One of my most driving character traits is, quite simply, this: I’m a perfectionist.
And when I say that, I’m not saying it in the cute, proper-answer-for-an-interview sort of way. I don’t just keep working at my homework or a project until everyone else is satisfied with it—I keep working at it until my hands are bleeding, tears are streaming down my face, and everyone around me keeps telling me, “Okay, that’s good enough,” and I say, “No, it isn’t,” because it will never be. I will never be. There will always be something new, some place where I need to grow.
I hold myself to a different standard than I do for most other people. For instance, I think that curvy or large girls are beautiful—I honestly and truly do—but when it comes to me, I need to starve myself and work out until I’m physically weak or ill, and even then it isn’t enough. In my mind, I’m still not thin enough, or muscular enough, or whatever it is I’ve decided for the moment will be my personal perfection.
Also, I believe that intelligence can be measured in other ways besides systemic education or classroom grades—but, for myself, I need to have straight As, and I need to pursue a Ph.D. because I can always do better. I can always try harder.
I can always have more friends, can always do better than the person I’ve been flirting with most recently, can always work harder at my job, and can always do better with that project. I’m never satisfied. Never. I can try my hardest, work myself to the bone, and yet, it isn’t ever enough.
And I know what you’re probably thinking: Is it worth it? Should I be living my life this way when it mostly brings me misery? Well, the way that I see it, the answer is both yes and no simultaneously.
On one hand, yes—I take my perfectionism to an unhealthy place. Because sometimes, as much as I emotionally disagree with this sentiment, I logically know that I am enough.
My body is like every human body, like your body even: We are irrevocably flawed and beautiful all at once.
We are humans—and that means that we are messy, and difficult, and imperfect, but that’s alright. We don’t need to be perfect. And I do know that logically. But sometimes, I emotionally refuse to accept it, and that is where I sometimes fall short.
Sometimes, I (and every other perfectionist in this world) need to realize that we don’t have to be perfect. We only have to try our hardest and accept ourselves when we realize that that is what we have done. We need to learn to settle for our personal best.
But, at the same time, being a perfectionist is not entirely a curse. This need to push myself has helped me achieve some amazing things along the way. I force myself to do better, and that often means that I do better.
I learn, I grow, and I make myself better—and that’s awesome.
Or at least, it’s awesome when I don’t sacrifice my mental health along the way.
So, I don’t want to give up my perfectionism—not entirely. What I want to do—what I need to do, what every perfectionist like me needs to do—is find a balance.
I need to find a way to push myself and force myself to do better, while simultaneously accepting that sometimes I can only do so much.
And, truth be told, I don’t entirely know how I’m going to do that now—but I imagine that it starts with changing the way I think. It starts with forgiving myself and with allowing myself to be flawed.
Because I am flawed. We all are. And sometimes, that’s okay.
Author: Ciara Hall
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy editor: Leah Sugerman
Social editor: Cat Monkman