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Challenging Perfectionism

January 14, 2011

Tonight was a really difficult night for me with writing, and it left me with several things to think about.

There are certain parts of my personality that are pretty embarrassing for me to talk about, though they’re probably relatively commonplace. I’m hoping by addressing this out in the open I’ll gain a certain inner peace. I think simply putting it out there that I have faults will actually help. 😄 So, here it goes! Personal blog entry time!

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This post is about the challenges I’m trying to overcome with respect to the negative aspects of my personality. They definitely inhibit my writing abilities, but they have a broad effect on my life in general. There’s one that tends to overshadow the others. I might even call it the deeply rooted trunk from which most of my other mental issues offshoot.

Perfectionism.

Let me give a quick disclaimer here. Perfectionism isn’t the same thing as dedication or working really hard. When you’re a writer or a publisher, you should always be dedicated to putting out the best product you possibly can. It’s what most people strive to do, and that’s great! The perfectionism I’m talking about is more insidious. It’s the type where you start setting unrealistic standards for yourself, which, of course, leads you down the road of disappointment and frustration every single time.

I do that a lot to myself. I’m a relatively new writer. I don’t have a degree in English or Creative Writing. My degree is in Kinesiological Sciences. *chuckles* In other words, the only writing I did in college was in essay format, so creative writing is a new and exciting challenge. That I have so little experience does show. I picked up a shit-ton of bad habits from writing essays, and because those habits now come so naturally to me, it adds to that disillusionment when I fall short of my expectations of perfection. Some of these habits are pretty typical, and I’ll give a couple examples just for fun.

  • telling when I should be showing
  • writing scenes mechanically (laundry-list style instead of with the emotions of the characters woven in)
  • super long sentences (Thanks a lot, high school teacher who told me I should always write sentences with at least as many words as how old I am, which is now 24. <– Great example, too. XD).

Logically, I know these sorts of habits take time to relearn — after all, they took years to learn in the first place — but I’m always on my case to relearn faster. These are some of my imperfections, so I’m always trying to get rid of them so I’ll be perfect. When I make the same mistakes over and over again, it frustrates me to no end. And when I get frustrated, I cry a lot. It’s the way I’ve learned to release emotion, so when something’s pent up, I usually release it by crying. If it’s something small, I’ll usually be absolutely fine in five minutes. Tonight, it was exceptionally more powerful than usual.

One of my biggest problems is asking for help.

As illogical as it is, asking for help feels like failure to me. If I have to ask for help, it makes me feel stupid because I have to acknowledge the fact that I’m not perfect. And, oh boy, is that a tough one for me. It totally crushes my confidence and makes me focus only on the negative. Once I see only bad, it just perpetuates the cycle, keeping me down in the dumps and second guessing my worth on all sorts of levels.

The thing I have to remember when I spiral out of control like that is something that most people probably think of as simple common sense:

I’m certainly not perfect and never will be, but that doesn’t negate the skills I do have. I’m not worthless just because I’m not perfect.

I can say it over and over to myself, but believing it is the hard part. It’s not so much believing I’m perfect — because duh, I’m not — as it is my expectation that I could be perfect if I just worked harder. There’s no easy solution to fixing that one in my head. If someone points out that I don’t have to be perfect, my mind responds, “But I want to be perfect,” as if that’s the sane, logical goal to keep having. It’s repetitive and pointless to keep that unrealistic expectation firmly lodged in place, and I know it must be frustrating for those who care enough about me to keep telling me not to aim for perfection.

So, how do I get rid of that expectation? How do I reprogram? How do I give up the life-long goal to be the best at everything I do and be perfect? Dude, I really wish I knew. This is where I could probably use professional help, and hopefully I’ll be able to afford it someday. For now, I think I’ll try to start up some affirmations. I’m just lucky to have friends and family who love me despite my issues. To those in my life who care enough to keep encouraging me, you have my unending gratitude. I couldn’t face these darker parts of my personality without your support, and it just means the world to me.

Affirmations:

  • I am not perfect. Nobody is perfect.
  • Trying harder will not make me perfect, and that’s all right.
  • I don’t have to be perfect. My best is good enough.
  • Those who matter don’t expect perfection from me, so I don’t have to expect it of myself.
  • Asking for help is a sign of wisdom, not failure.
  • I am wise to embrace my shortcomings and ask for help when I need it.
  • I accept new challenges, even if I might not succeed.
  • I give myself permission to make mistakes.
  • If I don’t succeed, it’s all right. The important thing is that I tried my best.

Do you struggle with something like perfectionism? What helps you combat it? Feel free to share in a comment, and thanks for listening to me ramble on in a more personal blog entry. ^_^

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