We all set expectations for ourselves. Some expect to spend their days in their parents’ basement playing video games at the age of forty. Some expect to get a decent job, buy a house, and raise a family. Others strive to graduate high school with honors, and attend college at Harvard, and write a book, and be the CEO of a tech company, and become the president of the United States, and invent the best thing since sliced bread, and get a six pack, and…
Yeah, I think you get the point.
Perfectionism can be both a blessing and a curse. Those who identify as perfectionists know this all too well. On one hand, it has the power to push you to your limits, allowing you to accomplish phenomenal things! On the other, it has the power to push you to your limits, until one day, you break.
What is perfectionism? By my definition, it is a psychological state of being, a core aspect of personality, driving an individual to pursue immensely ambitious goals with expectations of achieving them flawlessly. Without doing so, the individual who possesses such a trait will inevitably drown in an ocean of self-criticism and degradation.
That’s pretty much a fancy way of saying “an uptight overachiever.”
Imagine checking your math assignment twice because—oh my God—what if you miss a problem!? Imagine writing a paragraph to answer a question (that only needs one sentence) because *gasp!* what if you exclude critical information!? Imagine staying up until 2:30 A.M. trying to finish an assignment early for extra credit in a class you have an A+ in because you must have as many points as possible.
Pfffft! Nah… Couldn’t be me…
Perfectionism doesn’t care about your mental or physical well-being. Perfectionism doesn’t care about how unattainable, unsustainable, or unimportant an outcome is in the grand scheme of your life. The one and only thing that perfectionism values is, well… perfection.
In fact, it demands perfection, forcing you to sacrifice your sleep, to worry and stress about nothing, to punish yourself because you accidentally bought light blue frosting instead of light teal frosting and now your child’s mermaid birthday party is ruined!
Needless to say, if you are a perfectionist, you have incredibly, sometimes unrealistically high standards. For this reason, you are more than likely afraid of failing, and will inevitably do so as a result of the expectations that you develop.
As a perfectionist, I believe it’s important to realize our limits, to take a step back and evaluate the expectations we impose upon ourselves. While high standards are something to take pride in, it wouldn’t hurt to be more gracious with yourself. Trust me; you won’t die because you failed at something, no matter how much you’ve convinced yourself otherwise. So, next time you fail (face it, you will) take a deep breath, hit the heavy bag with a burning, passionate fury inside your chest, and then try again!