I was really inspired to write this post after reading a book called 'Big Magic' by Elizabeth Gilbert. Without getting completely distracted and starting to write a book review, all I will say about the book is that within its pages, I found some real snippets of creative inspiration and food-for-thought. The book is stuffed with chapters that deal with different creative stories and words of wisdom, but one chapter stood out for me in particular. This chapter dealt with 'perfectionism'.
'I think perfectionism is just a high-end, haute couture version of fear'.
Those words right there slapped me in the face.
My whole life I'd announced from the roof tops that I was a perfectionist. Well, not quite from the 'rooftops' but I certainly had not shied away from the title. I have been a self-diagnosed perfectionist for as long as I can remember. It's part of me. I also know people who wear their 'perfectionist' title like a crown. But, the reality of being a perfectionist is far from glamorous.
I had never before considered perfectionism to be a version of fear. But it is fear, in complete disguise. Yes, there are other elements to perfectionism but the dominant one is fear.
I have been a perfectionist from the moment I graced Mother Earth. I let that be known to all. I am meticulous. I want a polished, near-to-perfect outcome in everything I do. I am almost always disappointed with my results.
I want always to achieve to the best of my ability. I want no mistakes in anything I do in life. I want to make sure that everything is, well, 'perfect'. But life isn't perfect! We can't just go through life with an iron in hand and iron out its creases. Because, the creases always come back.
I know I'm not perfect. I will never be perfect. No one is perfect. But my perfectionism pulses through my body nevertheless. It's how I'm programmed and up until I read 'Big Magic', I always thought my 'perfectionist' title was my friend, not my enemy.
For example, being a perfectionist meant that I scored A's/A*'s throughout school. But, being a perfectionist also meant that I was disappointed when I didn't get A*'s in my A-levels. Instead, I only got 'A's'. Of course, my disappointment is silly but I can't stop striving for the 'best'. I want an uncreased life and I live in fear of not having one.
Perfectionism is stupid. Even the word is irritating every fibre of my body as I'm typing it a million times now. But, it's still a problem that I can't shake and I don't really think I will ever be able to. I will become more conscious of the negative effects that my 'perfectionism' is having on me and my life. However, it also means that I achieve to the best of my ability every time.
The reality is - everyone wants to be perfect. We love Instagram and Pinterest because we love the idea of the 'perfect' decor, the 'perfect' hair or the 'perfect' representation of 'normality' (insert picture of a toned, slender girl with pizza, slumbered in a ball in bed - perfect!). But - perfect isn't real (and F.Y.I that girl probably didn't eat the pizza!).
Life can be great. It can be rewarding and at times, my 'perfectionism' rewards me. But, it also disappoints me as I set unreachable standards and goals daily. Everyone hates 'New Year's resolutions' because they always bite you in the arse a few months later. Perfectionism is a daily reminder that my targets are rarely met. I have that 'New Year's resolution failure' feeling all the time. But, when my near-impossible standards are rarely met - I feel sooo good. So, as you can see, it's a love/hate feature of my everyday existence.
Worst of all, however, is when my perfectionism stops me from doing things. I very rarely care about what other people think about 'me'. However, I always want things I create to succeed - I care how my creations are perceived and received. With the same hope that I hold for the true existence of Fairies and Unicorns to one day be discovered, I still hold onto my perfectionism - thinking that one day I can achieve all my 'standards'. I want everything I do to be a success. There is no room for failure in my life (says the dominating voice of 'perfectionism'). We all know how unrealistic that is. Because, we all fail. I've certainly had failures in my life, so even trying to dodge them, I fail in avoiding failing...
Perfectionism tells me not to post a picture on Instagram because no one will like it. It's not good enough, plus, the girl who just posted a selfie is better than I am.
Perfectionism tells me that I shouldn't try making a YouTube because there are better people out there than me. I won't be good enough.
I am fearful that I will fail. It's not so much self-doubt, it is the thought that I won't succeed enough or be the best version of me. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a power woman wanting to be the ultimate figure of 'perfect'. No. It's definitely different. I don't want awards showering me from every direction or gold stars to 'show off'. There's nothing worse than the smug, friendless person who NEEDS to be the best to beat everyone else. I'm not in that contest, in fact, I run away from it. I want to be the best for me. I don't even want anyone else to know about it. It only matters to me.
The 'perfectionist voice' won't shut up. It shouts at me everyday, all the time and quite frankly - ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
I am breaking up with perfectionism (who I have now decided to nickname 'Pet' because I cannot bare to type the word 'perfectionism' one more time).
I am breaking up with 'Pet'.
'Pet' is unwanted.
For years I thought that 'Pet' made me a better person. I was wrong.
'Pet' made me self-doubt. It made me clear up its 'crap'. It made me cry. It made me set impossible standards of myself. 'Pet never left me alone. It made me stressed. 'Pet' definitely increased my already intense levels of anxiety. Plus, 'Pet' has definitely stopped me in the past from doing what I want to do because 'I won't be good enough or I think there is someone better suited for the job'.
Plus, I suppose 'Pet' made me write this post. (Perhaps I will thank it only for that).
But, gather round..'Pet' is no more. That's right - I wash my hands of you, 'PET'! I've already started making changes. Whenever I hear the voice of 'Pet' coming home, I tell it to leave. I will always do my best, I don't need 'Pet' yelling at me all the time. I can live without its negative side-effects.
Will I be successful in kicking 'Pet' out? Probably not. But, I will make sure that it doesn't stop me anymore. Elizabeth Gilbert, bless you and your words - I hate 'Pet' and you made me realise just how bad my allergy was.
PS: To make a point, I didn't use any filters or edits on the photo above that was taken in America. Yes, this was hard for me. I wanted the picture to be 'perfect'. But, it's unfiltered and real. Take that, 'Pet', I'm a free woman....*itching to edit the already beautiful picture....*