Perfectionism and How I Combat it

Whenever I get stressed out, my perfectionism sky rockets. Which is the worst time to experience this. Throughout school, I was a giant perfectionist who got about three hours of sleep each night because of the many, many clubs and activities I was involved in. Straight A student, all AP classes, drum major, English Honor Society, French club, National Honor Society, Student Council, and those are just some of what I remember. I worked so hard in high school that when I got to college, I needed to chill the fuck out, as my mental health continued to decline. But because achievements were my entire identity, I found it very difficult to let that go.

I would have never recognized this if it weren’t for my first college professor, whom I thought hated me (in retrospect, I was a privileged white girl expecting As and to be adored my professors. I would hate me too, if I were him). In that class, I got a B. A B in the first class I ever took in college, my very first B. I cried for three days, and then realized that if I didn’t work so hard, I could enjoy life more. I could actually have fun without a meeting or a test/essay looming in the back of my brain. As anger and fear of failure subsided, so did my perfectionism. I was so busy trying to be the person I was in high school, the beauty of where I was geographically, but also where I was in my lifetime, escaped me. I vividly remember my first walk around campus during which I really paid attention for the first time. I let myself wander down hidden paths and explore musty old buildings on campus. I sat by fountains and people watched for hours in the sun with a book in my hand, which was something I hadn’t done because I was rushing to class or to study. I thought I had finally conquered my perfectionism.

Fast forward to global pandemic stress and lo and behold, another bout of perfectionism. She is rearing her head again, and I’m trying very hard to not embody perfectionism like I once did. It takes everything in me to leave a typo or to allow myself to take sloppy notes. I have become a lot, A LOT more organized than I used to be, but perfectionism slithers into my brain when I’m organizing too. As you can imagine, this compounds my stress. I have to consciously shift away from needing to be organized because I need to be perfect. Now it’s more of an efficiency thing. So much of my focus goes into leaving things the way that they are, imperfect. Especially when writing here or anywhere, really.

Here’s to giving myself a fucking break. The arrangement of the hats in the first photo makes me want to roll my eyes and fix it immediately. I don’t want anyone to see that maybe I’ve made a mistake or hung something incorrectly. Instead of allowing my perfectionism to burst forth and take control, I sit with it, the anxiety that the off-kilter hats cause. I have not allowed myself to rearrange the hats because it’s a slippery slope into obsessive perfectionism. So there the hats hang, imperfect, unaligned, rebelling. And I’m going to leave it that way. There are more important things than if my hats are lined up on my wall.



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