Perfectionism is a perception.
Perfectionism is a plague masked by society’s standards. I look around, all I can see are excessive standards that sometimes do not allow us to be in touch with reality.
While growing up, I felt inadequate and quite often not enough. My head would start telling me the worst things and I would end up quitting or not even starting. I would be terrified of others and their expectations. But the truth is that no one, at that time, expected anything from me but be a carefree child.
This sense of inadequacy chased me until I went to high school and then, University. It was not being competitive, no, it was worse.
I would shut myself down without even trying because of the paralysing fear. I would set unrealistic goals and I would feel incredibly low. I would take on many tasks, do too many things at the same time and I would feel burned out. I would try to achieve every unrealistic goal and I would ask so much from myself.
I was not just striving for excellence, I was demanding perfection at all costs from my body and mind. That terrifying feeling of imperfection would be all over me and would stop me from doing anything.
When I told my mother that I had a problem with perfectionism she laughed, she told me “your house is not tidy and you are quite messy” and she was right. What she did not understand is that perfectionism is not being tidy or not messy. A big problem that I found was even people around me, the ones who labelled anxiety, depression or any sort of mental condition as a product of an entitled, spoiled and ungrateful generation. The truth is that I never expected anything from anyone but myself.
Perfectionism was a little voice telling me that I should not even try writing because I needed to be perfect. Perfectionism was a bad friend who told me to just quit whatever I was doing, put away my paintings and throw away my stories and poems because no-one would have cared about them if they were not perfect.
I would agonise over everything and simple tasks would take me hours. I would constantly compare myself to others and feel incredibly low. I needed to have a perfect body, I needed to have a perfect soul, I needed to have a perfect mind. I confused about what I WANTED with what I NEEDED.
According to Thomas Curran, who conducted a study on perfectionism, “Young people are responding by reporting increasingly unrealistic educational and professional expectations for themselves. As a result, perfectionism is rising among millennials.”
I avoided failure many times, I avoided everything because of failure and extreme expectations.
I can’t deny that I have achieved great things and I had amazing experiences. I was always motivated, always working hard, always performing at the greater standards. But what was the cost? Was it worth it? No. Was the motivation the fact that I liked that task or the fear of failure? I let you guess.
So what happened next?
I looked around, I asked for help. I understood that my whole life, I was spiralling down. I was not living my own life but I was satisfying everyone’s expectations or what I thought were their expectations and I tried to be who they thought I was, forgetting who I wanted to be and who I was in the first place.
I understood that I would have wasted my life and I would have lived a regretful and painful life. I also understood that perfection is not possible, perfection is also a perception.
I decided to push through my perfectionism, talk to it. Perfectionism talked to me for many years and it was my turn to talk back to it.
I started looking at the big picture, would this really matter? And obviously, my head would go YES YES YES. That was because the goals that I would set were too high. So I changed my goals, I did achievable things and in the end, I achieved them. I told myself that if something does not work out, it’s because it is not meant to be. I am gentle with myself, not lazy, gentle. I prepare myself for life, I study, I work, I do what my body can achieve and then I work towards my goal.
If I can’t achieve it, it’s frustrating yes, but I do not punish myself over it. Instead, I tell myself that it was not meant to be and something that actually suits me will come along and I will be prepared for it.
I think it is important to work hard, it is important to have big goals. But very important is also trying without expecting success at all costs. In my experience, perfectionism helped me partially. I achieved what I wanted but I could not enjoy it because I would be putting myself down for one reason or another, without really being grateful for what I did and what I achieved.
Now that I am more gentle, my body, my soul and mind are healing and that feeling of worthlessness is not as strong as before. I allow myself to fail but most importantly, I allow myself to try and get up when something does not go how I wanted it to be without punishing myself.
I get up in the morning and I do what brings me closer to my goals and myself, I left procrastination. I learned how to compromise with myself by setting small tasks and achieve them. I lowered my expectations by starting whatever I wanted to do without being afraid of rejection and failure. Rejection and failure is inevitable and they are essential in order to grow. I know that I am where I am supposed to be and I know that I work hard for myself and to improve myself, not to impress others.
Lots of Love