The Pain of Perfectionism

(Mind Blown) How true this is! When I was growing up I never considered perfectionistic to be descriptive of how I was behaving. I was an athlete, a student, a daughter, a sister, a friend. I was then a professional (still am!), a crossfit athlete, and a partner. Through each part of my identity I tried to be the best at that “thing,” just trying to be ambitious and motivated. However, it wasn’t until later, after years and years of mental health struggles, when I sank into the beige leather couch in yet another therapists’ office that I learned just how much pressure I was putting on myself. I was living in a box of how things “should be” or I should say how I thought things/I should be. I was trying to be perfect, thinking that if I was flawed in any way no one was going to accept me; thinking that if I showed any weaknesses, I wasn’t normal.

This way of thinking put more pressure on myself than I realized. If I got an 89 instead of a 90 on a test, I couldn’t forgive myself and thought about it over and over again wishing it were different and seeing if there was any chance the teacher made a mistake. If someone got a higher grade than me, I was immediately ashamed and couldn’t get it off my mind for the rest of the day, somehow making that number reflective of my self worth. Similarly, if I upset someone, I tried everything to try to understand, explain, apologize, and “check in” to see if we were ok, thinking if one person were upset it was the end of the world. Everything was magnified, catastrophized, and blown up to be worst case scenario. It was exhausting and I was so unaware of what I was doing to myself, until it was my heart that was at stake.

This pattern continued when I fell in love, a feeling that was so new, yet so unbelievably captivating. I thought I had to be the perfect partner or I would ruin the relationship. I was paralyzed by the belief that if I didn’t respond to a text right away, if I didn’t say the right thing or act a certain way, if I disagreed, if I wasn’t always in a good mood, then I wasn’t good enough; then I wasn’t lovable. The “if’s” were exhausting and the only thing this addictive way of thinking brought me was pain.

Years later, it became clear that I wasn’t accepting of, nor comfortable with who I was. I was not understanding of being my own person doing life with another “own person” rather than living my life for that other person. I don’t think I truly knew who I was, but the bit I did know, I had lost sight of. Who I knew myself to be I completely ignored, not trusting that it was good enough. I wasn’t able to honor the complete dedication I brought to any relationship (friend or romantic), nor was I able to trust that being myself would warrant someone’s presence in my life. I was too caught up in trying to please someone else that I completely neglected taking care of, honoring, and being myself.

I am so happy to have dug myself out of that hole. I can now completely be myself, trusting that those people who are meant to be in my life will choose to do so because they want to, not because I am pretending to be someone for the sake of their approval. I am now completely able to speak my truth despite the uncertainty of approval, knowing others will undoubtedly make their own assessments and decisions about me on their own. I will express myself, honor each part of my personality always keeping a personal growth mindset, and force myself to say the things I anxiously question saying for fear of judgement or questioning. People in my life deserve to know the real me. I want someone to love me for me and I continue to work to know what I need and what I deserve from others, both romantically and platonically, in order for me to feel fulfilled.

Trying to be perfect is holding yourself in a box with extremely strict boundaries, unable to breathe and completely discrediting the beautiful self that you are. Everyone has unique personalities, fears, flaws, strengths, and pieces to his/her being that should be embraced and shared, not hidden away or writhed with shame. One of the hardest things is “letting go,” but once you do, it’s as if you have just taken your first breath!

Try it! Small steps! If you normally say yes to everything just because, try to say no! The next time you are asked to go out and your inner introvert just wants to stay in, curl up on the couch, and watch a movie, go for it! The world does NOT end, but YOU feel empowered as you begin to honor yourself. This is the most exciting journey you will embark on and the most important puzzle piece in your life, YOU, will begin to find its place in the larger picture.

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