My Relationship With Perfectionism

Photo by Jonathan Hoxmark on Unsplash

I have forced perfection on myself since a young girl. Anything less made me a disgusting individual who was not deserving of this life. If I didn't do something correctly, I just didn't do it. With this mentality, there are a lot of things in life I have missed out on. It has created a chronic indecisiveness and self-hatred in myself. I know this is an unhealthy mentality, but it has been the hardest flaw that I have tried desperately to fix. We all have that urge to be perfect, I just let it completely ruin my life.

That might be dramatic. My life has not been ruined by any means. In fact, I do wake up extremely grateful for what I have and that I get to follow my passion. When I get something wrong, I now give myself a little slack. After all, I am a human who is going to mess up. The fact is, this mantra does not come naturally to me and almost always happens after I have spent hours ridden with anxiety. Why do I do this to myself? Why am I such a perfectionist?

Some part of me believes it has a little to do with my childhood. Not to blame others (because it is my own flaw), but I did spend most of my adolescence trying to prove myself to my father. I wanted his acceptance and love, something that I didn't get for free. This created a girl who got excellent grades, kept an immaculately clean room at all times, and helped around the house as much as possible. To my mother, I was the perfect child. To my father, I honestly have no clue. Now I know this was the start of my unhealthy habit.

I continued this 'perfect' streak through my freshman year of high school. We had moved to a different town, and I was entirely out of the loop with my peers. They had all grown up with, and I was just the outsider. This made it incredibly easy for me to stick my head in books and maintain a 4.0 GPA. After my first year of high school I started gaining friends (and not really that great of ones either). A combination of this and my own growth created a new persona. The girl who knew I was never going to be good enough so I might as well stop trying.

While my grades were still excellent, towards the end of my high school year, they started slipping. My father left when I was towards the end of my junior year. With him gone, I stopped trying so hard to please a man who abandoned us. Since I had been such a good student, most teachers chalked it up to divorce blues and fudged my grades a little. It was something I honestly didn't deserve. That is all I thought as I slipped more into depression.

After many hardships and a few years out of high school, I started a job that gave me a sense of purpose again. It was a little restaurant that hired me as a server. From here, I gained friendships and a place I felt truly comfortable in. Within a year I was promoted to an hourly manager, and I felt like I was really going somewhere. Then we had our general manager quit and in came a new one. To say he hated me is probably an understatement. I could not do anything right and, the more I tried, the more pitiful I became.

Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

There is one moment that sticks in my head the most. It was a shift where I was opening up by myself. He made a surprise visit, and all hell broke loose. Two people in the kitchen and three people in the front had called in sick. The truck had, and I barely had time to put it away as I hastily tried to set up the kitchen within spec. My bra broke in half. Everything that could go wrong did. That was the day he sat me down and basically said I was not capable of the job I was given. Shortly after, I was looked over when it came time to promote.

I felt that pain I had from adolescence pop up again. Instead of being angry at him, I was desperate to prove myself. I trained in every single position and put in more hours than anyone in my post had ever done before. The determination to gain his acceptance was the only thing on my mind. Not to sound conceited, but within six months I was one of the top workers in that building. He eventually quit, and other general managers came and went. The only difference was that now I was seen as an asset.

It still wasn't enough for me. It was like being perfect had turned into a drug, and I was always on the brink of winning. If I just put in a few more hours, strained myself a little bit more, I could reach this higher level. During this time I became sick regularly and was drinking more coffee than the human body should probably consume. I lost friendships, and my relationship was crumbling. None of this mattered to me. I was going to be the best they had ever seen. That feeling engulfed me.

Now I see the insanity behind my actions. If I could go back and change it, however, I probably wouldn't. I look back at these memories and see how low I had become and keep it as a reminder to care for myself. While I now don't try to prove myself to others, I still have the problem with proving something to myself. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but can become toxic if I don't stop and look at what I am doing.

Seeking perfection isn't a horrible trait. It makes you work hard and continuously learn and grow from your mistakes. The problem that a lot of people face is knowing to balance this idea of perfect. It is a concept that we all know but will never possess. This is because we are imperfect humans who make mistakes. Instead of seeing this as a flaw, I am now forcing myself to look at this as a beautiful thing. Errors are what make us unique and fantastic. Perfect is overrated.


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