I recently returned back to college for my fall semester. As many people have mentioned, there has been an overwhelming amount of anxiety surrounding the college environment due to the accommodations needed for the COVID- 19 circumstances. Although there have been many adjustments in our community, the regular stress of college and academic pressure is still quite apparent and real.
While I am experiencing this currently, I thought I would share how important it is to recognize that people who thrive may struggle with perfectionism and may be willing to risk their health for it.
I have dealt with being a perfectionist for most of my life. When I was in fourth grade, I would spend hours just rewriting the alphabet to perfect my handwriting. I could make myself physically sick over one mistake in pen. I would have to rewrite the entire assignment. I may have even spent more time in class working on my handwriting and how it looked, than actually focusing on what I was suppose to be learning.
I now deal with this perfectionism in different ways in my adult life. For example, I had a piano assignment this week in one of my classes. I had to video tape myself playing this one piece in keyboard style and submit it to my professor. I was having an off day and the excerpt was quite complicated, and I just couldn’t play it up to my own standards. So I sat in a practice room for three hours straight until I got it to be somewhat acceptable to submit.
Some people may say that makes me a good musician. An individual who is determined for success and drives for their best 100% of the time, is one that will be greeted with a bright future and greatness. What if told you though, that it was 8:30pm before I left the practice room, I hadn’t eaten dinner and I had been up since 4am that morning because I had gotten up to go to my part time job and then a full day of classes?
I know there are many children and adults who are just like me. I can imagine there are people reading this right now saying, that’s my life every single day, but that’s my point. Thousands of people who have a strong drive for success may struggle to make mistakes and sacrifice their health and wellbeing for it.
For me, it felt like I needed the assignment to be perfect to show how strong of a musician, student and person I am. For you, it may be running your children to seven different activities after school, working a full time job and making dinner/ cleaning house every single day just to be the “perfect” guardian/parent. It manifests in different ways for everyone, but most likely many of us are sacrificing our happiness or health to become the vision of what society and our brains think we should be.
I hope that while you are reading this, you can take a second to reevaluate your life and realize how some of your actions may reflect your desire to be perfect. Give yourself a reminder that it’s ok to make mistakes and to just want a break sometimes. Maybe even assess if you are participating in some of these extra activities because you actually want to or if you just feel like you have to.
Today I remind myself that I can succeed, while making mistakes. I can submit an assignment that isn’t perfect after practicing for an hour and not three. I am still a good student, musician and person. I just can also provide limits for myself. I can give myself permission to rest, be with my family and eat healthy balanced meals. I will still know that I worked hard and I am doing my best, while also remembering that perfectionism isn’t something we should sacrifice our health for.
Be kind to yourself. Making mistakes is a part of being human.