Q: "I’m a perfectionist and it’s super hard!!! I’m not always perfect ofc and when things don’t go perfectly I get really upset, how do I cope with not being perfect all the time?" - Anonymous
Felt felt felt!!!!!! I’m such a perfectionist (not every aspect of my life but in most) and I totally can relate to this feeling of being paralyzed by these perfectionist tendencies. I think it would be helpful to break down being a perfectionist into the core facets of life and how to cope!
When it comes to school, the perfectionists take detailed notes, turn in assignments on time, plan out exact jobs for a project or presentation, and of course are never satisfied with a grade. While being a diligent student may be tiring and frustrating because you feel like you’re working 1000 times harder than everyone else, you have to understand that people WISH they had this drive and grit. You thrive in school because you do things your own way and you know how you work best. As much as it’s stressful and time consuming, the proof is in the pudding.
However, killing yourself over small points deducted on an assignment or feeling like you're too bossy or knit picky on a group project can be exhausting. Especially in the beginning of the year, getting mediocre grades or a few low scores is honestly a blessing. When you start with high grades in a class, the only place to go is down, down, down. It’s ok to get a few low grades because then there's something to work for and you're motivated to kill it on the next assignment. For some of you (myself included) we can’t even be proud of ourselves for getting a 94... it's just not good enough. My only words of consolation to my fellow perfectionists/high achievers is that your grades don’t define you. We cannot rely on academic successes, a simple letter or percent, to fuel our self worth. Don’t ask your friends how they did or beat yourself up for not being a perfect student 24/7! You work so hard and if you can’t acknowledge that yourself, how will you ever be able to take on harder challenges that push you out of your comfort zone?
There are a lot of girls who can look in the mirror and say ‘wow I look amazing’. I’m envious of those girls. Most of us look in the mirror and fixate on a certain blemish, mole, freckle, clothing stain, body fat, or really any imperfection. And it sucks to not feel confident in your own skin, it really does. In the same way my prior posts about confidence have advised: there are a billion girls out there who are in awe of you. Love your fits, love your smile, and the way you are so kind to everyone. They may never tell you and you may never feel like Miss popular…. Doesn’t mean you're not a 10/10. Also just like with academics, if you are a perfectionist in your appearance, it just means you have to plan ahead. Meaning: plan your outfits the night before, allocate time for skincare and haircare. Focus on what you need to do to be beautiful and everything else will fall into place.
I was on the phone with my friend who is a major perfectionist with her art. She’s in AP studio art this year and spent weeks on her assignment. Of course it came out AMAZING but she told me that it almost worked to her disadvantage to be such a perfectionist about it. She kept erasing and changing things… almost causing her to spill her coffee all over the project. Whether it’s art, a sport, a speech for MUN or debate, or whatever else you may spend countless hours on, letting go and following your instinct is a skill with which you must become comfortable. Being a perfectionist can actually hold you back from your greatest potential because you may doubt your initial thoughts, ideas, or actions. Don’t doubt yourself queen. Ever. You know what you’re doing.
Just like being a perfectionist can hold you back from succeeding academically or with your extracurriculars, I find that it definitely is an obvious plague in social settings. Trying to act perfect or say the right things is hell on earth. We ended up having a lousy and stressful time on our end and it’s noticeably in-genuine on the receiving end. There is a time and place for a manicured disposition such as an interview or an important meeting… but let loose around your friends (and guys too!). People want to feel your warm and energetic presence and overthinking and filtering yourself prevents you from allowing your true self to shine. For people who have social anxiety, “being yourself” is not that easy but just remember how many more people would LOVE you if they actually knew you.
Tell your friends, parents, and teachers about these tendencies. Set boundaries with your messy friends, forgetful/flakey friends, slack offer friends, or anyone who may aggravate your perfectionism. Of course it's not their fault for clashing with your preferences or functionality but it’s good to be up front with people in your life who are important to you. If these feelings of trying to be perfect are perpetuated by certain individuals, tell them! Is being perfect all the time really worth it if you can't be happy? Don’t let other people force their burdens on you… that’s not fair.
Remember to trust your instinct. My SAT tutor told me that my first choice is going to be the right one 90% of the time. You can’t second guess yourself because you know what you’re doing and you’re slayinggggg!!!!!!!
Lastly (and you’ve probably been hearing this cliche since your days as a fetus), nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes and have our own flaws! It’s rare that you criticize your closest friends or people you love for their faults. Don’t hate yourself for being a normal human with imperfections who doesn't get it right 100% of the time.
WE got this,