It’s no secret: I’m a perfectionist. Well, recovering perfectionist (or slightly neurotic…it does seem that way at times). I’m trying to accept the fact that perfection is a myth; it simply doesn’t exist and is therefore unattainable. So why do I keep trying to achieve it in every aspect of my life? Why am I setting high expectations for myself and others? Ugh. It’s clearly frustrating and it drives me nuts.
I’ve always had high expectations for myself, wanting to be a perfect student, a perfect athlete (which, I assure you, I never was, and couldn’t be now if I tried!), a perfect role model, a perfect big sister, a perfect daughter….perfect all around! I didn’t allow myself to fail at anything and would berate myself for the slightest mistake. Getting a “B” on a high school paper was the end of the world. Missing a musical rehearsal due to illness was treacherous. Turning down a position on student government….unthinkable. I felt like I needed to do it all, right now, perfectly.
I wasn’t the only victim of my high standards. I applied them to every relationship I was in: family, friends and romantic relationships. I expected that my friends would drop everything in the blink of an eye for me, that my family was “picture perfect,” that my high school boyfriend was, in fact, Prince Charming on a white horse, shining armor and all. Boy, did I need a reality check. I put the people I loved up on the tallest pedestal, and when they fell, our relationship shattered. I kept score, thinking that if some small action of mine wasn’t reciprocated immediately, the friendship was ruined. I thought that everyone was holding themselves to the “perfect” standard, just like me.
By senior year of high school, my high expectations all came crashing down. I struggled with depression and self-loathing. I cut myself off from the people I loved, convincing myself that they didn’t care. My friends assumed the same, and left one by one. Once I began making mistakes, especially academically, I truly believed that there was no point in trying harder. One mistake was the end for me.
Soon enough, I realized that something had to change. I finished out my senior year of high school at the local community college in order to have a fresh start. I began going to therapy and getting help from my family. I allowed myself to try new things and to make mistakes without repercussions. I made new friends, remembering that no one is perfect. By the time college rolled around, I was in a better place in my life: healthier mindset, healthier expectations and healthier self-perception.
Now, this isn’t a fairy-tale ending. (Remember, nothing is perfect…I bet you even Cinderella has her problems). I still struggle with this idea of perfection, in all aspects of my life. I still expect a lot out of myself, fearing failure too often. I have a hard time trusting people, because in the back of my mind, I wonder if they’ll live up to my expectations. It’s a daily struggle, but it’s getting better. All I can do is keep trying.
The best thing to remember: take yourself and your loved ones off of the pedestal of perfection. That thing is slippery and its foundation is imaginary. You’re setting yourself and your relationships up to fall.
How do you deal with perfectionism and great expectations? Let me know below
LeadHer™ Intern, Campus Calm
Learn more about Meg here.