“I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, oh Lord, proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds.”Psalm 26:6-7
Yes, I know – it has been a while since I published anything new.
As you can probably guess, college does not leave me a ton of time for my hobbies and social life, especially this semester, as I am taking TWO sciences to graduate in May and transfer to a four-year university. This might not sound too taxing for those of you who are good at science and math. Still, for a right-brained person like me who literally played a hobo in a play to get out of taking a math class (see My First Time Acting – Overcoming my Fears), this is a very intense ordeal for me to undertake.
Plus, I have two other classes and am working on applications for transferring in the fall, but…
There is another reason, other than being busy, that is responsible for me being absent from here for a while.
It is my old nemesis, perfectionism.
Nine times out of ten when it comes to why I put off blog posts, it is because I feel the quality of the idea I have come up with and the content that I have written is not nearly good enough to be seen by any eyes other than mine. It is somehow not interesting enough or profound sufficient to bother posting, so I just put it off entirely and think, “oh well, I will probably have a more interesting idea next week.”
But I am always too tired, or my idea is not quite “good enough” for me to actually put effort into publishing.
What Exactly Is Perfectionism?
Perfectionism is, according to Psychology Today, “a trait that makes life an endless report card on accomplishments or looks. When healthy, it can be self-motivating and drive you to overcome adversity and achieve success. When unhealthy, it can be a fast and enduring track to unhappiness”.
And perfectionism does not exactly “ride solo” in terms of mentalities or psychological disorders. According to an article in BBC, “perfectionistic tendencies have been linked to a laundry list of clinical issues: depression and anxiety, (even in children), self-harm, social anxiety disorder” along with a bunch of other conditions that manifest in negative ways.
How Perfectionism Can Manifest
See, the thing with perfectionism is that if you do not think that you will do something perfectly, there is no point in trying at all. And while this means that everything you do end up doing is perfect, there is an awful lot you do not even attempt to try, honestly.
Realistically, I know that I cannot be perfect. Still, any glaring mistakes make me feel automatically uncomfortable and ashamed, as though I have committed some significant sin against those around me. I think that they will now be disappointed in me and think less of me.
I suppose that is the horrible thing about anxiety and perfectionism: whether or not it is rational does not change how you feel.
Someone can tell you that it is stupid to be scared of thunder because it can’t hurt you, but that will not stop you from dreading storms and hating thunder. It is the same with the fear of being imperfect. Knowing it is not reasonable does not make it any less real and scary.
Perfectionism means that you hold yourself to an impossible standard that you would not expect anyone else to live up to. When you think that maybe you are too hard on yourself, ask, “would I expect anyone else to be like this?” and if you are truly honest with yourself, the answer will likely be no. You will probably have a different perspective on the issue than before, when you were trapped in your own head, drowning in your self-imposed expectations.
Perfectionists As Friends and Employees
It sounds great to have a student or employee with perfectionism because who does not want someone on their team that strives for the absolute best in everything they do? Except it can be a more considerable downfall than people initially think. Perfectionists generally bristle at any criticism, constructive or not. Every error that gets pointed out feels like a personal attack on someone with perfectionism, and they will likely not seek out feedback from this person instead.
This is a shame because if our friends and peers are not allowed to challenge us and push us to grow in our personal and professional lives, they are not truly our friends and peers. They just become people we happen to see when going about our lives, held at arms’ length because we do not like what they tell us.
How You Can Fight Perfectionism
Now that you know a bit about what perfectionism is and how it can manifest, I would like to give you some ideas for how to fight your perfectionist urges or tips to give your friends or family members who struggle with perfectionism.
Tip One: Practice critiquing your work when you finish assignments or projects, noting both strengths and weaknesses of your work.
Critical feedback is so scary to perfectionists because we do whatever we can to avoid it. The fear of the unfamiliar and dreaded is the oldest kind of fear there is, right? By combining both positive and negative feedback into your practice critiques, it will not be so scary and will not feel as condemning, and you might not react as highly the next time a peer critiques you or your work.
Tip Two: Practice taking an unbiased look at your work and yourself by pretending that you are evaluating a peer or coworker and their work instead.
We are often our own worst critics. If this is true for “normal” people, it is even more valid for perfectionists. I have often had times where I have been working myself to the bone on something, obsessed with it being perfect, and I asked myself: would I be this hard on anyone else?
The answer is generally no; because that would be cruel and insane. So having come to that realization, what comes next?
Tip Three: turn your perceived “failure” into a learning experience for yourself and a way to grow moving forward.
Sometimes the most challenging part of failure for a perfectionist is moving on from it. It takes a ridiculous amount of time to reach the point where you say, “Okay. I acknowledge that I messed up here. Let’s figure out the best way to move forward and not make the same mistake again”. Sometimes you need to push yourself to come to terms with your “failure” instead of trying to ignore it to keep up your fragile projection of perfection.
To be honest, perfectionism is like any other extreme state of mind, like pessimism, nihilism, or even veganism (totally kidding). We all tend to fall into extreme ways of thinking from time to time, and some of us need reminders a bit more frequently that we do not have to be perfect in everything we do.
So, in the spirit of being imperfect, I will try my best to get back to posting semi-regularly if school does not kill me first (which remains to be seen). Thank you all for sticking with me while I was getting in the groove of the new semester and not posting often. It means the world!
Please like, comment, and subscribe if you connected with my post and if would like to see more of my crazy, exciting journey through life with Christ and mental illnesses. Every interaction I receive here means a lot. Thank you and God bless you.
Until next time!
This is PERFECT
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Well Belen, I have to say the struggle with perfectionism is all too real on this end. I know it is holding me back, but I can’t seem to shake it. I think this is the main reason I thrive more in my teaching life than in my writing life. I am kinder to my students and those I coach than I am to myself. Helpful tips shared today …
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Thank you so much for sharing your story and struggle with perfectionism. It is too often seen as a “good thing” when actually it can greatly hinder our growth.