Sunday, 24 November 2013

Perfectionism

I have always been a perfectionist.

I have no idea where I get it from, as no-one in my biological family, or even my boyfriend seems to concern themselves with making things 'right', 'perfect' or 'proper', they just allow things to be. I wish I was like that.

The worst thing about being a perfectionist is that nothing can ever be perfect enough. I could achieve a first in my assignment and the buzz would last for five minutes before I panic over how the next assignment must go horribly wrong and how I must get working on it in an instant. I spend at least an hour each day throwing clothes out of my wardrobe, trying them on and putting them back again before I leave the house because I fear that I won't look perfect, that I'll look fat, people will judge me (this drives my boyfriend mad and is also a result of my body image issues). I become terrified of saying no to what I'm asked at work for fear of making myself look imperfect. I blame myself when something goes wrong in someone elses lives because I couldn't do more and I couldn't be the perfect friend. I freak out when I spell things wrong or when my work isn't neat and structured correctly. Because it then isn't perfect.

I hate being a perfectionist. I lived for a while thinking that it was okay to be a perfectionist, and don't get me wrong, it is for some. But I completely let it over dominate my life, encompassed by worry and fear of imperfection that I actually end up getting nothing done half of the time, or, as appears to be the case recently, I'm making myself ill over it. Which allows me to be imperfect, and then the whole spiral begins again.

It's harder sometimes to be a perfectionist when you have a mental illness such as depression. You fight two consistent battles, the depression wanting you to isolate yourself, not speak to anyone, not get on with your work because there's no point, and go back to bed, but the perfectionism needs you to get everything done as soon as possible, set yourself out to be a shining example to work colleagues and lecturers, and make people like you. In the end you just end up with a headache and you feel even worse than before. Hence why I hate being a perfectionist and why I've known for a long time that I need to learn to let go of these thoughts that convince myself that I'm bad if I'm imperfect.

I KNOW perfection doesn't exist. I don't always know it, sometimes I need to remind myself. But I'm consciously aware that the word perfect has no clear definition and means something different to everyone. Looking the word perfect up online I saw a description saying 'as good as it is possible to be'. Is that possible? Surely we need a further definition here? What is 'as good as it is possible to be?'. What does that mean? For myself, or others? Another - being without defect or blemish. This got me because in reality, we ALL have defects and blemishes - even those we perceive as perfect in the eye of the media, whether they be external or internal. 'How to get the perfect body in 90 days' - what does this mean? Conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type - again, what is ideal and who makes the decisions as to what is ideal? Why are we listening to who makes these decisions? Why don't we just listen to the voice that really matters - which is our own?

I hate the word itself. It's a word which bears no actual meaning and therefore people like myself interpret it as constant striving to be better, to do better, to have the best body or to have the best life. I genuinely just found a WikiHow article online - 'How To Have a Perfect Life as a Teenager - 12 steps' - what? One of the items on this pathetic list was 'follow a fitness plan - you want your body to be pretty'. Being young and being a teenager should not concern what you look like - in fact none of your life should concern what you look like to a point where it takes over your happiness (as hard as that is to do, I know) - we're here to enjoy our lives, not obsess over what is never going to be good enough for our perfectionistic selves. I'll tell you something, I've obsessed for years over my nose - it looks like it's been broken about three times, it has a huge button at the end and I quite literally hate it - it's the first thing I notice in photographs of myself and I always wish I could have surgery on it (and it's something I will always consider - even thanks to working for BodyGossip I stand for true beauty and the natural self). I have an imperfect nose, but it is mine. I was born with it, I'm likely to die with it and it's part of me. I could spend years wishing for a nose that is perfect, but in reality, what am I searching for? A nose that is perfect for me, or a nose that is perfect for others? Would I ever be happy once I had attained perfection? No. There would always be something else. It would then be my body, my hair, my stomach. Why waste time when I could spend the time learning about acceptance and being comfortable with what I have? I'd just be striving for the unattainable, following the same repetitive cycle for the rest of my life of self-hatred. And boy, that gets dull after a while. Why bother?

We spend so much of our time striving over what we'll never achieve because once we get there, we always want more. There's always a bigger goal we can reach and a higher grade you can achieve. But something I definitely want to work on is living a life less with worry and living a life with a focus on today, and being happy. I'm not going to solve all of my issues with my weight and my achievement overnight but the more time I spent obsessing about being perfect, the less time I'll have to actually live my life and be happy with it. By worrying about being perfect, I'm being imperfect, I'm letting life speed past me and I'm not putting thoughts into action. It's time to realise that not everyone is going to like me. I'm not always going to get the highest grades. No-one cares if I get a low 2:1 or a 2:2, no-one cares if you get a B or lower in an exam, they care about the effort you've put in your attainment as a student. And that not many people care about what clothes I'm wearing or what I actually look like (and I'm also realising that those that do are a little pathetic and need something better to do) and they care about me as a person. Everyday is a learning curve, life would be a little monotonous and boring if you ended up becoming 'perfect' - you'd have nothing to work on, adapt, change and you'd never be able to allow yourself to grow as a person because you'd already be at the top (yet we've already established this doesn't exist - I mean hypothetically). I don't want to be like that. I like a challenge, but a good old-fashioned healthy one.

I feel like right now my entire identity is based on what other people want me to be. And because of this, I'm really not entirely sure what I want out of life yet. But hopefully in the next year I'm going to learn to let go, focus less on what other people want of me and try to be more selfish and focus on what I want. Rather than tormenting myself in the process of trying to reach my goals, I'm going to try and have a little fun along the way. I don't want to be anyone else's version of perfect because it wouldn't be being true to myself. You have to let go sometimes, and just BE.

1 comment:

  1. Yay! Thanks for writing this. It gives so much of my feelings clarity.

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