My last day before leaving for college was emotional, chaotic, and hectic, to say the least. There were a couple of things I didn’t get done, one of which was my laundry. My mom offered to do my load of laundry, which settled the anxiety in me. When I went home for the weekend a few weeks ago, I looked in my closet and noticed that my regular capris were mixed with my yoga capris and my jeans were mixed with my sweats.
To an ordinary person, this probably would’ve been completely fine and acceptable. There would’ve been nothing wrong. To the perfectionist in me, though, it threw me off and made me think it was entirely wrong.
As I reorganized my closet, I started thinking about how much of a perfectionist I am and the degree to which it entirely controls my thinking, actions, and day-to-day mentality. For those who aren’t perfectionists, it can be hard to understand the stress, anxiety, and headache that sometimes come with such thinking.
I know that they say “nothing is perfect”, but perfectionists cringe at these words and fight to prove otherwise. While we may never reach it, we spend our entire lives trying to, even if it’s merely for the sake of our sanity.
Though there are varying meanings of perfectionism, mine means that I always have to have my ducks in a row- even the slightest misplacement will throw me off. It means that everything in my room has a place. It means that there is no such thing as a “quick” assignment. I’ll spend however long it takes to make sure that all of my work is done in my best quality. It means that I go to lectures where a third of my attention is focused on writing down every single word the professor says, another third is updating my planner and making sure everything is written down, and the last third is devoted to running through this week and making sure I know my daily agendas to a T and then moving on to the next week. It means that as soon as I confirm an appointment, I grab my planner and write it down. It means that I set three alarms each morning in case I happen to miss the first one or two. It means that my mind is constantly thinking of things that I need to get done. It means that changing my minor takes about two hours because I won’t do it until I have every class planned out and know exactly when I’ll be taking each one. It means that I can’t write a pure rough draft of anything- as I write, I am constantly hitting the backspace button, rewording, and editing as I go so that what shows up on the screen is what I think is the best way of writing something. It means that I have a daily routine, and if anything throws me off, I’m thinking of how to correct it. It means that I feel guilty when I take a break from working on something productive. It means that I have tens of lists at any one time, each labeled and organized accordingly. It means that I go into panic when I lose something and stay there until I find it. It means that I’ve never missed an assignment and don’t really want to imagine what would happen if I did. It means that I strongly dislike group projects because I can’t do everything to my standards. It means that my mind is consistently racing a million miles a minute. It means that I create a lot of stress, anxiety, and pressure and it means that I feel exhausted quite a bit. It means that I drive myself crazy.
The thing is, though, I don’t know where I’d be without my constant desire to be perfect. Sure, I’d be less stressed, but somehow, it’s the ceaseless stress that motivates me most. Going through every sentence with a fine tooth comb, redoing things until they meet my ridiculous standards, and consistently juggling between ten thoughts at any given second are all painstaking processes, but it’s just how my brain operates and it’s how I work. Besides, after I overcome the mountains of stress, I’m generally happy and proud of some of the pieces and projects I create. With every assignment I do, whether it’s an inconsequential homework assignment, a lab report, an essay, or anything in between, I am as accurate, precise, and thorough as I can be. It may take hours longer than it should, but it satisfies the perfectionist in me and puts my mind at ease, making every second worth it.
At the end of it all, I don’t know how to feel about my need to be so meticulous with everything. It leads to some of my best work, but it also produces immense amounts of stress sometimes. I don’t know if the work I do is always worth the price of the stress, but for the time being, it pleases my mind, so I’ll keep it up. If that ever changes, then perhaps I’ll eventually learn to be okay with being perfectly imperfect.