I am a perfectionist. Tried and true. Everything I take on, I do with 100% of my attention, intelligence, energy, integrity, and emotions.
This is my worst quality.
The thing about perfectionists is that we tend to put an exorbitant amount of pressure on ourselves, pressure that does not match what others even expect of us. We push ourselves to our limits, and then, when things do not go perfectly, we break.
I do this in work: I want total control and predictability in my job. I want everything to go smoothly. I want to be the best educator possible, with students who grow and learn and feel emotionally and academically supported at all times. I bend over backwards and work long hours to make sure I do things first, best, and most thoroughly. And then I feel lonely and like I’m not good enough when I’m not recognized for that. Kind of stupid, but it’s how I operate.
I do this socially: To put it simply, I have had issues with friends. I have put all of my faith and trust into people who have ultimately betrayed me and taken advantage of my kindness in ways I cannot forgive. I know my standards, and I know when someone’s behavior does not come close to meeting what I find to be acceptable. I have deeply analyzed my own faults and flaws, and decided a few years ago to make sure I am being as kind, patient, and level-headed as possible with other people. Unfortunately, people do not always take on relationships with the same mentality. I bend over backwards trying to make people like me and respect me who just never will. And then, the Perfectionist inside me beats me up for failing.
I do this to myself: Cue Radiohead.
When I decide on a goal I’d like to meet, I want to do it and do it the best. So this leads to me, say, running seven painful miles on a sprained quad and thinking to myself “shake it off. Don’t be weak.” And that nagging, shitty, perfectionist voice leads me to having to take two frustrating weeks off from all physical activity, my muscles’ aggravated “I told you so” to my brain. This may be a personal example. Maybe.
Being a perfectionist is a curse, really. I constantly let no one down but myself, and only because I will never be able to please myself. The pressures I put upon myself are unfair.
And so, post-injury, post-heartbreak, post-professional-frustration, I sit here and think, very seriously, how do I break the cycle of perfectionism? I don’t want to be like this. I want to be able to fail and feel joy in it.
And I have plenty of failures to choose from. The irony is that I am not perfect. I am far from it, and I know that. I just need to learn to let things go a bit. Not over-analyze the past, not push the current, and not imagine all possible scenarios of the future. I cannot control the world. Why would I even want to? That sounds stressful. As I decided a few years ago, my focus needs to be not on the “perfect” me, but on the me that is kind, open, level-heading, and aware. It will not be perfect, but it will be better. I will be better.