Perhaps one of my most driving character traits is, quite simply, this: I’m a perfectionist. And when I say that, I’m not saying it in the cute proper-answer-for-an-interview sort of way. I don’t just keep working at my homework or that project until everyone else is satisfied with it: I keep working at it until my hands are bleeding and tears are streaming down my face and everyone around me keeps telling me, “okay, that’s good enough” and I say “no, it isn’t” because it will never be. I will never be. There will always be something new, some place where I need to grow.
I hold myself to a different standard than I do most people. I think that curvy or large girls are beautiful, I honestly and truly do, but when it comes to me, I need to starve myself and work out until I’m physically weak or ill, and even then it isn’t enough – I’m still not thin enough or muscular enough or whatever it is I’ve decided for the moment will be personal perfection. I believe that intelligence can be measured in ways more than systemic education and classroom grades, but I need to have straight A’s, and I need to pursue a PhD because I can always do better. I can always try harder.
I can always have more friends, can always do better than the person I’ve been flirting with most recently, can always work harder at my job, can always do better with that project. I’m never satisfied. Never. I can try my hardest, work myself to the bone, and that isn’t ever enough.
And I know what you’re probably thinking: is it worth it? Should I be living my life this way when it mostly brings me misery? Well, the way that I see it, the answer is both yes and no simultaneously.
On the one hand, yes, I bring my perfectionism to an unhealthy place. Because sometimes, as much as I emotionally disagree with this sentiment, I logically know that I am enough. My body is like every human body, like your body even: we are irrevocably flawed and beautiful all at once. We are humans, and that means that we are messy and difficult and imperfect, but that’s alright. We don’t need to be perfect. And I know that, logically. But sometimes I emotionally refuse to accept that, and that is where I sometimes fall short. Sometimes, I and every other perfectionist in this world need to realize that we don’t have to be perfect. We only have to try our hardest and accept ourselves when we realize that that is what we have done. We need to learn to settle for our best.
But at the same time, being a perfectionist is not entirely a curse. This need to push myself has bought me some amazing things along the way. I force myself to do better, and that often means that I do better. I learn, I grow, I make myself better. And that’s awesome.
Or, at least, it’s awesome when I don’t sacrifice my mental health along the way.
So I don’t want to give up my perfectionism – not entirely. What I want to do, what I need to do, what every perfectionist like me needs to do, is find a balance. I need to find a way to push myself and force myself to do better, while simultaneously accepting that, sometimes, I can only do so much. And, truth be told, I don’t entirely know how I’m going to do that now – but I imagine that it starts with changing the way that I think. It starts with forgiving myself, with allowing myself to be flawed. Because I am flawed. We all are. And sometimes, that’s okay.