There is nothing wrong with wanting to succeed—everyone wants to do well in life. However, there is a fine line between striving for success and obsessing for perfection.
I wouldn’t have always considered myself a perfectionist, but during high school there were little things I would focus heavily on in my everyday life. I couldn’t make it through the day if those small things were not exactly “perfect.” In my personal case, my appearance was one of the main things that had to be just right.
I am a very feminine person. I enjoy fashion and makeup, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, it became unhealthy in a situation when I refused leave my house without makeup or not being able to function during the day if I wore sweatpants. I found myself turning something that was supposed to be fun and a form of self-expression into a necessity for my mental wellness. Who would have thought that reaching for my imagined perception of “perfection” could cause so much harm?
I would define a perfectionist by how they react to their own mistakes or imperfections. While someone with a more healthy approach would use the situation as a learning opportunity to progress or turn the situation into a positive outcome, perfectionists may find themselves stuck in their own mistakes or imperfections and are unable to move forward until everything is “fixed.”
I would over-analyze small factors, like my appearance, which would determine whether or not I would have a good day. If I thought something of my appearance seemed off, whether it was my hair or my makeup, it would be hard to not be fixated on that specific thing.
One early morning during high school, an acquaintance had turned to me during class and said point blank, “Why do you try so hard?” I was extremely caught off guard by her somewhat rude but straightforward question, considering I had barely spoken to this girl before. I stuttered with my words and asked her why she would say that.
“Seriously, every day you look like you just walked off the runway,” she said. While I know this girl meant this as a compliment, I couldn’t help but question myself: Why did I try so hard? Why does this matter so much to me?
I realized that imperfections are inevitable, and it’s extremely important not to mentally beat yourself up over something small. Life still moves forward, even if you’re having an off day. I’ve learned not to set outrageous expectations for myself, because in the end I will always be disappointed and nothing could ever be good enough.
I still dress up for classes and work because that’s my choice, not because I feel like I have to meet some crazy expectation that I’ve set for myself. Also, I’ve allowed myself to have “comfy days” where I can leave the house with my bare face and sweatpants. I’ve come to terms that I am human and I do not have to be glammed up like a Barbie doll 24/7.
I think many women work their hardest to be the best version of themselves that they can be, which is great. However, a perfectionist attitude can be self-destructive. It’s crucial for women to accept that imperfections and mistakes are a part of life, so you might as well embrace it. Sometimes we are blinded by our own bad behavior and it could be difficult to recognize unhealthy habits.
Perfectionists often feel depressed, frustrated, anxious, or even angry when having trouble reaching their own high standards. In extreme cases, their unreachable standards may get in the way of their life. For example, it may be hard for perfectionists to meet deadlines, finish, a task or trust others for help.
While it may not be the easiest thing to do, it’s important to look at the “big picture.” Perfectionist are often weighed down by the details and spend a large amount of time focusing on the little things. If you find yourself in that situation, ask yourself, “Does this really matter? What’s the worst that can happen if it doesn’t turn out? Will I still care about this tomorrow?”
If you struggle with perfectionism, it may be helpful to practice facing your fears. If there is a situation in particular that your perfectionist instincts kick in, try doing something that would go against your usual habits. This will help you avoid the fear in the future that things may not always work out perfectly. If you feel like your habits are more serious, definitely do not hesitate to seek out professional help. You are deserving of it!
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