Life has a very sneaky way of teaching you lessons about yourself as well as gives you the opportunity to reflect on they way you choose to approach something. For me, this is something that I continue to become more self-aware about.
One of my biggest strengths and downfalls is, are you ready for this, I am a Perfectionist. By definition, a Perfectionist is a person who refuses to accept any standard other than perfection. That kind of sounds like a good thing right? Sometimes it is, but other times it can be bad. I came to fully accept my perfectionism while in grad school. I noticed a high level of anxiety when approaching projects or while writing papers. I would continually second guess myself, or think that what I was writing about was not quality work as required of someone advancing their education. This sort of internal conflict caused many sleepless nights, and physical reactions to stress. I was so worried about messing up, and felt like if what I was doing was not perfect in every way I had not only failed myself, but also failed completely. Needless to say I am wonderful at self-punishing and have become really good about internally berating myself when making what I consider to be stupid mistakes. It was not until I took a few courses with Dr. Ann Hawkins that I became at least a little bit aware of what I was doing to myself.
While working on one of my projects for her class, I went in during office hours to have her give me some direction. While going over what I was doing, I started to feel overwhelmed and panicky. Dr. Hawkins noticed my behavioral change as said something great to encourage me, “You are doing fine. I do not expect the work you produce to be perfect. How could it be when this is the first time you have been introduced to it?” And just like that, a blanket of relief washed over me. All I needed was a little honest encouragement.
I find the words that Dr. Hawkins told me constantly ringing true as I continue taking graduate courses. Most of the material I am being introduced to is much more specific and in-depth than anything during my Undergraduate degree. I have to constantly remind myself that not knowing the answer is okay, and speaking up whenever I do not understand is and should be encouraged.
Something else that has really helped me in this journey is this book: The Gifts of Imperfection: Let go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace who You Are written by Brene Brown. This book has been a lifesaver so to speak. It helped me to realize that not only is my Perfectionism affecting my academic life, but it also affects my work-life, relationships, and my sense of self. The book also gives tips on how to help yourself overcome these internalized ideals.
I still struggle with letting myself be okay with messing up, but it is getting a little bit easier to correct the internal conflict by becoming more self-aware.
Do you ever feel Perfectionist tendencies? How do you overcome them? I would love to hear from you and compare notes.