The biggest controlling force in my life is the need to be perfect in everything I do.
I don’t feel failure as much as I fear succeeding at something without it being completely and utterly perfect. I want to achieve perfection in every area of my life. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise because once you look at the culture and society, it’s easy to see how perfection is portrayed as the ultimate goal.
How to have perfect hair…
Getting to the perfect weight…
This is how to have the perfect nursery…
Achieving the perfect work/life balance…
Being the perfect girlfriend/wife/best friend…
Perfectionism isn’t just seeping out of our culture by accident; it is championed by the very advertisers and media that we look to for entertainment and help. Because, honestly, if you are satisfied with something that isn’t perfect, then why would you buy this new product or try this new trick or join this new gym? If you don’t search after the very best at all times for every area of your life, then you’re not going to be very interested in the products (falsely portrayed) to help you reach perfection.
Besides our media and commercials, there is an almost-invisible game that women play against each other. Who can look better, who can parent better, who can buy more while spending less? On and on and on the game goes. And no matter how hard you try, there is always someone playing the game better than you. Someone who looks flawless first thing in the morning, someone whose Instagram feed is drool-worthy, someone who juggles work and relationships and a side business while still making homemade soup every night. This is a road you don’t want to go down.
At the end of the day, perfectionism is tied up in comparison.
They are the best of friends. Where one goes, the other follows. Because you can’t yearn after the perfect body without comparing your body to this model or this friend or that-girl-you-don’t-know on the internet. You don’t chase after getting 100% on a project without comparing yourself to the woman who always gets the perfect score on all of her presentations (which she also turns in a day early, just because she’s that organized).
I’ll compare myself to the person I think I should be, the woman people expect me to be, the student that professors think I am. I’ll hold myself up to a high standard that is impossible to achieve, playing my own mind games with myself. I’ll lie in bed at night making myself anxious with thoughts such as, if I had only done this, if it had been this much closer, if only I had tried harder… this is a game that I can’t win, that you can’t win, that, in the end, we shouldn’t be fighting.
There is nothing wrong with working hard, dreaming big, and achieving difficult things.
The problem occurs when we end up fighting against ourselves or other women in the process. If I beat myself up in order to get that perfect result, or if I walk all over other women trying to achieve an impossibly high standard, then I’m only hurting, instead of growing. I don’t want other women to fail so that I can succeed. I don’t want to push people down, even in my mind, so that I can hoist myself up. Somewhere along the way, us women got good at cutting the thick rope of community and traded it in for our own self-promotion.
I want to cheer on women, both those that I know deeply and those that I stumble across online, happy for their successes and their victories. I also want my inner critic and perfection-chasing mind to recognize that there is danger in comparing myself to anyone else.
I don’t need to feel threatened by a hard-working woman’s accomplishments; her accomplishments show the great strength and grit of the collective woman. I can aim high, celebrate the great hearts and souls around me, and be gentle on myself, knowing that I don’t have to live perfectly to LIVE.
Do you struggle with comparison or the fear of not measuring up, not reaching perfection? I’d love to hear your story!
photo via Alisa Anton