Are you a perfectionist?
Is perfectionism ruling (and ruining) your life?
I often feel like a fraud.
Translation: I often feel like I am living part of my life as me, the real me, and other times, I feel like I am living my life through someone I barely recognise; a false sense of self.
I often feel as though I am living a double life, one which is filled with light and love, joy, freedom, forgiveness, peace of mind and heart, surrender; the other, darkness, negativity, resistance and confinement.
For as long as I can remember I have been a perfectionist.
I’ve always worried about how I look, both physically and emotionally; I’ve sent myself into seemingly endless dizzy spells from stress and overwhelm about how people perceive me, what they might or might not be saying about me (did somebody say narcissistic?), and if I am making the right impression with little to no flaws; perfectionism.
I remember all throughout my teenage years and early twenties spending so much time in my bedroom or the bathroom getting ready to go out, even if I was simply ducking up to the grocery store to buy an apple or pack of gum.
I had to make sure my hair was neat and tidy, and my make-up needed to be brushed onto my face like a china doll. Of course there was a step-by-step routine I carried out for that: first there was the facial moisturiser, then whilst that was drying I would curl my eyelashes, brush my eyebrow to keep those scraggly hairs in check, then came the foundation application and so on; I was meticulous about my presentation; perfectionism.
My perfectionism stretched well beyond physical and emotional attributes though and trickled into the smallest or most trivial of things in my life like making sure all the cushions on the couch were symmetrical, or facing the right side up; ensuring the chairs had been pushed under the table or desk, doona cover fluffed adequately with minimal crinkles on top, and so on; perfectionism.
I remember when I was introduced to someone new or was meeting someone for the first time; I was so fixated on how I came across and how I looked that I was in a constant state of self-doubt and self-scrutiny, analyzing my every word, motion and action; perfectionism.
This perfectionism was engrained in me for such a long time that it has spilt over into my present life and has, in some ways, become part of my daily routine like brushing my teeth or having a shower too (yep, they too have a routine).
When I sit down to start writing a blog post, the very first thing I do upon opening Word is ensuring the font is set to my favourite: ‘Font check: Arial, point 12?’; it stresses me out otherwise and I somewhat strangely feel as though my writing won’t be as creative or ‘up to standard’ if it’s anything else.
‘Have I made my bed properly, fluffed my doona and ironed out any crinkles?’
‘Are my desk chairs pushed in correctly?’
‘Is my make-up just right? No mascara clumps or splotches on my face?’
‘Are the toaster and kettle on the kitchen bench sitting symmetrical with the wall?’
Oh hello perfectionism, there you are again, you cheeky little shit.
Excuse the profanity, it’s not really my thing, and not something I wish to be a focal point of my writing as there are many other creative ways to express feelings and emotions, however, for the purpose of this topic, let it be said again…
I’m sick and tired of feeling like everything has to be perfect, look a certain way, feel a certain way or be viewed in a certain light.
Perfectionism is a burden and can become such a pain in the backside.
It’s soul sucking. Energy draining. Time wasting.
The irony with perfectionism and trying to portray the ‘perfect’ image for the greater part of my life is that I felt far from it, like I had swung well past the other end of the pendulum beyond return.
Nothing in my life felt perfect.
+ I hated the skin I was in
+ I detested my body
+ I felt hopelessly alone all the time
+ I never felt like I was good enough or smart enough or pretty enough
+ I felt like a failure and disappointment a lot of the time
+ I felt anything but confident and capable
+ I felt like my perfectly painted on face was merely covering all of my inner flaws
+ I felt unworthy of love and help
Perhaps the saddest of all these lows is that nobody knew I felt like that. Nobody knew just how far from perfect I felt.
To the outside world, close friends and family included, most people thought I had it all together.
But I didn’t.
Friends would tell me how confident they thought I was, compliment me on how I pretty I was or tell me how blessed I must feel to have my looks; sing my praises telling me how amazing I must have felt performing drama monologues without fear or doubt; they would say things like ‘you’re always so happy, nothing seems to get you down.’
