I don’t remember when I became a perfectionist. I don’t know when it started to feel it was expected of me, or if it was at all. I don’t know if anyone ever told me “If you were perfect, then you would be happy”. I just know that at some point in my life, striving for perfection became my ultimate goal in everything I did.
Of course, nobody is perfect. Nobody. Not even the kindest, smartest, most creative people. Not even the names that have changed our world. But that did not matter to me. I would be perfect.
Perfectionism made me stressed from a very young age. I felt alone, undeserving, unworthy of any appreciation until I reached that flawless existence. It led to frustration, to strained relationships, to self-hate and self-harm. It was as if the more I fought to become perfect, the farther I was from it.
It took years of slowly learning to give myself a break to understand that my goal was unattainable, absolutely idle, and frankly stupid. It will not be easy to completely get rid of a habit that I have fed for decades but that is also the point that I am trying to accept: I will never get there, I will never be flawlessly calm and self-accepting, and that is also ok. I am me, with whatever baggage I have, and I can definitely be nicer to myself. But I don’t have to be perfect anymore, not even at being my own best friend.
I am trying to change the focus of my actions, to do things that I enjoy simply because I enjoy them and not because they might look good in the image I curate. So many years were spent carving the perfect shell, and now it’s a matter of breaking that up and finding what is underneath. Some things are still authentic. I still dance because I feel free. I still write because it makes me feel light.
As it turns out, happiness was just around the corner. Or, more specifically, just under the grime of my self-imposed expectations. Who would have known life could be so much easier.
Some nice reading about perfectionism and breaking free:
The Ups and Downs of being a perfectionist, a realistic article by Cameron Chapman about both sides of the coin.
A Simple, Powerful Self-Compassion Method, by Leo Babauta
Finding the Motivation to Change Your Entire Life, also by Leo Babauta. Because perfectionism is besties with a nasty, paralyzing fear of failure