What are you making up for that you feel like you have to excel in every single thing you do?

I’m writing this because I used to have this. In a sense, it’s more of an open letter to my past self. But if you clicked on this article then perhaps, it must also be for you.

What exactly is “this”?

Some people call it being a know-it-all, others identify it as being a jack of all trades. There’s really no all-encompassing label for it.

But if you have it, you probably won’t notice as it creeps up on you from the very center of your being. Making its way into everything you touch and mold saying, “It has to be perfect.”

Or sometimes it appears more obviously in a hobby you pick up at 3 am one day that you’ll pour yourself into for days on end, leaving a trail of responsibilities unattended. After around 5 days of bearing down on your newfound painting hobby, you stare at your paint-streaked canvas and decide that you haven’t got what it takes and then snowball into an endless pit of self-deprecation that spurs beyond your hastily honed brush skills and into your every insecurity.

Everyone’s been there once or twice in their life. But if you’ve been a regular patron of that endless pit, maybe you have “it”.

I haven’t come across a psychological term for it nor do I know exactly what it is but for the sake of simplicity let’s think of it as general perfectionism.

This specific form of perfectionism, I believe, is rooted in having deeply underlying insecurities (such as fear of failure) formed from early childhood and then growing up into some level of egotistical tendency. Any combination of which is never good with attitudes usually ranging from crumbling antisocial behavior to obtusely annoying narcissism.

While most of us circle around in the middle of that spectrum, it’s easy to lean more towards one side given a particular situation. Like when met with intimidatingly multi-hyphenate colleagues at a conference, it can definitely spell an urge to puff up with hot air and bulldoze your way into unknown territory one misused big word at a time.

You might be one of those people as well whose catch-phrase is “sana all” and every phonetic variation of which. Every time you’re jealous of someone who’s good at something you wish you were, “sana all” is your shield. 

Or you may be one of those who actually succeed at gaining expertise in every field, hobby, activity, they choose to do. But aren’t you tired of chasing rainbows?

Being a perfectionist is good, right?

Yes, but to a certain extent of course. It goes without saying that anything in excess is bad.

If you go ahead and explore uncharted territory pressuring yourself to make something “perfect,” often aiming for that perfection in a given inhumane amount of time, you’ll eventually suffer from its crippling rigidity. It will get tiring because you will not be able to rest until your high standards are met.

And you’re only human so you’ll get to the point where you’ve exhausted all efforts to make that “perfect” creation only when you’ve reached the point of burnout. Continuously getting burned out is never good for a person’s health.

According to clinical psychologist Sherry Walling, “True perfectionism tends to be rooted in a fear of failure, which can lead to a host of other problems.” Oftentimes, the problems created far outweigh the good that your perfectionism brings out.

P is for Purpose, not Perfection

Perfection is overrated, but your purpose will always be premium.

I am not a clinical psychologist nor will I claim to be an expert in clinical psychology, that’s the point. My purpose is to talk to my previous self and maybe help someone who might suffer like how I did.

Instead of seeking perfection, identify your purpose. Carve a clear path for yourself to grow based on your principles and beliefs. It is on this path that you will keep yourself grounded and happily fulfilled.

Instead of being afraid of failure, make it your mentor. Like a wrong brush stroke which you can use as a guide from which you can eventually identify the right stroke.

Instead of getting scared of not being good enough as a person, start with celebrating your small victories. Congratulations on trying, today! Better luck tomorrow.

Instead of pretending to know everything, admit that you have much to learn and be open to learning. It’s such an amazing feeling to be able to broaden your horizons one new form of literature at a time.

And to the procrastinating perfectionist, instead of saying it isn’t the right time to make a perfect thing, plant your feet and tell yourself it’s at least the right time to get started.

Stop being too hard on yourself because it’s hindering you from growing into the best version you can be. You’re doing great right now. Pace yourself.

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