Perfectionist: a person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection.
To be a mother, to be a teacher, to be a wife, to be an aspiring writer, and to be a perfectionist is to be in a state of perpetual exhaustion.
I wear so many hats, I can’t keep my head up.
But I keep moving on.
To be a perfectionist is to feel constantly disappointed in yourself. I know I cannot actually be perfect in everything I do, but that vicious little conscious in my head tells me I can, and I should, and I better figure out how, and now.
To be a perfectionist is to feel guilty constantly. If I stay late at work, I feel like I’m a bad mother. If I play with my kids when I have a stack of essays to grade, I feel like a bad teacher. If I’d rather watch television in silence than have a conversation with my husband, I feel like a bad wife. If I’d rather go to bed early than go out with my girlfriends, I feel like a bad friend. If I’d rather sit, relax, and read a book rather than work on my own writing, I feel like I’m being lazy.
This is truly messed up.
And I have no idea how to fix it. I cannot tell you how many times my husband, in exasperation, has said, “Give yourself a break. Stop beating yourself up. No one’s perfect.”
To which I reply, “If it was that easy, do you think we’d be having this conversation?”
We can’t change who we are. This is a cold, hard fact we all know, yet it’s a fact we’re constantly trying to bend and break.
Do not confuse perfectionism with unhappiness. This is a common mistake. I’m extremely happy. I’ve got a great life. That doesn’t mean it isn’t hard though. That doesn’t mean my struggle for personal perfection doesn’t make for moments of intense frustration and personal battery. On the flip side though, when I do accomplish a goal, my joy is intense. It’s a visceral victory for me.
Take this blog post, for instance. At this very moment, I’ve got a little grin of satisfaction because it will still be January when I post this and a personal goal of mine (among hundreds, literally) was to post once a month, minimally.
Well, sort of. Once a month was a minimum and, typically, I try to go above and beyond the minimum, and really, being on my blog just reminds me that I’ve been slacking on reading other blogger’s posts, and that makes me feel like a hypocrite because of my expectations of my students and their blogs, and no one likes a hypocrite, and now I’m just getting frustrated with myself again.
So yes, I am a perfectionist, and some days, I love it. I feel true accomplishment and even a bit of smug satisfaction.
But for the most part, it’s just a royal pain in the ass.
Perfectionists out there, do you feel me?