I have always been a classic example of a type-A perfectionist. Often this is seen as a positive thing as a means to achieve ambitious goals. On the surface, many perfectionists appear to have their life together and priorities straight. Although perfectionism can be positive, this is so far from the truth. If I am not actively participating in a project or task, my mind is a constant and inescapable whirlwind of planning my next move, even during my "downtime." For me, things tend to appear as either a massive success or failure, it is hard to see life in shades of gray. As a result being consumed by unattainable standards, it can become an obsession that leaves little room for happiness in the moment.
At a young age, this trait would manifest itself through redoing simple assignments multiple times because the results were not up to par with the standards I set for myself. For example, I'd practice back-handsprings for competitive cheerleading at home until I physically could not do them anymore. In late high school, my perfectionism became geared towards making perfect grades during junior and senior year, getting into the right school and basically planning out the rest of my life. In college, this has moved to making Dean's list every semester, over-managing group projects and planning out every possible scenario in my head of what will happen after graduation in a two short semesters constantly.
Perfectionism shows itself in many forms. Perfectionism is laughing at those who believe giving 100 percent is always enough. Perfectionism is sleepless nights after an insignificant failure. Perfectionism is suddenly becoming passionate and driven about a plethora of subjects only to lose the motivation just as quickly. Perfectionism is not being able to start a project until every detail of it is analyzed. Perfectionism is spending an unnecessary amount of time of one task. Perfectionism is distress over gaining 5 pounds. Perfectionism is finding it hard to forgive or repair relationships once they have been tarnished. Perfectionism is endless to-do lists because everything is important and needs done now. Perfectionism is an "all-or-nothing mentality." Perfectionism is not always rational, but it is there.
Although this trait has helped me achieve many of my goals and make good grades, there have been several instances where it has become a problem. I have accepted that perfectionism is a part of my personality. It is not always a problem for me, but there is a fine line between driven and unhealthy. At times, my thoughts become so clouded with things I want to do in the future that I can't focus on the present or the task at hand. Over practicing my tumbling led to a shoulder injury that still affects me today.
Sometimes perfectionism can lead to less than perfect outcomes. It can lead to becoming overwhelmed, procrastination, being so caught up in the pursuit of "perfectionism" that working efficiently and productively becomes a problem and so much more. Since entering college, this is something I have been working on. For me, the most effective ways to do this have been recognizing the differences between healthy and neurotic perfection, striving for an 80/20 lifestyle and making a greater effort to focus on the people and things that make me the happiest. Doing this has really helped me to begin to see life and people in shades of gray. Perfectionism does not equate to perfect and that's okay.