When I was younger, I used to list “perfectionist” as one of my top qualities. I used to think always giving 100% and expecting 100% from others was a positive thing. I used to believe that everyone should strive to become that way.
As you get older, life gets a little bit more complicated. Every once in a while, I couldn’t accomplish all my goals for a various amount of reasons: a cold that didn’t allow me to go to school, a mistake that hurt someone, a school project that didn’t get an A… Those times, when I was about 6 or 7, I would get crazy tantrums. I would scream, kick the walls and cry.
My mom was always there to put order in the chaos. She would talk some sense into me. She used to say how I couldn’t be such a happy and positive person, and then get overwhelmed with stuff that had an easy solution. What about those situations that didn’t have a solution? She would always say that you shouldn’t really worry about something you can’t change.
I don’t have tantrums anymore. I don’t think that would be acceptable at 18 (although it would be funny, right? At least, others would laugh). But I still struggle with this very same problem. My perfectionist disease affects my social relationships because I always expect others to behave like I do. It affects my body image and how I don’t think I’m ever healthy enough or fit enough. It affects my work because I obsess over things that shouldn’t take so much of my time, because I always tear all up and start again when it isn’t perfect. And because when I do group projects, I always take the most responsibility.
But after a while living with this, I found out that my perfectionist problem affects the most my decision taking skills. I always need to have a plan of what’s going to happen, so I can control what to do, what I SHOULD do. And when stuff I can’t control happens, I drown. And things get even worse when I make mistakes.
I know this is something I will have to fight against my whole life, so I have come up with a list of what to do when you think you can’t do anything:
- NO ONE IS PERFECT. I tell this to myself at least three times a day, in front of the mirror. I cherish my flaws and accept I wouldn’t be who I am without them. Finding defects in other people helps too. Don’t get me wrong: it isn’t about tearing down others. It is about empowering each other accepting we are all human.
- Understand mistakes are made by everyone. Do everything that is in your hand to fix them. If you can’t fix them, apologize. And if they can’t forgive you, respect them. Time always heals.
- Cry. When I feel like I’m drowning, I need to cry. And it is okay to do so. It doesn’t make sense to hide if you feel the need to cry. You never hide to laugh! After crying and a good eight-hour night of sleep, things will be clearer.
- Write TO-DO lists… And DONE lists. I absolutely love writing in paper all the things I have to do, but at the end of the week, I sit down and write a list of all the things I have accomplished throughout the week.
- Putting things into perspective. If it won’t really matter in five years, you will be okay.
- Get to know others without prejudice. Do not expect others to behave like you do. Maybe you are big on the little things, and you’re always ready to plan out a surprise party, or you’re always up for that “how’d the test go, love?” text… And your friends aren’t. And you have to understand it’s okay for them to act different ways. Do not try to change others.
- Realize your mental health and your happiness is always way more important than any project, any plan, any resume, any GPA…
I hope all of this helps you realize you can do it too. Perfectionists, you aren’t alone!