It’s Sunday as I write this, so today is my BayArt day. I hope that this entry finds you all well… or at least improving.

Today’s topic is going to be about expectations, because I honestly tend to demand a lot from myself. Sometimes, I think it’s a good thing to hold myself to a high standard because when I achieve that goal, I feel that much better.

However, failure is brutal. When you are really hard on yourself, failure isn’t an option in your mind. Reality, on the other hand, always allows for failure as an option.

But you don’t want to accept that reality, do you?

No, you want to ignore that option and plow right through it. You want to show the universe that even when it told you that you were going to fail, you still managed to make it. That way, you have the gratification of giving the universe a huge middle finger.

It sounds arrogant, but for me, it isn’t. It’s like I need to prove that the universe wasn’t wrong to give me the opportunity to exist. That I will put good into this world so that it can be a better place… even when sometimes, I am not sure the good I can give is enough.

When these feelings exist, though, and failure does rear its head into your reality, it is brutal. You feel like the failure was more than the event; it speaks to your character.

It’s not, “I failed this particular moment in time,” so much as it’s, “My entire existence is a failure.”

Perhaps that is extreme and a bit dramatic, but the perfectionists out there can probably confirm that they have had this feeling from time to time. I know I have, more often than I should.

There is a solution, and I’m sure we have heard it all:

“You’re too hard on yourself.”

“Take it easy. Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

“You’ll get them next time.”

You know, all those motivational things that are supposed to remind us to get our butts off the ground and keep fighting?

Yeah, we get our butts off the ground, and we do try again, sometimes. As long as our ego wasn’t so damaged in the process. We can face the things that didn’t destroy us.

The problem with the motivational speak is that it doesn’t get to the heart of the perfectionist’s problem. We tie achievement to our right to exist. If we achieve, we are good people, and we deserve to be validated for our achievements. If we fail, we aren’t enough, and we need to be held accountable for not being the person we should have been.

It’s a lot of pressure, and it likely stresses us out more than anything to hold ourselves to such ridiculously high standards.

How do we break this cycle? Well, people are right to tell us not to be so hard on ourselves, but they never really tell us how to do that. It’s like we can just go, “Oh great. Let me flip a switch to the ‘Go easy on myself’ option. No problem.”

If only it was that easy.

In order for a perfectionist to give up his or her detrimental ways, a mindset shift needs to occur. We need to learn how to be kinder to ourselves, to not put so much of ourselves into the things we achieve. Life is about so much more than what we do, and I think we struggle with that.

We have to be the first to forgive ourselves when we fail. I know that’s hard for me, because it feels like I am lowering my standards by accepting failure. It’s hard to see it as a learning experience, but that’s all that failure is. A chance to take a breath, to assess what happened, and to try something different to achieve those high standards.

The beauty of being a perfectionist is that I am not afraid to plunge in head first and do things that meet where I want to be. It’s being able to see failure as a part of the process to achievement rather than the ending.

Failure is natural. Embrace it.

Kelseytell

kelseytell.wordpress.com (You know, if you want to check out my personal blog, “Adventures of a Recovering Pessimist,” where I write daily entries with lots of swears and insight and stuff)

Responses

  1. Robert Matthew Goldstein

    It’s not that I’m a perfectionist; it’s more that I feel I have a mission to fulfill. This need to achieve gives life meaning, which may be the heart of the mind’s existential struggle to survive.

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