I hate to admit, I hate to admit it, but the struggle is real. Perfectionism is more than just the need to have things perfectly done, it is deeper than that for a lot of people. For myself, the need to have a mental order of things is one of my greatest struggles. Although, I have heard some say that to require perfection in things is to be serious about one’s work and life, this only has about an ounce of truth to it.
It is different for everyone, the need for order. For some, it’s their academics, for some, physical things – keeping things organized, for me, it has always been – the need for control over life.
It might have started after my breakup from a very toxic relationship, I was an undergrad, far away from home, and trying to find myself. I had spent my days exactly in this order – wake, class, work, home, assignments/read, sleep, church. I was so passionate about my personal healing that I had mistook having things under control as having my life in order. I had spent my undergraduate years doing back-flips to complete assignments to an absurdly overdone level of perfection because I compulsively had to; read compulsively about grad school, because dare I make the wrong choice of graduate school and mess up my entire life? The professor wants a 2 page response? Oh! I’ll give him a 10, because “good enough” or “average” was not in my dictionary.
There’s more to perfectionism than just being a workaholic or a “crazy person”. I can say that especially now that my compulsive need for a mental order is the least it’s ever been. So, here are my three confessions about being a perfectionist.
1. Perfectionists know their need for order can be compulsive
A lot of people like myself know that their need to have things in place and in order is compulsive. But, compulsive behaviors do not just go away because you admit its presence. In fact, admitting the presence of a behavior helps give more attention to it, therefore its manifestation.
2. Perfectionists can’t just “let it be”
Especially in cases of mental order, there are little to no physical triggers. Most triggers come from the need to have things in order even before they happen.
3. There are pros, but then there are consss
The pros are, I get things done in time when I set out to do them, I have great work ethics I would commend myself, and I work hard, hence – opportunities. But! It might seem that everything looks good from the outside, but once you really get to know me, you can see that I am holding my life together with the threads of my sanity. There are a lot of things I missed out on because of my perfectionism in college. I didn’t join as many clubs as I wanted to, I didn’t go out with friends as many times as I was invited, I didn’t have as much fun as some of my colleagues, I don’t think I enjoyed learning as much as everyone else did because I was rather stuck on getting it right.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5