On the inside I was drowning.
I wanted to scream and let the words rumble out of me like a freight train, but my painful perfectionism kept me quiet, hushing me like a crying baby.
Everything was getting me down and I certainly didn’t feel as though I embodied any of those things, at least not majority of the time.
How could they have possibly known I was struggling and suffering on the inside, all the time? How could they have known that I often felt as though my skin was crawling with disgust and distain so badly that I wanted to rip it off and disappear forever?
My perfectionism allowed me to create a perception, a very well executed one at that, one in which people would think I had it all together, because at the time, the idea or notion of showing people the real me and baring all my ugly truths, vulnerabilities and flaws to everyone, where they could pull me apart piece by piece, was all too much to bare back then.
My perfectionism and the perception I created along with it hid the real me and only prolonged the pain I felt, for years and years.
Perfectionism comes from a feeling a fear; fear that we aren’t good enough, worthy enough, smart or skinny enough; fear that we don’t have all our shit together, or heaven for bid, haven’t yet figured out what we want to do with our life; fear of failing; fear of being alone or viewed as different; fear that we won’t measure up or stack up against everyone else in our life who we deem to be ‘perfect.’
There’s no such thing as perfect.
It took me a very long time to realise that, but now that I have, I feel free.
I’m not perfect and I don’t want to be.
The idea (aka fable) that us human beings can be absolutely perfect, have all our ducks in a row, be happy 100% of the time, not place one foot wrong or make one mistake, look like we just stepped out of a magazine, or only eat broccoli and egg whites, quite frankly scares the shit out of me and I don’t want to imagine a world like that.
It is our flaws that bind and bond us. It is our vulnerabilities that make us connect and communicate; our humble truths and fallacies make us human.
It is our doubts, fears and shortcomings that keep the blood pumping through our veins and strangely enough, provide solace.
I am flawed right down to the bone.
My veins are covered in mistakes. My heart has bled from the lies I’ve told and people I’ve hurt over the years. My body has weathered stretch marks and cellulite from eating one too many cupcakes, an entire bag of chips or chocolate block instead of the aforementioned broccoli and egg whites. My eyes will tell you tales of sorrow and regret, of pain and suffering; the wrinkles etched under my eyes are partly made up from all the tears I have cried, and probably from partying too hard in my younger years.
But do I care? No, not anymore.
Flaws aren’t fatal. They are our lifeblood.
Who said being flawed is a bad thing? Who said we have to be ‘perfect’ or can’t make a mistake or say the ‘wrong’ thing from time to time?
We’ve grown up labeling anything and everything in our lives as good or bad, happy or sad, light or dark, shameless or shameful and perfect or imperfect.
So much so, that when we do find ourselves ‘colouring outside of the lines’ by saying whatever the heck we want to say, abandoning our responsibilities or menial tasks, being a little bit rebellious or wild-child like, it comes hand in hand with a huge bag of guilt.
I’m here to say, guilt be gone. Perfectionism no more.
+ Eat the fucking cupcake if you really want it (maybe just not every day of course)
+ Go out, let your hair down and dance until 4 in the morning
+ Say something outrageous or do something rebellious simply because it feels good to do so
+ Go out with your hair messy, your eyelashes uncurled, your lips dry; heck, go out without putting a bra or underwear on (just be careful if it’s a windy day)
+ Watch back-to-back episodes of your favourite TV show (currently ‘Suits’ at the moment for me) one night with a glass of wine instead of reading a personal development book with a glass of water, if that’s what you’re really craving
+ Swear out loud (or in a blog post like me)
+ Tell someone what you really think, yep, even if it’s a little ugly
+ Throw out the rulebook, break the rules and colour outside of the lines for once!
Life is too damn short to stress out over feeling guilty or trying to perfect perfectionism.
Show up in the world as you, the real you, ‘flaws’ and all, with your perfect imperfections, messy hair and improper words.
Once more for good measure:
How does perfectionism show up in your life? What does it look and feel like for you?