As long as I can remember I thought I am a perfectionist.
I liked getting things done, getting them right and getting recognized for it. I always did my homework in school and university, studied well for every exam and was the “leader” in group work.
But it got to a point where I got problems. I couldn’t hand in my assignments or homework because I thought I could have made a mistake or the assignment wasn’t good. Before an exam I was afraid that I didn’t study enough.
At this point I asked myself why I want to do everything perfectly. It’s not because I genuinely enjoy things being done perfect, but because I fear of not being good enough. I fear of failing and regretting handing in a bad assignment or getting a bad grade. Maybe it would ruin my grade average and my future.
Reality is, I have a really good bachelor’s degree and currently good grades in my master’s. There is no need to worry and be afraid. My rational mind tells me that there is no reason to worry. I should do my best and that’s it. I cannot do more than my best. I have to stop thinking that my best is not enough. Nobody can expect more of me than my best.
I switched university for my master about nine months ago and I already have sooo many stories to share with you about my experiences. Let’s start with my perfectionist classmate and let’s call her Alice. I learned a lot about myself through Alice and she probably doesn’t even know.
(A little background information: Alice got her bachelor’s degree in mathematics and she said that she pulled a lot of all-nighters to learn. Studying took a toll on her that is why she didn’t want to continue with mathematics.)
Alice is a true perfectionist. She is smart, has good grades, is good looking, travels a lot, has many friends and gets everything done perfectly in time. She is the type of person that gets homework done the day the homework is assigned (how is that even possible??). When I first met her and got to know her, she inspired me. I thought, wow how can a person be so organized, disciplined and simply dedicated? She is a good student and has a balanced private life. I thought she was all-around perfect.
I thought that I was a perfectionist but seeing her, I knew I wasn’t. I learned from her (literally, we studied for exams together) and I wanted to have her work ethic.
Seeing her in university and in private made me realize a lot of things about perfectionism. After a while I realized something.
Alice seems forced, obsessed and scared. For some people, this fear can push them to do even better (Alice). For other people, this fear is paralyzing (me). If she doesn’t immediately understand something in a lecture (which doesn’t happen so often since she is really smart), she gets nervous and can’t follow the rest of the lecture until she understood that part. Sometimes I remind her of something uni related and she gets jittery how she could forget that and immediately has to get it done. Even it is just a small unimportant thing.
Seeing her, she didn’t inspire me anymore. I was actually a little worried about her. I thought she was really simply a dedicated student. And that got me thinking.
Aren’t all perfectionist simply scared of failing and not being good enough at something in the eyes of someone. Are they scared of disappointing someone, maybe themselves? Do perfectionists have too high expectations of themselves and a distorted view of success and approval?
If yes, is striving for perfectionism even worth it?
Fact is, you are never going to be perfect.
At this point I could be writing the standard proverbs that “imperfections make you perfect” and “nobody is perfect”, but in a world where your performance is graded and evaluated, imperfections result in a worse evaluation.
The key is to find a balance between perfectionism and your imperfections.
But how to find this balance?
(Find some tips here!)
What is your opinion on perfectionism? Are you a perfectionist? If yes, why?
See you soon!
pictures by pixabay