I read something somewhere (probably on Tumblr) about perfectionism, or maybe impostor syndrome. It said that perfectionism came about when you told kids that their talents were innate rather than because of their hard work. This makes them believe that everything (or certain things, or whatever) should come easily to them, and if it didn’t, that meant there was something wrong with them personally. Failure was a fatal flaw, not just a result of not working hard enough. …And come to think of it, this is probably more about impostor syndrome than perfectionism. Damn.
Still, the point stands that perfectionists often tie their self-worth to their successes and failures. I’m a perfectionist myself, I should know. I don’t remember if I was often told how smart I was when I was young, but I remember always wanting things just so. Usually arts and crafts type stuff, but it didn’t take much to extend that to academic performance as well. I was a straight-A student all the way from elementary to high school, and I was always devastated when I didn’t understand something right away, or when I didn’t poorly on a test or a paper. If I couldn’t do well in school, what good was I?
In college I learned not to put quite so much stock in my grades (and yet still graduated summa cum laude?), but now that I’m out in the world I have another perfectionism bugbear: productivity. Especially before I got a job, I tended to measure each day by how much work I got done, whether it was writing or reading or some other arbitrary activity. Even now that I’m working for pay, I still think the success/fail of a day is measured by what I did with my free time. It’s like I’m not allowed to relax or have fun anymore, and as a result I’m as stressed out as I’ve ever been.
I have a multitude of other problems on top of this. I’m a pessimist with (occasional) double depression. I have anxiety that often keeps me from trying things outside my comfort zone. I don’t believe in myself, or have any hopes about my future that I haven’t already dismissed as far-fetched (see the pessimist thing above). I don’t know what to do with my life, because I feel like I’ve already messed it up beyond repair.
This is perhaps information best shared with my therapist. But what is the internet for if not oversharing? (And hey, if this makes one person feel less alone, maybe it’ll be worth it?)
The fact of the matter is, I don’t know how to fix myself. (See again therapist, need to talk to.) I don’t know how to be okay with myself, and okay with how little or how much I accomplish. I really don’t know how to be okay with failure, because that has always been The End for me as far as a lot of things are concerned. I need to be able to work through things in therapy. Maybe I need a mantra or something.
It’s Okay to not do All the Things.
It’s Okay to fail.
Failing does not make you The Worst.