The Perfectionism Crisis

We all want to be good enough.

But, how far are some of us willing to go?


I am a recovering perfectionist and by recovering, I emphasize that I am making progress but am in no way “cured” of my harmful and exhausting perfectionist ways.

If you were to ask me what being a perfectionist felt like, I would say that it’s like being a hamster on a wheel and constantly trying to chase after perfection and letting myself down.

I look back on all the nights that I pulled all-nighters to finish a school project or study for an exam and had to recover for a week. All the times I looked in the mirror and pointed out everything wrong with my body and spoke so meanly about myself. All the times I picked at my skin during breakouts to extract my imperfections with tears in my eyes. All the times I stopped myself from going out and socializing because my skin wasn’t perfect and the shame was unbearable. All the times I beat myself up for making a mistake and told myself I’ll never be good enough.

It’s exhausting just writing about it, let alone experiencing it.

For so long, I could never be the perfect daughter, girlfriend, friend, niece, cousin, granddaughter, student, dancer, cheerleader, and even dog owner.

See the source image

Why was I like this? There’s the theory that Virgos are common perfectionists. There’s the theory that something happened to me when I was younger that made me believe I wasn’t enough unless ___________. There’s the theory that our culture imbeds in us that we always need something external to be enough and to love ourselves.. that we are incapable of doing it on our own.

Whatever the reason, here I am. My perfectionism has made me go to the extremes and cause damage to myself that will take years to recover from. I wish I had the tools  growing up to tell myself, “Try the best you can. Know that regardless of the outcome, you are enough. You don’t have to kill yourself aiming for perfect”

Perfectionists tend to think that there are prerequisites to being enough. I have to get into grad school, then I’ll be enough. I have to find a significant other, then I’ll be enough. I have to look like the model in the magazine, then I’ll be enough.

What if we changed our language?

I am enough right now, whether I get into grad school or not. I can always try again. I am enough right now.. I don’t need someone else to tell me that I am. Once I believe that, I will attract someone that believes it too. I love myself right now, and that’s why I want to lose the weight and clear up my skin. And I don’t have to look like the girl in the magazine because the girl in the magazine doesn’t even look the girl in the magazine.

While it’s healthy to have goals to better yourself, the dangerous difference must be recognized with perfectionism… it’s the shame, comparison, and isolation that comes when things don’t go perfectly.  The kind that makes you believe that your self worth is directly tied to your success. If you fail, you are not enough. How could you do that? Why couldn’t you be better? There has to be something wrong with you. Why can’t you be more like them? You might as well just give up.

This can lead to the dangerous road of depression.

Other than changing our language, what can we do?

  • Recognize that perfectionism is real and that we are constantly being told we aren’t enough.
  • Have someone that you can be vulnerable with, someone that you can reveal your inner “non-perfect” layers to and still be loved just the same, if not more
  • Understand that the relationship you have with yourself is the most important relationship you will have in your life. And it’s time to work on it.
  • Know that you can’t be perfect all the time. And the good people in your life won’t expect you to be.
  • Realize that there’s always an alternate way to do something. Besides what you believe to be the “perfect way.”
  • Seek professional help from someone who can give you the safe space and tools you need. There is no greater courage than getting yourself help.

 

Above all, know that you are your greatest healer and teacher. You never believed you weren’t enough until you were born into a world that told you differently. And together, we can help reverse the damage that society has done to our souls. The work to get there isn’t easy, but it’s life changing and absolutely critical.

You are enough.

And it’s time you believed it.

 

 

One thought on “The Perfectionism Crisis

  1. alanpenrose5654 says:

    Had not realised until recently that my strive for perfection in everything i do, as a chef and now a wood turner/carpenter, that my perfectionism is a negative force, in my previous 51 years i have given myself hell for falling short of my image of perfection. As John Bradshaw said in his book, nobody’s perfect.

    Like

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