time as well.  YOU GOT THIS!!

In my Perfect Imperfection Program participants will: 

1.    Receive useful insights and mental tools to help minimize the stress of being perfect 
2.    Create awareness and curiosity of their present mindset
3.    Increase awareness of how fear can show up as perfectionism
4.    Discover how to reframe words that get us stuck in the trap of perfectionism
5.    Bring normalcy to perfect imperfection, reminding you that you’re not alone

And so much more! Take the 2 minute mindset quiz to see where you land with your wellness and self-care.

Make this your year to Refocus and Show up as the Champion that you are!

PS… Sign up for my weekly newsletters and join the Change Champ private Facebook group page for more tips and helpful ideas to Champion your wellness and well-being. 

Not sure what program is right for you?  No problem!  Contact me to set up a complimentary 30 minute consult to discover what Champion program is the best fit for you and your specific needs