Friday, 14 October 2016

On Perfectionsim

It happened. It was inevitable that it would and it finally did. I missed a day of blogtober.

I am sorry that I missed a day, but I'm not entirely surprised and, whilst I was thinking it over this morning when I woke up and remembered I hadn't posted anything, it got me thinking about perfectionism.

I am a perfectionist, but I don't think it is out of any desire to actually get things 'perfect'. I'm very lucky in that I was a naturally bright child - I never really had to work too hard through school and college in order to get high grades. I wasn't one of those students who didn't put any effort in a sailed through, don't get me wrong. I revised really hard for my geography and history GCSE's (my weakest subjects where much of the test was based on facts and figures) and I got my legs chopped from underneath me when I got a D in my first AS politics exam (I naively thought that performing well in discussion in class, when I had others around me to help stimulate my ideas, was as good as knowing the information myself) so I revised extremely hard for my retakes.

I think I am a perfectionist because I have been told that I am good at things, so I don't want to let others down. I act like a perfectionist because I 'should be perfect', rather than because I think I am or because I particularly want to be. This can mean that when I think I've done a task to a high enough level I'll stop. It won't necessarily be the perfect end-result, but it will be 'good enough' to make them (whoever I'm performing the task for) think I am good at it. This is my perfectionism struggle - because if I'm unable to get a task to a certain level I tend to shut down. I get angry and upset at myself. I think I've failed. My own expectations of what I can do, and the expectations of others around me, really impact on my emotions and feelings of self-worth. I also struggle with the inevitability of failure and it can sometimes stop me from doing things. For example, I knew that I would fail when I came to completing my New Years resolution of running 365 miles this year, so I barely started.

However, my coping strategy for this isn't always the best. I can be very 'brush-off-ish' of my failures, presenting my internal disappointment as a kind of blase rudeness (at best) or anger (at worst).

This is something I've been working on a lot over the past few years, particularly during my time at uni when I happily sat in the middle of the pack for most of my time - surrounded by people who were significantly more intelligent than me in a myriad of ways. It helped me to understand that my perfectionism didn't have to be about being the best of everyone or, more importantly, being the best FOR everyone, it could just be about being the best for me,

This means that my 'best' can change day-in, day-out. It means I can give myself mental-health days when I need them, knowing that my 'best' on that day will be getting up, going to work, and getting an early night. It also means that I can push myself when I know I'm just being lazy and it will spur me to make the most of my time, getting up, going to work, coming home, writing a blog post, applying for an internship, reading a book.

I don't know if any of that made sense, but what I'm trying to say is this:

Don't let the thought of failure stop you from trying.

Don't let other people's expectations control your life.

Your expectations for yourself don't need to be constant. You can change them daily.

 What are your thoughts on perfectionism? Do you struggle with it in the same way as me? Or do you have different experiences? Let me know on twitter @vickimaitland or in the comments.

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