There, I said it. I admit I’m a perfectionist. It took me years and years to admit this, because in my view perfectionists aim to be the best in everything, spending every minute of their day working towards their goal and crying over a B+. I’m pretty much the opposite, as discipline is definitely nowhere to be found in my dictionary. Now I finally realize that this is a one-sided view on perfectionism. Perhaps you’ll recognize yourself in this blog post.
To give you an idea of my perfectionism, here are some examples of my behavior:
- I can’t write as fast as other people. In first grade I was extremely slow because I wrote very, very slowly. I did not even realize that I was trying to write very neatly. As I grew older I learned to let it go more, but apparently I can never fully let go of keeping my handwriting presentable.
- I’m always one of the last people to finish an exam and it takes me way too long to finish an assignment. It doesn’t mean I did badly.
- I find gift wrapping quite stressful.
- One time we had to fold napkins in a specific, impossible way for my cousin’s wedding. Ok it wasn’t impossible, but I just couldn’t get it as pretty as the example. That frustrated me so much that I boiled of stress and eventually said to my cousin: ‘’you can fold, I will tie the ribbons.’’ It was bad for my heart, ok?
- I don’t cook for other people, because it has to be perfect and I am a beginner. My mom has tricked me before so that she could serve my food to guests.
- I prefer wearing no foundation over wearing visible foundation. It’s not because I try to hide that I’m wearing makeup. It’s just that I can’t stand the sight of cakey foundation! And anything visible is cakey to me.
I think you now agree that I am a hardcore perfectionist. If it wasn’t for every family member, friend and teacher in the history of my life telling me I’m a perfectionist, I would have never considered myself a perfectionist. I was in denial for years, but I now realize that this is a sign of perfectionism too. A perfectionist won’t think (s)he good enough to be called a perfectionist. It’s why I don’t like to tell people I’m a perfectionist. Hardcore perfectionism in my core, yep. It’s why I procrastinate. It’s why I’m ‘stubborn’. It’s why I have a hard time opening up to people. It’s why I take things personally. It’s why I have many insecurities. Everything is related! Because the perfectionism is so deep, it affects my personality on many aspects.
They call me sharp. They call me stubborn. They call me annoyingly critical and sometimes also opinionated. All these words mean to describe the same flaw: my tendency to be contrarian. I am critical to thoughts and I use cold, rational breakdowns to explain why I think a statement is wrong. I know this is a huge no-no in social interaction, but I honestly don’t realize it when I do this. It’s not like I deliberately go against the grain and try to be annoying or unfriendly. I simply say what’s on my mind and I feel neutral doing so.
The reason why I fail to recognize that my way of responding is annoying, is because my natural way of thinking entails noticing discrepancies and trying to curve everything to be more perfect. Anything I hear goes though this perfection filter, because my mind can’t rest until things are put straight (straight according to me, which can be pretty crooked). My natural response is to say what I think is wrong about that idea. Before I know it I have made a much bigger mistake than the one I (i.g. my value system) found in their idea. I’m trying to become more aware of this bad habit so that I can stop it. I’m really working on it! I think it’s going the right way.
Perfectionism is not just wanting to do your best – that’s a good thing. It can also be the fear of not doing something well enough – that is a bad thing. It’s hard to believe in yourself when you believe that what you do is not good enough. This fear stops you from trying many things and I don’t have to explain why that is a bad thing.
Another problem of this insecurity is that it can build a wall around you. It takes me a long time before I open up to people and quite often this never even happens. Before I open up to someone I have to feel completely safe. I am aware of my imperfections and I fear that people who like me will be very disappointed by the real, more-flawed-than-directly-visible me. I need to be sure that they are genuinely interested in what I want to say and that I am accepted no matter what they’ll find out. That is only possible when they see something outstanding in me or when they truly love me. As that doesn’t happen often, I don’t open up often.
On my blog I am able to let go of perfectionism (for as far as that’s possible). I cannot see your eyes on me so that’s the first removed barrier. I’m rather anonymous on here so that’s another one removed. I’m also not writing an essay or article. I’m just expressing my thoughts on my own blog, so I can break some rules of writing, I can break some blog rules and I can even break some society rules. I’m being me in my own room and that is not stressful.
I am a huge procrastinator, but this usually isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of perfectionism. ‘’If you want to do it perfectly then why do you do it last minute?’’ When I know it’s going to be a very long and daunting task I keep procrastinating that task. It is fear of messing up that keeps me putting things off. It takes me ages to start, but once I start I work neatly and orderly… and stressfully. It makes a lot of sense (not).
Dealing with criticism
I don’t like being criticized, especially when I think I did something well. I am my worst criticizer so I don’t like others to join that game. I usually don’t feel hurt by words, but sometimes, after a long time, I realize that those words did bother me. I don’t hold grudges against people, but I do remember words. That joke you made about me that one time? Still in my memory. It’s fine when I’m fine, but it’s not when I’m not fine. Get it? These words can gnaw at me when I’m down. I’m already sensitive and that combined with perfectionism means I have a hard time dealing with criticism.
It isn’t all bad
Perfectionism seems to lead to problems or make problems worse. It’s is a millstone around my neck, but it is also my savior and the reason behind every achievement of mine, be it small or big. I can only fight against the outer layer of my perfectionism, because it’s just too deep in my core. Removing this perfectionism out of my core is removing my entire self out of my core. I think I should leave something left, because believe it or not; I would miss this girl. She’s me and despite all madness I wouldn’t want to be someone other than me.
Are you a perfectionist too? How do you cope with perfectionism?