Perfectionism is defined as the need to be or appear to be perfect, or even to believe that it’s possible to achieve perfection. Sounds unattainable when you speak it out loud, but too often I found myself falling into the trap of needing to be perfect in order to achieve what I thought was normal or good enough to be around my inner circle or just society in general. For far too long, perfectionism was the driving force to my anxiety healing and I went through unholy hell trying to find some secret formula that was going to serve as the cure to what I thought was the ideal version of normalcy. It wasn’t until I gave the idea up of being perfect that I started to find some of the relief I was doing so desperately looking for. This wasn’t something that happened overnight. It was a series of steps that got me to the path of understanding perfectionism.
1. Setbacks don’t erase your progress.
Anxiety would give me little periods of reprieve especially during a break through in therapy where I discussed something that was bothering me and I thought that I freed myself by speaking about it and learning tools to manage. However, another trigger would happen and I’d get knocked on my head again and think I would have to start from zero. Once I realized that bad days can come and go just as easily, it became easier to climb the ebbs and flows of daily life and not live in the shame that came with not handling everything the way I thought I or people thought I should. Healing was never linear and I am so glad to be able to accept that and live my life with the needed grace that I deserve.
2. Celebrate the positive as much as you evaluate the negative.
With any sort of mental illness or difficulty, it’s easy to get lost in what you could do better. Sometimes I find myself ruminating on the things I can do better or how I can apply the coping skills I’ve learned in a more effective way. While the need to practice these skills are important, they also aren’t the entire journey’s purpose and can be more hurtful than helpful. I have learned over time and sometimes still in real time to celebrate the progress and positive change that comes with the ebbs and flows of the healing journey. I can learn the skills as I go and practice them, but it makes it harder to do that if I’m consistently only noticing the mistakes and not celebrating the wins that come along too.
3. There is no end, there’s just a possibility of a full life to live.
When I began therapy in 2020, I went into it with the same attitude I would go into healing a physical sickness. I do all the things I’m told to do and I’ll feel back to normal again. I spent a lot of time looking for the proverbial dragon to slay and not realizing that there was no actual finish line. There was just the ability to just live life experiencing a full spectrum of emotions and going through them with grace and compassion rather than shame and comparison.
None of the above is an easy feat sometimes. Sometimes, it’s still my knee jerk reaction to “should” myself but I am proud to be a recovering perfectionist and someone who can accept life as it comes with a fuller set of coping skills and acceptance of myself along the way.
All of this to say that there is hope. Too often our own minds can be our worst enemies but if we are kind, compassionate and understanding to ourselves then life can feel that much lighter along the way.