I hear that voice in my head that says, “You need to be perfect.”
“You need to get a job,” you said in my head.
“Okay then. How do I get a job?” I asked myself.
You continued, “Bug them. Every second. Every day. Don’t leave them alone. Keep going back, and keep asking them so that, sooner or later, they’ll have to give you the job.”
I thought, “Alright then.”
What you ask isn’t literal, and we both know it. I don’t think anyone expected me to camp out in front of the place of my future employment, spend every moment waking or otherwise stalking out the lobby. That would be insane, of course.
Even though nothing more is said, I continue to hear that voice in my mind. I hear it in the moments when I’m sitting at home, playing video games. I hear it when I’m socializing. I hear it every time I laugh at some stupid, meaningless thing on TV. I hear it, and it says, “Every second. Every day.”
I’m not working. I’m not doing enough. If I was working harder, things would be different, wouldn’t they? If I could just do what you ask, then I’d be in a better place right now. But, no, I can’t. I get stressed, I get tired, I need to relax. And for that, I’m a failure. For that, I will never, ever, be enough.
I need to be perfect.
And I hear that voice in every aspect of my life.
When it comes to friends, I’m never socializing enough. I should talk more, I should smile more, I should be more open, but not too open. That’s awkward. “No, don’t share that, now they hate you.” “No, what are you doing? What are you saying?” “God, why can’t you just be smooth and intelligent and confident? What’s wrong with you?” When it comes to information, I need to be the one who knows everything. When it comes to literature, I’m never reading enough, and what I am reading isn’t intelligent enough. When it comes to work, I’m never working quite as hard as I could be.
I need to be perfect.
And sometimes I think it has nothing to do with perfection at all. Sometimes I think it’s more about pain; sometimes I think I’m not happy unless I’m miserable. I can never just accept where I am right now, I need to constantly be working, doing, and punishing myself. But punishing myself for what? I need to be punishing myself because you told me that that’s the right way to do things. That’s how one becomes perfect.
But I shouldn’t blame you, should I? You only put the idea in my head; I did the rest of the work. When you said, “Do more!” I continued and told myself, “Because you aren’t enough.”
And everyone else, they see someone who has it all together. They think I’m working hard, I’m moving forward, I have goals, I have dreams. They don’t see me at night when I’m a mess of smeared make-up and tears, barely able to speak because I’m crushed by the weight of knowing that I’m not doing enough, that I’m not enough, and that I’ll never be enough.
I need to be perfect. But I can never be perfect. And it’s the pursuit of perfection that ruins me, really.
We, perfectionists, know that perfection isn’t possible, but it still haunts us. It’s still there, just out of reach, taunting us with its lack of existence. I don’t think any of us really hope to achieve it. We just get as close to it as possible.
In some ways, perfection is our version of enlightenment. We are constantly striving for it, constantly hoping to reach it someday. Except, instead of bettering ourselves, we’re driving ourselves further off the edge.
What if we could just be? What if we could just live in the moment and accept who we are? What if we could acknowledge that we’re enough even if we aren’t perfect?
I have moments where I feel that way. I have elusive little blips in the fabric of reality, sitting in the back of a dark car at nightfall and thinking blissful, tired thoughts of, “Maybe it’s enough” “Maybe I can accept this.” In those moments, I imagine my future and it’s beautifully imperfect.
And then the voice crashes in on me again, “Every second. Every day. You need to be perfect.”
But we don’t need to be perfect and we need to accept it. Nobody else expects us to be perfect. Everybody else looks at us thinking, “Wow, why don’t I have my life together the way they do?” Everybody else sees us in everything that we perceive to be our awkwardness and our flaws, and they don’t see the way we do—they aren’t as hard on us as we are.
It is the perfectionist and the perfectionist alone that expects to be perfect. Everyone else in the world expects us to have our flaws. And we know this but knowing and accepting are two different things. One is easy to do and one is easy to give up on. It takes years and practice, but it’s not impossible.
It’s a matter of changing the way we think. It’s a matter of challenging that voice inside our head, of turning around and saying, “No. You’re wrong. I am enough, just as I am.” It’s a matter of making allowances for who we are—the moments of weakness. The moments of stress and exhaustion and binge-watching mindless TV shows that add nothing to our life but enjoyment. But those moments are fine too and are necessary for the sake of our mental health.
I don’t need to be perfect, but I know that. Now, all I need to do is accept it.
Author: Ciara Hall
Image: Ciara Cremashi/ Flickr
Editor: Angel Lebailly
Copy & Social editor: Sara Kärpänen