per·fec·tion·ist | n. a person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection
When you live your life as a perfectionist, this dictionary definition of the word doesn’t quite capture your daily experience. Its wording—an act of refusal—suggests a stubborn but voluntary decision, one that the perfectionist consciously seeks.
The true perfectionist knows, however, that this definition is perfectionistic in itself, with all the unwanted features airbrushed away like the inner thighs of a swimsuit model. While their bosses circle all 5s on their quarterly evaluations and their friends rave over their spotless apartments, only the true perfectionist knows that it was done not for a refusal to settle, but out of a crippling fear of failure.
Perfectionists hear instructions and interpret them as threats. Perfectionists receive feedback and consider it a death sentence. They’re not people with high standards; they’re people who are terrified of making mistakes—that they must be perfect or will be punished. While perfectionists often benefit from others’ haloed view of their work ethic, the payoff is rarely worth it. To free perfectionists from the confining lines of their own brutal rubrics, we must stop revering them and see them for what they really are. We must redefine the perfectionist.
per·fec·tion·ist | n.
1 : those who spend more time judging through mirrors than windows, forcing them to a permanent existence of self-loathing and guilt after brownie sundaes or second-place trophies
2 : those who typically arrive at least five minutes early, apologize if they’re even a minute late, and—if a subway dare to stall and make them half an hour late—will text you a million updates along the way and show up teary-eyed and frantic for fear that they have forever offended you
3 : those who edit a simple Word Doc all weekend to get a “good job” from their boss on Monday morning—because anything less than flawless would most certainly get them fired by Tuesday and disowned by their families by Wednesday
4 : those who know exactly what it took to create that “perfect” project—the palpitations, the scalp-to-toe prickling, the feeling that you’re never going to find oxygen again and will collapse or choke or vomit right there at your desk because it’s not good enough and there’s not enough time and your last project was successful and now you have a reputation to uphold and you have to measure up or nobody will want you and then you’ll die and oh god this needs to be better
5 : those considered reliable, successful, and disciplined, so they are exploited regularly with no chance to recharge until they have drained every percent of battery and have no choice but to shut down altogether, and the inability to work a little harder, a little longer, to fine-tune that “perfect” document you expected shatters them, so they punish themselves by vowing to be more focused, more disciplined, more critical, until they are so worn down that they can no longer turn on at all
6 : those who desire perfection so strongly that when they inevitably fail to grasp it securely in their exhausted grip, they self-destruct by drenching pillows with sobs or numbing the sting of failure with a gin martini, which fuels their self-hatred because drinking is unhealthy and crying is unproductive and just pull yourself together already.