Since elementary school, I have struggled with perfectionism in many different forms. Here are a few examples of my perfectionist nature, I often tried to make sure my handwriting was perfect, when I worked really hard on an assignment I tried to make sure the paper I handed in was perfectly clean and not bent, and I was often hard on myself for not being a the nicest person I could possibly be.
While in high school, my struggle to be perfect spiked off the charts. Different from elementary and middle school, I didn’t always realize that I was striving for perfection. The reason for this is because my perfectionism was a part of my OCD and became more surrounded with ”just right” feelings.
A “just right” feeling is when we pursue whatever we are doing until we feel ”just right”. More so in the past, but still sometimes today, I may worry that I am not enough. I may worry that I am not working hard enough at the work I am doing, or being a good enough person. To illustrate, I have often tried being a perfect person who worked for a “just right” amount of hours and who put enough thought into the answers I wrote down for a school assignment. I have also strived to be someone who never metmy own needs before meeting the needs of others. Someone who never yelled at anyone, someone who was never mean to anyone, and who never made any mistakes. In addition, I have struggled with perfect organization. Especially in my bedroom, I often feel that all of the things in my room must be organized and arranged in good enough ways, everything must be perfectly clean.
One of the reasons why this was so painful to be living through is because the perfect and “just right” feeling standards changed over time. For example, when I would meet the perfect standards of hard work by working for three hours, then I would feel like I have to work four, then five, etc. If I did not meet these “just right” standards, I would feel a lot of distress, and a lot of anxiety. I have been extremely hard on myself and believed that I did not have any self-worth. It became extremely difficult to function.
As I said before, not realizing that I was striving for perfection was because it is a part of my OCD. Until the third month of residential treatment, when I was confronted by my treatment team and by my parents that I was trying to be perfect, I ALWAYS disagreed with them. For many years, I wasn’t separating myself from my OCD, and therefore it took control of me. My OCD was distorting my thinking and tinting my perception, which caused me to solely think how my OCD wanted me to think.
I have learned that the first step to healing is identifying what needs to be worked on and recognizing the mental illness. The reason why I could not see any other way of living besides being perfect was because for so long I had not separated myself from my OCD.
One day while at art therapy in residential, I was making an object that I could use while experiencing high levels of anxiety and depression to ground and comfort myself. I was gluing together felt, faux fur, and other materials. At the time, I was feeling very passionate about writing and drawing the word “LOVE,” and so I cut out the letters using felt. When I was gluing the letter “L” to the object, I glued it on backwards. I was feeling so upset that I messed up; I was being hard on myself, and giving myself negative self-talk and then I realized something: it is okay to not be perfect. My backwards L became a symbol that it is okay to make mistakes. We are human. I created a logo out of it that says “Self Jove.” In the logo, I colored in the letters outside the lines and colored them in in an intentionally scribbled and imperfect way. The logo represents that even though we make mistakes and that we are imperfect, it is important that we still love ourselves.
It is important that we separate ourselves from perfectionism. In therapy, I have practiced challenging my anxiety and OCD by trying not to meet the “just right” standards and trying to live differently.
We are not our mental illnesses. We can be imperfect and still love ourselves. We can be imperfect and still be worthy. There is hope.
I hope this symbol can resonate with some of you and that my struggles with imperfection can, too.
Sending my love to you all! Peace out!
#selflove #imperfection #perfectlyimperfect #youareenough #weareenough #happiness #fighter #warrior #youarenotalone#yougotthis #wegotthis