It's no secret that Beyoncé is a perfectionist. ("I am a perfectionist," she said just last month.) But, if you go by her words in this weekend's HBO documentary, Life Is But a Dream — “I don’t have to kill myself and be so hard on myself" — this is also something that she would like to change. As any true (and perfect) perfectionist can tell you, Beyoncé's quest for inner peace is not going to be easy; perfectionism is the p in her personal prison, and it has been for decades. To help free Beyoncé from Perfect Beyoncé, we spoke to Emmy-winning life coach Rhonda Britten, also a best-selling author and repeat Oprah guest (the ultimate credential). Beyoncé, are you listening?
Why should we be worried about Beyoncé’s perfectionism? Why is it such a bad thing to want to be perfect?
My motto is: You can have perfectionism, or you can have connections. You can either try to be perfect around people, or you can connect with people. You can't have both. People don’t connect with perfect people.
But doesn’t someone have to be a perfectionist to achieve Beyoncé's level of success? Don’t you have to practice until your feet bleed?
With dancing, everyone has to be in the same stand-step. If they’re not, we’re like, Look at you, you crummy dancers. But I like to use the word excellence when it comes to your career. So Beyoncé can be a total excellence slut, completely dedicated to excellence in her career. But if she brings perfectionism into her relationships, she will forget her humanity and compassion. One of the things that I admire about Beyoncé is that she’s actually kept her relationship private. She and Jay-Z have a united front; the two of them have created a safety net for each other. You never hear dirt, you only hear about the good things, and they have created a solid foundation. When you have a solid foundation like that, and the other person gets you and wants you to do your best, you can truly achieve anything. She can do so much more and he can do so much more, because they have each other.
So you don’t think two perfectionists are bad for each other, the way two alcoholics are bad for each other?
Well, somebody is the beta in their relationship. The beautiful thing is, we really don’t know because there is no gossip. But I have a sneaky feeling, what I project onto them is, in order for them to look and appear as healthy as they are, one of them has to hold the feminine energy, and one has to hold the masculine energy. They can go back and forth, but … Beyoncé has a lot of alpha energy in her career, so I feel like she has the capacity to be beta in a relationship. And it doesn’t mean she’s passive, but it’s that she knows how to receive love from him. I mean, she was also a very loved child. Her parents supported her.
Right, but they also pushed her to be her best. Maybe perfectionists aren’t born, but they are raised.
Well, she was trained to have a really good work ethic. We don’t know the psychological implications for her, but it could take her two ways: It could take her à la Michael Jackson in the next ten years, or she can know how to be Beyoncé onstage, but at home, she’s B.
It sounds like you're in favor of Sasha Fierce. Are alter egos a good coping mechanism for perfectionists?
I’m not into compartmentalizing that way in real terms, like for real people. But just as a great actor might go onstage and play Queen Elizabeth and feel empowered and powerful, Beyoncé having this persona that she plays onstage gives her more freedom. She doesn’t have to then worry and judge herself; she can go be this fantasy of who she’s always wanted to be. That’s a great tool for her. I just want to be really attentive to the fact that if I were coaching her, I would want to shift every aspect of her life from perfectionism to excellence. And I would probably tell her that completing projects at 85 percent is enough for her. Her 85 percent is our 155 percent.
We know from the documentary that Beyoncé keeps video diaries. Is that something that more perfectionists should do to work through their problem?
One of the most important things we should do as human beings is share our secrets. Any time that you withhold a secret, you’re actually containing shame. Secrets equal shame. If you confess, you let go of shame, other people see your vulnerability, and they love you more. So Beyoncé is doing this brilliantly: One, she's airing it on HBO, so it’s high-caliber. Two, she’s going to confess things that will make us feel close to her. There’s this whole theory that to reach the next level of fame, you have to do three things in a row really quickly. And she had the Super Bowl, this HBO thing, and next she has a tour. This could take her into icon status, a fame that can never be taken away from her.
Is icon status a bad thing for a perfectionist? It’s a lot to live up to.
I’m going to compare her to Oprah for a minute: Oprah has never really taken on her icon status. She’s still trying to prove herself with the things she’s doing. She has not stopped and gone, I’m an icon. Right? She’s still a worker bee. She’s working too hard for her icon status. Beyoncé should take on her icon status. She can still work, but in a way that suits her life. She needs to start moving into the world of I have made it rather than I have to make it. Beyoncé can own her life.