Exhausted yet? I have the feeling the answer is yes. The sleepless nights have probably gotten to you. Your professor has just sprung another assignment on you and that long paper is still staring at you, your outline proving to be sub-par in your incessantly self-judgmental eyes. The tears have probably come. A prayer to the chemistry gods for a kind of divine inspiration for how to solve an increasingly difficult problem has been offered. Laundry and your self-preservation have been forfeited in the name of an “A.”
People have often told you that your drive for perfection is admirable. And why wouldn’t it be? Perfect is supposed to be perfect. But in reality, it just is a warning. A kind of caution sign: “Don’t mess up! If you aren’t perfect anymore, no one will admire you. Maybe no one will love you! Dammit be more perfect next time! You aren’t ‘enough’ if you aren’t perfect anymore!”
Here’s the real reality, though: you were born being enough. Love and belonging have been yours since the minute you entered this earth. So stop hustling for approval; literally nothing can make you more lovable.
Sure, things can make you more likable. Being nice, friendly, academically successful, and generally appeasing can help in this endeavor. And while some of these things are worthy goals, some of them can leave us exhausted. Fake smiling, studying, working out, participating in excessive extracurriculars, and answering constant emails leave us depleted. They literally eradicate energy when done in an excessive way. I have something to tell you, Perfectionist. You aren’t going to like it, but I am going to tell you anyway:
You are certainly imperfect but you are also certainly enough.
Do me a favor and make some room for this imperfection. Get comfortable with it now; we certainly won’t get more perfect with time. The fight is pointless; the reaching for an end that doesn’t exist. You were born worthy of love and respect from the time you took your first breath- no need to grapple for it. Go to bed tonight knowing that the world is happy you are here. It is even happy if you fail the test. Maybe instead of stressing, you could lean into some joy. Call a friend. Listen to some James Taylor. Say a prayer. Go for a relaxing run. Decorate your dorm. Have faith that the universe is ultimately good and that perfection will not make you any more worthy of love or acceptance. The only real worthy test of finals is seeing the amount of self-compassion that you extend to yourself during a week that seeks to funnel your self-worth into a series of numbers and letters. You are enough. You have always been enough. An “A” does not make you more “enough.”
Anyway, being “more enough” is impossible and isn’t even grammatically correct. So suck it, perfection.
A Recovering Perfectionist