While going for a run, I had this thought that I am a recovering perfectionist. I am recovering in this very moment, as I sit on the rocks by the beach and take my time rather than continuing my workout. I am recovering as I take in the view and allow myself to just be.
But I haven’t always been this way. As a perfectionist, I was fueled by the external validation of others. I wanted people to praise me that I had just ran a certain amount of miles or that I was keeping up my physique even after college track was over. So in order to get that praise, I would exercise until it hurt. I would push myself even when I shouldn’t, because rock solid abs were the only thing that mattered to show the world I was perfect.
I used to get mad in school when I got anything lower than an A-, and even that was sometimes unacceptable. Anything other than that A, meant a failure. I worked so hard to graduate with Summa Cum Laude honors, and when it finally happened, they messed up my name at graduation and with all the laughing and commotion, no one really heard it when they said I was Summa Cum Laude. Those who didn’t know me well didn’t get to see how perfect I was at that ceremony by hearing that honor, and I was devastated.
I have always sought out perfection. It has been ingrained in me since I was a young girl. Good wasn’t good enough. I had a plan and if things didn’t go my way, you best believe we were about to be on the brink of a war.
But today I choose recovery. Even though recovery is hard and messy, even though recovery looks like a fight within my brain of what I want to do and what I should do, this recovery journey is worth it. When I look at my recovery from the anxiety and depression and eating disorder and trauma of a toxic relationship, I look at my perfectionist attitude first. I think a lot of the problems I had, stemmed from my perfection. The world couldn’t see me as weak so not only did I struggle in silence, my struggles increased.
I choose recovery as I choose to write a blog post over exercising. I choose recovery as I am about to make one of the biggest decisions and leaps of my life. I choose to relinquish control. I choose to accept my imperfection as the best part of me. And I choose to accept myself as I am. We will never be perfect, even though society encourages perfection and doesn’t encourage vulnerability, perfection is not realistic. I had a 3.97 GPA and it still wasn’t good enough, but to you that might seem pretty perfect. I was a top 30 finalist for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award out of 480 girls, and it wasn’t good enough because I wasn’t in the final 10. No matter how close you get to whatever perfect is, there is always something else. Something that you didn’t attain that makes you feel bad about yourself.
Our lives are too short to chase perfection. We have an opportunity to chase who we are. To never give up on our relentless pursuits to being ourselves. I know so many of us are perfectionists. We choose to hide behind perfection rather than live in our imperfect, beautiful uniqueness. I just want you to know, there is another way to live. And sometimes that choice is the hard choice. I spend every day of my life making the hard choice to accept me, to let my body be how it is and not criticize it, to take risks without a plan, to give myself validation and not depend on the cheering of others, to look at myself with no makeup and see beauty, and to forgive myself. Those are some really hard choices when you have been a perfectionist your entire life, but within those choices your life can change, because you are growing, you are mastering you, and that is simply beautiful.
In your journey to reach perfection, you have two choices, to keep climbing the perfection mountain that will keep growing with a destination that will just keep getting farther and farther away, or you can choose to stop climbing that never-ending mountain and just pause and be who you are and look out at the beautiful view.
I hope you choose you today.