I’m a retired perfectionist.
After years of criticizing myself for every perceived “failure,” I’ve recently resolved to change my mindset.
From an outsider’s perspective, receiving praise may seem like a dream come true. However, that dream often comes with a price. For me, achieving took much more than effort – it required agony. I could never bear the discomfort that came with making mistakes or doing the “wrong” thing. I’d constantly criticize myself for everything I did. I sat in shame and stressed about everything I couldn’t change, wondering if I could change these aspects of my life.
I stared in the mirror and found flaws in everything. I’d judge my physical appearance, my career prospects, who I was as a friend and ultimately, who I was as a person. I wanted to be the best at everything, not brag or compete, but to quiet the voice in my head that constantly beat me up for being imperfect, human self. Consequently, I isolated myself in order to try to reach my impossible standards.
Then, I had a realization: My perfectionism prevented me from truly living.
And slowly but surely, I began to let go of my perfectionistic tendencies.
I discovered that you can lock yourself in the library for the rest of your life and get a 4.0 GPA, but your achievements probably won’t feel satisfying at all if they are at the expense of experiencing all that life has to offer. You can decide to stay in your comfort zone because trying new things might make you feel uncomfortable, but if you have no stories to look back on later, did you really live at all? You can keep quiet because you fear that the people you love will abandon you, but if you never speak up, did you truly have honest relationships to begin with? When your perfectionism makes you fear failure or rejection, taking risks is scary. However, risk-taking is also the most worthwhile decision you will ever make. Letting go of perfectionism may not make life perfect, but it’ll make a life worth living.
You can’t prioritize perfectionism and life at the same time.
The toll that perfectionism can take can dull the beauty of your human experience. Moreover, rejection, failure, and imperfection can’t take away who you truly are. If you’re a perfectionist, remember that you’re not just a reflection of how smart you are, what you look like, or who you associate with. You also aren’t defined by a test score, a difficult upbringing, a bad relationship, or someone else’s opinion of you.
You are not your imperfections. Rather, you are a reflection of how deeply you love, how gracefully you respond to hardship, and how willing you are to fully embrace who you truly are.
Previously published on HerCampus.