“Who are you?” is something my friends have asked me more times than I would like to admit, and if I’m being honest, it definitely triggered me the first few times. I either responded defensively or sulked into my insecurities. Sometimes both.
“What do you want?”
Seems like a simple question, but I couldn’t ever answer quickly enough. I needed time to analyze everything in my outside world to come up with an answer. I needed to compare and be validated before I would ever consider responding.
So the truth? I didn’t know the answer to either of those questions because I was constantly viewing myself from the outside in. I was a perfectionist, but not the good kind that you would mention in a job interview. No, my perfectionism was paralyzing, self-destructing, and absolutely pointless.
My friends would constantly tell me perfect isn’t real. They tried relentlessly to help me regain the clarity I had somehow lost in the black hole of comparison (they mentioned it a lot—they definitely deserve Friends of the Year Awards). They would remind me to take things slow and that I didn’t have to take on so much, but in the mind of a perfectionist, I didn’t take it as a warning sign. I heard it as someone who was doubting me and someone I had to prove wrong. In fact, that’s how I heard every piece of critical and supportive advice.
My perfectionism made me bitter, unhappy, and lonely. The constant shifting, analyzing, and comparing was destroying me and affecting every single relationship I had, while simultaneously stalling everything I was working so hard to achieve. Not to mention the constant cycle for validation and perfection was exasperating and emotionally exhausting.
A true perfectionist thinks “perfect” is all the things they don’t have or all the things they have to do. They set unrealistic expectations for themselves, which leads to mental breakdowns and burnouts.
The real kicker: They struggle with finding joy in most things. They sure play it off well, though. Fooling everyone, or at least themselves, to make them believe they’re happy. A real perfectionist analyzes themselves so much from the eyes of others they don’t have enough mental capacity left over to actually focus on themself in the areas that really count.
The word perfect is just fear in fancy shoes. It’s a false belief that if we’re not achieving greatness and exceeding expectations, we’re failing. It’s toxic.