Perfection

I have a nasty tendency to hold myself to impossibly high standards of perfection.

This started when I was younger, when I couldn’t make friends my own age.  I tended to seek attention from adults, who although they wouldn’t be friends with me, tended to at least be willing to spend time and interact with me.  I received compliments on my maturity for my age and my intelligence, and as a result, I started to associate my perceived maturity and perceived intelligence with my self worth.  You can probably imagine where that led.  Fast forward to now, and I feel the most anxious when I say or do something that isn’t perfectly mature or intelligent.  I feel anxious when I don’t get full marks on tests and even when I do, I feel anxious if my choice of words in my answer doesn’t match the model answer, because I worry that the teacher will think I’m stupid.  I feel anxious if I say something and it turns out to be wrong, or when I have to admit that I don’t know something.

The one thing all those anxieties have in common when I look at them is that they’re very, very human things to do.  If someone got full marks on every single test and their answers were phrased the same way as the model answers, they’d likely be accused of cheating.  It’s normal to say something and later find out you’re mistaken, or to have things that you don’t know and admit to not knowing those things.  I never have a problem with other people being mistaken, or less-than-omniscient, and yet when it comes to myself, I obsess over every single tiny mistake that I had made.  Every single imperfection.

It’s not healthy.  The more I hold myself to these standards, the more I disappoint myself and feel worthless.  The more I fail to achieve what I expect for myself, the further I slip into depression (but that’s just my experience, not necessarily anyone else’s) and feel like everyone would be better off without me.  But also the more I disappoint myself, the more I feel like I owe it to the world to be better to make up for my mistakes and I hold myself to even more ridiculous standards of perfection.  If I could just break free from this vicious cycle, I’d probably be significantly happier, but disordered thoughts do take time to change, especially when they come from experiences in my childhood that have been constantly reinforced for years and years and years.

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