“I am fucking sick of perfectionism,” was all I could think to write after frustratedly scribbling over the previous page of neatly written cursive in my notebook.
I’m sure my frustration came from several sources, but in this moment the most salient one was that I realized I had only written in this notebook a handful of times in 1.5 years since I bought it because for whatever reason I wanted to keep the notebook entries thematically consistent.
I can’t even remember the reason I picked up the notebook to begin with. Evidently I planned to write something, but when I opened the notebook I found myself hesitant to start writing because all of the previous entries in the notebook were dated, neatly written, and related to a specific theme. After I realized that I was going to not allow myself to write in the notebook because of this, I was overcome with anger and scribbled messy lines all over the previously neat looking page. It made me even angrier was when I realized the ink in the pen I was using (one of my favorite pens) had become partially dried up due to sitting too long without being used.
I didn’t feel angry at myself necessarily. I guess it was more like I was angry at a concept or whatever thing inside me keeps making me worry about neatness, order, and doing things ‘the right way.’ This is my own notebook for God’s sake! No one is ever going to see it. Why do I care at all about the way I have written or how neat it is? The result of my perfectionism is that my notebook essentially sat on the shelf unused for years. Besides this, I am not an orderly person in mentality or lifestyle, why am I expressing myself in an inauthentic way in my own personal notebook?
After this I looked at my collection of pens. I bought those pens because they are a true pleasure to use a write with. Meanwhile when I leave the house I bring a piece-of-shit one dollar pen because I’m afraid of losing or damaging my fancy expensive pens. The result? My pens sit on my desk gathering dust and getting clogged with dry ink.
What’s next? Am I going to buy a fancy camera and then leave it at home because it’s too fancy and expensive to bring out into the world and risk damaging? Should I never play sports because of fear of injury? Should I never tell someone about my feelings because I’m afraid of being dismissed or rejected?
It is just disrespectful to have a great pen/notebook/camera and not use it. Not only that, but it is a waste of resources. Better to use them until they are exhausted, otherwise they should be sold or given away to someone who will truly use and appreciate them.
I can’t remember if I have written about perfectionism before on here, but by now I have realized that this is something I have struggled with my whole life. When I was a kid I didn’t ‘try’ when playing team sports because I was afraid of not being good enough, so might as well not even try. For a long time I was also hesitant to ever sing or dance because I was not naturally good at them and was not used to it, and I never allowed myself to do anything else I wasn’t good at for fear of being seen as imperfect or not good enough.
Well, the result of that way of thinking was that I became an arrogant and insecure adult – simultaneously thinking I’m better than others while being afraid of anything that would make me question this view of myself. I recognized the insecurity that had always been present in me during my early-mid twenties, and spent years working on myself and trying to overcome it, which I think was mostly successful, but I still find traces of it within myself from time to time now – fear of opening up to others emotionally, hyper-fixation on “succeeding” or being good at things, hesitance to make a fool of myself, craving for recognition, etc.
While it can be beneficial to have high standards sometimes, the only thing perfectionism does it hold us back. If you don’t take shitty pictures, you’ll never get any good ones. If you don’t play bad music, you’ll never learn to play good music. If you worry about perfection in language learning, you’ll be too afraid to actually speak. If you don’t risk failure, you’ll never accomplish anything.
Being perfect gives you a life that’s like my notebook – a neat and orderly wasted opportunity.
People always say “nobody’s perfect,” as if perfection is something that exists. After all these years of trying to be perfect, all I want now is to allow myself to be a sloppy mess.