Coping with Perfectionism

Don’t aim for perfection, aim for better than yesterday.

-Izey Victoria Odiase

I just realized today that I have been dealing with perfectionism. But I can not lie, I knew in the back of my mind that it is my flaw. This quote is one way I deal with it. I try to do my best for the current day. Perfectionism is not all negative. It can be a strength in some instances. For example, my introverted self has decided that I want to plan a picnic in the park with my neighbors. I know how important connection is and the last time I went to the park it was chill and I enjoyed myself. I may be an introvert, but I’m also all about good vibes. So I have to set aside some time to think about all the details to make it a successful outing. I feel like in this case striving for the best is fine.

Here are the ways perfectionism have shown it’s ugly side in my life – I become stuck because I don’t know what to do. I become anxious and do not do anything. I overthink and overanalyze the past. I judge myself harshly when I can’t reach my goals. To an outsider it may look like I know what I’m doing because I’ve mastered the “never let them see you sweat” but the reality is I could be slowly going under like I have been trapped by quicksand. For years I would not admit to being a perfectionist because if I admit it then I had to add it to the list of all my negative character traits. This thinking is the exact reason why perfectionism describes me. Only a perfectionist would feel shame about being human. Now here is one a reoccurring thought I have that feeds into my perfectionism “If I can’t be great then why bother?”.On the other hand, why not bother and learn on the way. Being able to learn as I go was a major life lesson for me that has saved me a lot of stress.

I joined a webinar about perfectionism because even though I wasn’t admitting that I am a perfectionist, I figured I could learn something – not admitting that I’m a perfectionist is even my perfectionism screaming loud because I’m thinking I’m not 100% perfectionist so I’m not it at all. Several of my post have been all about my perfectionism. When I write about how ambitious I am and how I had to learn that it’s ok not to be perfect. Those things are the part inside me that can not stand where things are not at it’s best. One reason why I was so devastated about past situations is because I came in direct contact with my human side. That part of me that makes mistakes and bad judgments. Perfectionism has controlled my life for so long, but today I can honestly say I am in recovery.

The biggest thing I did to combat perfectionism is to become vulnerable and do things that make me feel uncomfortable. Doing that has allowed me to change my negative self-talk because the problem is not that I want things a certain way – the problem is how I react to things not going a certain way. I had to learn (still learning) to accept things the way they are. Accept people the way they are. While I was out there looking for the perfect career, I could have been teaching and writing on the side a long time ago. When I finally decided to be a teacher and I was judging myself harshly for not being the best – I could have decided to developed confidence while improving my craft. The point is everything is not going to be perfect all the time. I’ve practiced ripping the metaphorical band-aid off so many times and each time it’s never as bad as I think. The situations were not perfect, but they were not the worse either. Lets not even talk about how things are amazing and crazy at the same time, I can write a whole post about that. I had to learn that sometimes situations have good and bad parts at the same time. The good doesn’t outshine the bad and the bad doesn’t overshadow the good – it is what it is.

The scariest thing for me was the thought that I may never overcome perfectionism. I judged myself harshly and felt ashamed for being a perfectionist because I would ask myself why am I still here? The truth is I am never going to overcome it, but I can cope with it. Perfectionism is a part of my thinking pattern, my personality, so it will always be there, but I don’t have to beat myself down for missing the mark. Instead, I go through life allowing myself to be vulnerable ripping the band-aid off and in the end realizing I didn’t need the band-aid in the first place. Ari Lennox a neo-soul singer has a song called New Apartment with these lyrics:

No longer afraid of the dark
‘Cause that light bill changed my heart (Said it changed)
Made a n**** act smart (Said that shit changed)

I feel this on so many levels but I can literally not afford to be afraid of failing. I cannot allow this idea that I have to be the best cause me to be nothing. We all have a gift that the world needs. We all need to share that gift. I choose to share my gift of writing and I do not allow my perfectionist side to talk me out of accomplishing that.

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