One day last spring, not long before I graduated, my mother brought something to my attention. She mentioned something about me being too hard on myself. And I remember wondering just what in the world she was talking about.
At first, I thought maybe she was telling me that I tried too hard. This frustrated me, because I had been called a "try hard" and "over achiever" many times, and wondered why everyone always encouraged you to do your best until you actually did, and then they objected to it.
But my mother hadn't been saying that at all. What she was trying to get across to me, I soon found out, was that I was too hard on myself when I failed. I had nearly boundless grace for others and saved none of it for myself.
The realization truly struck me after I looked through a journal entry addressed to myself after making a big mistake. Reading those words written on the paper, cruel and awful antagonizing words I had written against my own self, almost brought me to tears.
That was certainly the first conviction point, but then I started overthinking and trying to figure out just how in the heck I was supposed to fix being a perfectionist.
Oh, the irony.
I literally tried to figure out how to fix being a perfectionist. My perfectionistic mind worked that way. When it recognized a problem, it immediately set to work on fixing it.
I felt like I was having an identity crisis, and coming to recognize that my perfectionism was part of me was difficult to accept. I didn't want it, but I was glad that it had finally been brought to my attention at the very least.
If you're not a perfectionist, you may not resonate with this article at all. But if you feel like maybe you're a bit perfectionistic as well, maybe this well help you in some way.
What's so wrong with being a perfectionist?
First of all, you will never ever see yourself as good enough. Everything you do will seem mediocre at best if that. You will work harder than lots of people, but still, never feel as satisfied with your work as they are with their own.
When you hurt, sometimes it's harder to open up because once you've allowed your perfectionist mind to settle in, you begin to feel as though everyone else expects you to be perfect, too.
And therefore, many times you don't reach out for help, you never let anyone see you cry, you hide all your struggles behind your mask of whatever you perceive as perfect. You feel alone. You tend to compare your life to what others' lives appear to be and wonder why you aren't as good as you want to be.
Let me tell you from experience: that's rough. Listen to me, love. That's no way to live, and you have to fight it. There's no way to truly fix being a perfectionist, and that's okay because it's part of who you are.
But it's not okay to allow that idea of perfect to loom over your head every day of your life. You can't be perfect. I know you probably understand this consciously, but your subconscious mind may not, and you have to try really hard to cut yourself some slack. Try on some grace for size. Easier said than done, but I promise you'll feel better.
How can you fight your own perfectionistic mind?
Embrace your brokenness. For me, this has been the greatest weapon against my perfectionism. We are all broken, and it's the broken pieces that make us individuals, that give us our personalities and identities and shape us into who we are.
If we embrace our brokenness and look at the beauty that can come from our scars and flaws, we won't worry so much about how we are far from perfect. Perfect would be boring.
Remind yourself of that. Write notes to yourself, stick them on your bathroom mirror. Write things like grace and beautifully broken and loved. You can create a positive mindset out of a perfectionist's mind. I still have a long ways to go, but with lots of help from Jesus and some focus on giving myself as much grace as I would give my loved ones, I am making progress.
My mother sent me to college with a necklace that represented beautifully broken people. It's from Bryan Anthony's if you want to check it out. Anyways, It's a beautiful necklace that looks like broken pieces put together. Keywords here: beautiful and broken. You can be both.
You are both. I wear this necklace every day to try to remember to breathe and to give myself some grace. Stop comparing yourself to other people and pretending that they're perfect.
Stop expecting yourself to be perfect. And, maybe most importantly, stop thinking that everyone else expects you to be perfect because they don't. We're all just doing the best we can. Hang in there, fellow perfectionists.
There's never anything wrong with trying hard, but you are the only one who can take a stand against your perfectionism and say; I know you're a part of me, but you are not going to take all of me.