I’m a perfectionist.
This comes out in many ways, which are not limited to my eating disorder. My perfectionistic tendencies also make themselves known in school. It comes to the point sometimes where I am so afraid of not meeting my “standards” that even the thought of doing school makes me physically ill. This causes me to procrastinate until the very last minute, which in turn makes me stress out more, which then leads to me beating myself up because now not only will I not be “perfect” but I’m also lazy and will probably never accomplish anything. It’s a vicious cycle.
The irony of it is that it is because of perfectionism that I don’t accomplish anything. I’m not lazy (okay, maybe just a little bit); I’m an overachiever. I make to-do lists that are two pages long and then never even get one thing marked off. I feel so overwhelmed (and rightly so) that I can’t even make myself begin.
And then there’s the comparison game. It’s an easy game to play: just find one or more people who are doing more than you and beat yourself up over that fact. I’ll see girls in real life and online who are taking harder classes than me, who are the same age but a grade ahead, who have already been accepted to their dream college. And I’m homeschooled…I can’t imagine how intense the comparison game must get when you have hundreds of people to play with!
And yet, here I am, doing my schoolwork, feeling incompetent and like a complete failure. I am behind in school, yes. I feel horrible for even saying that but I am. Because I went to a treatment center for a mental illness which essentially saved my life. But I still feel guilty. I should have managed to stay on top of school and be at a residential treatment center, even though they only had one full hour specially dedicated to schoolwork.
This perfectionism, this comparison game is getting me nowhere. I realize this but at the same time, what can I do about it? I can’t just STOP being a perfectionist. Right?
No, I can’t. But I can choose to continue to write a paper even when I feel it’s not “good enough.” I can choose to become aware when I’m playing the comparison game and actively turn my mind to other things. Does that mean that I won’t work hard? Again, no it does not. It means I will start a project and complete it without sacrificing my physical, mental, or emotional health in the process. If I have to stay up all night, miss a snack, or say no to an outing with friends that I haven’t seen in a long time, it’s not worth it and I need to take a time out and reevaluate what’s important in that moment. It’s a balancing act and at the moment, I’m teetering on the edge.
Here’s a reminder for myself and any readers who may also be struggling perfectionists: It’s okay to put your health before school. Yes, it really is. If you’re sleep deprived, it’s not worth it. If you’re crying because you feel so overwhelmed, it’s not worth it. If in general, you feel like shit, it’s not worth it. You don’t know what other people’s lives look like. They might be at a place where the can take 5 AP while still managing to have a social life, be in every club, etc, etc. Or they may be a perfectionist too, trying to do everything. The point is, you know what’s best for you so focus on that.
Here’s to a school year WITHOUT perfectionism.
-Do you struggle with perfection when it comes to schoolwork?
-Are you guilty of the “comparison game?”
-What are you most excited about this school year?<Doing school on the front porch in my pajamas while singing "Shake it Off." I'm kidding…kind of.