This week, I would like to take a minute and write about something I have struggled with not only with in my college course work, but throughout life. I am a perfectionist and it has held me back in many ways, not allowing me to reach my full potential. I am sure there are many of us who struggle with this daily, however I did not realize that this was such a major problem until recently. Before coming to this realization, I thought I was lazy or incompetent. If there was a task I thought I would not do perfectly, I would simply not try. I did not want to try and fail. Failure was the scariest thing to me. I am sure that this stems from my childhood since I was a people pleaser. If I did not do something perfectly, I was showed less love and attention. On the flip side, if I did something great or as I say, “perfect”, I was shown so much love, it was as if I was put on a pedestal. Once I realized my actions caused me to get desired reactions from others, I acted accordingly. As a result, if I could not do something perfectly I would simply not try.
I can think of many examples where I allowed this ridiculous personality trait to interfere with my life and happiness. One example of this was when I was younger on the cheer-leading team. During my first year on the team, we won our competition. Receiving a trophy felt exhilarating. I could not wait for the next year to be a part of cheer-leading again. It was so much fun. The next year cheer-leading started with a different coach and everything was indeed different. When we were rehearsing our routines I felt embarrassed. I knew there was no way we were going to win. So my reaction to that feeling was to quit. I quit the team, my friends, and myself, which I still regret to this day. I should have stayed with my team whether or not we looked funny or enjoyed the experience. The team did lose, but that did not matter. What mattered was that other members stayed and competed as I watched from the sidelines.
When I became older, my perfectionism harmed me in other ways. In my first semester of community college, I had to write a five-page paper. I was scared because I had not written a paper in many years, and now I was unsure of how I would do. I had very little confidence. So, in order to relieve myself any possible disappointment, I wrote the paper without applying myself completely. That way I would save myself from my own personal negative feelings. To be honest, I did not want to embarrass myself in front of my spouse. He was in college and his GPA was a 3.7. I never thought I would be capable of achieving the same academic accomplishments as him. He was also the man I had previously mentioned in my first blog. That being said, I got my grade back and to my surprise it was an A-. I was so thrilled I told everyone I could that I got an A- and I didn’t even really try, as if that was something to be proud of. At the time, I thought it was. I am so grateful for that moment because it helped me to believe in myself a little more.
Today, my perfectionism rears its head in other ways. For example, when I begin a project, I want to finish it in the same sitting. If I can’t do it all at once, I feel like I failed. That being said, it is difficult to do anything in one sitting since I have three children who could not want me more than when I have to do something. But that still has not changed my thinking around my desire and opinion that finishing equals success. I know that this is not the best tactic in achieving the best grade I can. It is better to work on the project, paper, or study session a little over multiple time frames. I know this. Not only do you retain the information better, but you also are able to revise the material with a fresh set of eyes. What I mean by this is when you complete a project or paper all at once, you become exhausted and overlook things. It’s like your brain is in sleep mode. With this being said, I am still a work in progress and I have to remind myself daily that it is progress and not perfection that is rewarded.
I have one more example I would like to share, and it is about my children. I think this example will really help you understand what I am trying to convey. I have three children, and as you know, when they are first born, babies are not very interactive at that point. However, as parents, we want our babies to laugh, talk, crawl, or walk for example. I wanted my kids to say mama so bad, but none of my wants for them mattered when they smiled for the first time. I loved just being able to watch them grow and develop into their personalities and little men. Their progress through life is what was ultimately exciting to me, not their ability to talk. Now, I question my desires for them to talk so early! I am just kidding. But the growth and their progress is where I find my most joy and if they were perfect, they would be stuck in one place the whole time. The joy is in the journey – in their progress, not in their perfection.
Be kind to yourself. Trust the process.
PLEASE NOTE: THE VIEWS OF OUR STUDENT BLOGGERS DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE UALBANY ACADEMIC SUPPORT CENTER OR THE CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION AND GLOBAL STRATEGY. THESE ARE THEIR STORIES – THEIR VOICES.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
CLASS OF 2020
A MIRACLE JOURNEY