The Mental Battle: An Escape From Perfectionism

The entire crowd was screaming out of control, only it wasn’t for me—it was because I’d failed—fallen, lost control and let it show—I’ll never forget that day.  I was either in 6th or 7th grade at the time, on stage in front of an auditorium full of kids, dancing with two other girls.  We’d put together a routine for a talent show in in a short amount of time,  nevertheless, when we hit the stage, each of us seemed confident and prepared.  But then something fell apart—during one of our spins, my two comrades turned left, while I twisted right (or vise versa) and that was the beginning of my end. pexels-photo-910060

With one misstep, the tank that carried the certainty I’d walked on stage with was punctured, and then all was subsequently drained.  Though I tried, I could not manage to get back in synch with my partners—frustrated and embarrassed, there was nothing left to do but exit the stage.  No big deal right?  Wrong!  If you know anything about kids, or more specifically, the typically immature, identity seeking, hormonally imbalanced, morally confused youths of pubescent age—they sometimes have the propensity to be mean, if not cruel.  I knew this somewhat, watching bullies and mean girls from afar (I typically managed to stay above the fray), this day however, I could not escape.  Seeing my unraveling casused the entire crowd to cheer, and when I left the stage, their applause turned into a full blown roar.

pexels-photo-977907         Not only was I devastated and humiliated more than I’d ever been in my young life,I carried that experience with me for years.  As a result, a defense mechanism kicked in– perfectionism: On those occasions when I would put myself out there, I’d make sure that what I presented was polished; if I spoke out, I’d check, and then double check my facts.   If I put my name on something, you best believe it was good and for years I wouldn’t even go outside unless my hair and clothes were without flaw!   For all intents and purposes, my diligence appeared to work—on the surface at least.  I was never again humiliated or laughed at like I was on that stage.

On the flip side, however, perfectionism summons another beast; beneath the surface of every person with this trait, lies things not readily seen: like overthinking, procrastinating, self-doubt, worry, and overextending– which all leads to as much angst as it does stress.   Just visualize someone climbing a mountain that stretches beyond the sky—even though they’ll likely never reach the top, a perfectionist’s quest to be great in all things and to present themselves (or their work) without flaw, drives them to trudge ahead, even though the journey is in vain.pexels-photo-417074

I eventually learned this lesson and was able to free myself of this mental cage– partly; I say that because my estimations tell me that perfectionists are similar to people addicted to alcohol or drugs—once that flip is switched, perfectionists will always struggle with temptation or relapse, which begs the need for them to stay consistently on guard.  What I am today, is reformed, not cured.  I still have to stop myself from mauling over details and obsessively splitting hairs. I do this by much positive self-talk, which is how I push myself to step out at the point of good (reminding myself that good is enough) and to both embrace and accept all my flaws.  It’s hard!  Many days I win against my addiction, but there are still days I cry because I‘ve failed; or maybe I really didn’t, and it’s just my perfectionism’s lie.  Whatever the case, I’m no longer running– not from failure, or embarrassment, other’s disapproval, or from letting people see my mistakes.  I’m dancing now on the stage of life and letting my weaknesses accentuate my strengths!pexels-photo-955337

Have you dealt with perfectionism?  Are you recovering, or at the moment are you fully immersed?  Let us know how you’ve dealt with it, or how perfectionism has negatively, or positively affected your life.  

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37 thoughts on “The Mental Battle: An Escape From Perfectionism

  1. I definitely tend to lean towards being a perfectionist but over the years I’ve slowly worried less and less about what people think or see or hear. Life is just too short for that kind of mental stress!

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  2. Sometimes, the things we experience in life will lead us to seek a defense mechanism. In your case it was perfection. I don’t think it’s wrong to do so, but it’s important to think about why we do these things in the first place.

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  3. I am definitely a perfectionist, although I have never gone through such a frustrating experience as the one you depict here, I have a tendency to seek the excellence and improve things to the max of my possibilities. All in all it has been a good thing in my life EXCEPT it has made me extremely demanding with other people (coworkers, friends, and family) especially when we are in some kind of project together. I have never been one to criticize other’s people choices or methodology. But if we are going to do something TOGETHER then we have to raise the standard, lol. I was cured (partially) of this high-demanding-ness when I became a mom!

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    1. Oh, my how this makes me laugh. I always hated working with other people in college because I’d often have to pick up their slack just to maintain my own high standard. I don’t think I am cured of this either, which I the cause for me being in a career where I can be my own boss and work mostly alone. In any regard, I am right with you, children have mellowed me out very much– or as much as possible! LOL

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  4. A very interesting read, addictions seem to be so widespread and such a wide manner of things it’s great that you have told your story, I think you did great by not giving up when it would have been so easy to… thanks for sharing x

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    1. Addictions are indeed very rampant and so many of them are hidden behind a veil. I hope my story inspires others to move past their own mental blocks and most importantly, beyond what people think. Neither of them serve of anyhow!

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  5. i used to be a perfectionist , now i learned that not everything has to be perfect and if it was like would be so predictable as well as putting a lot of unnecessary stress on myself to strive to be better , do better etc

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    1. Perfectionism and stress go hand in hand–yes. Its one thing for us to want to do and be better, which I absolutely advocate– perfectionists just take it way further to a point that is unobtainable– which is the main reason it causes so much stress. I’m glad you’ve made strides in this area. Keep growing!

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  6. I don’t believe perfection truly exists. I always say that perfectionism is a myth designed to hold people back & fit inside a box. It’s not always easy, but it’s important to embrace our flaws too.

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    1. Perfection is definitely an ideal– not a reality. Sadly so many of us think that we can make it so, when we can’t. The only way to be truly happy in my opinion is absolutely to accept our flaws– couldn’t agree with you more!

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  7. Recovering perfectionist here. It’s difficult to stay tat way with a chaotic family life. I still have moments of frustration when things don’t go or look exactly right, but I’m getting better at acceptance.

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    1. Oh man, you sound so much like me– I get very anxious in chaos (messy house, children bickering, plans constantly changing), but I have learned skills to cope with this better throughout the years. I’m getting better at acceptance as well.

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  8. I use to be the same way and wanted to be perfect in everything I do. I quickly realized that I am only human and that I will never be perfect and that’s ok.

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