Perfectionism and Grief Cannot Coexist

I am a born and bred perfectionist.

Like, it was a problem my parents had to really monitor when I was a kid. Apparently I would completely lose it if I drew something and it didn’t come out looking realistic… when I was four. Pretty sure those bluebirds were gonna look like blobs no matter how hard I tried.

I have a vivid memory from when I was just a little one. I don’t recall what the spark was, but I was alone in my room, organizing my stuffed animals (because what kid doesn’t organize their belongings for fun?!), and I found myself getting so frustrated with myself and my inability to have complete control. The specifics of the memory are so overpowered by this raw sense of desperate frustration and anger. Just by thinking about it, I can recall those feelings into my body, they are so strong and I think, in some ways, inherent in who I am.

My parents did an incredible job taming my perfection beast. I owe them so much for tackling that when I was still young enough to be malleable. Bless them. Of course, in the more subtle ways those natural tendencies I have to want control and order in everything still had a pretty firm hold until I lost my mom. But when that most uncontrollable, terrible thing happened- well, I just couldn’t be perfect anymore. I tried to hold myself to that standard for so long, and it was crushing me.

 

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Aw, look at this little psycho… I didn’t have a chance!

I think I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but it blew my mind for a therapist, someone I considered to have way more authority over my mental health than I did, that I WAS DOING SO WELL AT GRIEVING.

I was like ‘what?! I’m doing horribly! I cry! I don’t cross everything off my to-do list! I’m not successful yet! I watch too much tv!’ AND SHE TOLD ME IT WAS OKAY. Talk about instant validation. I felt the liberation of that moment cracking open the tightness that had been binding my chest together. The feeling was physical.

If you are grieving, you cannot hold yourself to being perfect. If you are a twenty-something, you cannot hold yourself to being perfect. We gotta let that shit go.

Trying to be perfect won’t make us better people. It won’t make us more productive. It won’t make people think more highly of us from the outside peering in. It won’t make us kinder to ourselves. It won’t make us kinder to others.

I found my perfectionism rearing its ugly head again the other night.

I hadn’t been able to get to sleep, and it was nearing 4 AM. So you know what I decided to do?

I wrote down all the ways in which I am simply NOT PERFECT. And never will be.

Because there are some things that I just don’t want to be perfect at. Things that I hate to make myself do. And you know what? Just because you become a slave to your own will and make yourself do the things you hate to do, simply because you think that you have to do them in order to be perfect. That makes you unhappy. And that, in turn, makes you imperfect. I would say a life of unhappiness is imperfect, wouldn’t you? And, yeah, I’m going to make myself do some of these things, but I’m not going to pretend like it gives me all the joy in the world while I’m at it!. Pretending at happiness is inauthentic and, again, imperfect. So let’s just acknowledge perfection for what it is- IMPOSSIBLE.

So here was my little list off the top of my head of the ways I’m not perfect. Because maybe this is some AA shit where I just need to make my confession so it doesn’t eat away at me. Can’t uphold a facade you’ve already destroyed yourself, right? Hi, my name is Jadi, and I am an imperfect perfectionist.

I hate washing my face. Haaate it. So many people love it and I don’t know WHY. I try like hell to be good at washing my face before bed, but sometimes I just can’t bring myself to do it and sleep in my makeup.

I love sleeping in. I want to sleep in every single day and I simultaneously really, REALLY want to be that person who wakes up at 5 am to drink lemon water and meditate- but I just don’t like to- sleep is healing!

I have been the worst judge of my body for like a year now. I know I’m supposed to be all body positive and yay I love my body but honestly? It’s been a fucking battle. The last time I remember feeling REALLY good in my skin was in 2016.

I am a lemming. When I worked at a plastic surgeon’s office there were things I wanted to get done. I guess my resistance to the herd is a little less strong than I thought? I was so ashamed of that. Happy to say that I resisted. More power to ya if that’s your thing, no judgment, it’s just not mine.  

I binge watch tv. Like it’s unreal. I am talented. I have to be secretly the laziest person I know.

I tell myself I’m bad at everything. And I believe it. If I am not the smartest, most informed, knowledgeable person in the room, then I will pretend I know nothing to prevent myself from making even one misstep. That is how much I worry about embarrassing myself.

Sometimes I tell tiny little lies to protect my vulnerability. Things that should not and DO NOT matter.

I had to take my scale away from myself.

I am a master binge eater and you know what? I love to do it. Like loooooove. It is so satisfying. Even if I feel sick at the end, it’s my weakness.

I don’t take my dog on hikes as much as I should- which means I don’t take myself on hikes as much as I should. He’s so annoying to walk with because he wants to pee on freaking everything and it makes going for walks literally physically harder. So half the time I just… don’t?

I can be a picky eater. There are some things I just do nooooottt want to chomp down on. And I don’t want to be but, Jesus, please just don’t make me eat a piece of raw onion. 🤢

I waste a shit ton of time on my phone. Scrolling Instagram, mindlessly updating, editing photos- and none of it in the name of genuine connection and all in the name of fucking self validation. Like how gross. How many hours of my week do I spend curating my online life? Hmmmm? TOO MANY.

I have a hard time talking to God. I’m not sure he ever listens to me. At least not when it counts.

I am not good at being grateful. My mind is always somewhere else, wondering if home has better weather or better mountains to climb. I’m thinking about other jobs I could be doing that would give me a better work-life balance and a better paycheck. I’m noticing all the beautiful women who surround me and wishing I could be more like them. I’m looking at my past and wishing like crazy it was different. When I run, I’m obsessing about how painful a minute of sprinting feels and waiting for it to be done instead of realizing how incredible it is that my body- MY ANTI RUNNING BODY- can even do that. I’m wishing away seasons and hours and minutes and seconds. WHAT A WASTE. What a loss.

So there you have it. My 4 AM list of shame- and I promise you there is way more. Maybe this will give my fellow perfectionists the ability to accept their own imperfections. Writing these confessions out really did feel like a weight off my chest. Or maybe I just really embarrassed myself. Either way, who cares? I’m imperfect. 😉

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