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The Prison of Perfectionism

Updated: Mar 30, 2023

For as long as I can remember, I have always been an overthinking perfectionist. Like I was the type of child who would spend way too long on a single coloring page because I cannot risk coloring outside of the lines. I'm not entirely sure where this need to get everything right- preferably on the first try- came from, but the older I've gotten the more I've seen it. College assignments, work projects, or even just getting ready to go out has called my perfectionism tendencies into play.

Which is fine, sometimes it's important to be extremely careful and 'perfectionistic' in life. I would hope most surgeons or firefighters or other people with life & death careers strived to perform their job perfectly, or nearly perfectly. We all want to succeed and do our work well.

However, where I've noticed the problem of perfectionism comes into play is when this need to be successful, right and 'perfect' comes into our other areas of life. Like our relationships, appearance, friend groups, even our home decor.

Update: Nobody is perfect.

We just aren't. (Except for dogs, obviously).

Now, most people don't expect others to be perfect. Traditionally, we are very lenient towards our loved ones, coworkers and even strangers when they make a mistake. It's far more common to see people going out of their way to reassure someone when they've messed up, over berating them. Unfortunately, we don't give ourselves the same grace. Most people I know react to their own mistakes like it's the end of the world. Something simple that others probably don't even remember happening tend to haunt us late at night as we unpack our day. And our response? To expect better, want to do better, and be ashamed or embarrassed of our mistakes. No matter how small they may be.

So, people become perfectionists. They spend hours and hours on getting one thing right and perfect before spending hours and hours on another thing to make sure it's right and perfect. And even after all that intentional effort to ensure only the highest quality from ourselves- we still manage to find flaws in the end result. It's a whole lot of stress and a whole lot of fear that ends up trapping us in this hellish, circular cycle that rotates between extreme anxiety then disappointment. All because we believe perfecting a usually simple thing will make us feel adequate and enough.

The perfectionism outbreak has seemed to surge during the past few years, and part of that is due to social media. Almost everything we see on social media is showing other people living their best lives, their 'perfect lives', where they seem 'perfectly happy' all the time. Logically, we tell ourselves that those pictures and posts aren't true, and that social media apps tend to romanticize life. And yet, nearly everyone I know feels that tug of discontent and inadequacy after scrolling through apps like Instagram or Snapchat stories or TikTok, as we compare other's glamorized 'perfect moments' to our fully real, imperfect lives.

And that's just insane, when you really stop to think about it. We're people, we're going to mess up and err practically every day. It's part of the human condition. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It's okay for us to make mistakes and have moments or days that are definitely less than perfect.

Because when it comes down to it, all that matters is that you're doing your best, no matter how imperfect it may feel. Your imperfect best is perfectly enough.

Love y'all!

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