We Need To Give Ourselves Permission To Do An "OK" Job
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For chronic perfectionists, this may be a difficult pill to swallow, but hear me out. I'm 24 years old, and I recently was diagnosed with ADHD, specifically the inattentive type. I managed to go so long without getting diagnosed because of my preoccupation with doing well in school, and at times, this bordered on perfectionism.

Any sliver of negative criticism, and I would go home and cry about it later, guaranteed. It's a bit embarrassing to think about it now, but with my recent diagnosis, I now know that this extreme reaction was because of something called Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, which often accompanies ADHD.

This constant search for approval via my schoolwork and creative writing was how I built my self-esteem, but I wasn't doing myself any favors.

Having relied on the external validation of teachers and classmates for so long, I only felt good about myself if I was doing well in school. Any attempts at constructive criticism sent me into a spiral of feeling terrible about myself. Relying on their assessments of my schoolwork to determine my worth made my self-esteem out of my control.

I felt like I couldn't give myself a break without consequently suffering emotionally, and this inevitably led to a serious case of burnout.

After moving in with my boyfriend and transferring from community college to a four-year university, the number of drastic life changes I experienced at once made me realize I couldn't sustain that level of preoccupation with school. I had to work more hours to pay for groceries and car repairs, and I had to learn how to keep a house.

I was an adult.

I knew that if I continued like that, eventually, I would run myself into the ground. And I did.

As I chased the elusive concept of perfection, I was worn down more and more with each assignment until eventually, my work suffered for it. I no longer had the energy to do even mediocre work, much less "perfect" work, and it was difficult to accept that.

I had to learn to look at myself differently and to stop being defined by my grades. The best way I've found to evaluate self-worth is to look at how you treat others and how you treat yourself.

Are you respectful, empathetic and compassionate towards those around you?

Do you stop negative self-talk before it gets out of hand?

Do you make sure you're engaging in self-care?

These are the things that we can control, and while they may not be easy, treating yourself and others with kindness is the key to a worthwhile life.

If I had realized earlier the only approval that I needed was my own, I could have avoided so many sleepless, tearful nights. Unfortunately, this is something I'm still grappling with. You can't change a lifetime of habits overnight, and maybe it's something I will struggle with forever, but regardless, I know now that self-worth shouldn't be tied to performance at school or work.

Getting bad grades doesn't make someone a bad person, and just because I sing poorly, does not mean I'm a terrible human being.

I've had to tell myself 100 versions of that phrase, and I can't always bring myself to believe it completely, but I'll keep saying it until I do. I'll keep turning in OK work, and I'll keep singing off-key because anything worth doing is worth doing badly.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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