At age eight, I vividly remember throwing away multiple colorings back-to-back after accidentally coloring outside the lines. Every one of them still not finished but ruined in my mind as they laid there staring back at me. A frustration ate me alive in the split second that the green spilled over a little too much over the black line. Something in my mind triggered an angry, disappointed response within myself, like I was being too careless, that I needed to care more. You needed to do better.
That little, pestering voice never left me; in fact, it became louder, more apparent as I grew up. In sports, class, even small hobbies that I set myself, I was followed by the little voice that critiqued every waking thing I focused on. Learning how to work through even though it followed me was something I had to learn to silence.
As I got older the voice became more eloquent, judging me when I listened the most. As I looked at myself in the mirror, writing papers, even when I tried out a new method of cutting fruit, I thought to myself, “ugh, just do better.” In my mind, I thought if other people can do it so easily, what was wrong with me? Perhaps it’s my need for instant gratification or my inner insecurities, but my perfectionism knew exactly where to hit me when I was least expecting it.
My perfectionism is the bag on my back, and I know what you’re thinking— wait, this is an article about dealing with perfection, what does she mean is? Let me clarify, I am not a person to give advice on how to not be a perfectionist but I think throughout my life I learned to be self-aware about when my perfectionism is talking rather than my actual self.
Now, I lean into the discontentment to pull me out of it. As much as it sounds counterintuitive, I found that deep in me, I want myself to succeed and that the voice in my head is an unnatural expectation that my inexpertise has made up. There’s nothing more frustrating than when I find myself loathing on something that I know is unrealistic, but yet I feel like I should be somewhere else than I am.
Related: Be Your Own Perfect
I’m not sure if there’s only one way to deal with that little voice in my head, but what I found to be most helpful is being mindful to bring me back from falling into the hole that I know far too well. Quite literally, I need to channel both the angel and devil on my shoulder. The yin and the yang, the black and the white. The grey area was the dangerous place for me, the uncertainty— my own personal purgatory.
Finding what keeps you from slipping into that grey area, that’s your key out. For me, I need to look into the dark to cast myself out, I know myself and from there I can cancel out what isn’t of myself.
I hope this made sense and that you find your key out of perfectionism, be easy on yourself.