Reversing the Mirror, Revealing the REAL Perfectionists

It’s 10:39 p.m. I’ve got less than two hours before my midnight deadline. I can’t ask for another extension because I already did that yesterday. 

My writing process is kinda messy and all over the place this week, but I’m okay with it; I’m NOT perfect by any means. 

I don’t care what my path looks like so long as it’s relatively ethical and it leads me to a place I can be proud of with my full heart. Not just the kind of pride where people congratulate you and it makes you feel slightly better about your unfulfilled goals of the past. Trust me, I’ve experienced that shallow level of pride too many times and counting! 

I’m looking for the kind of pride that lights a fire in my core and energizes me to happily list my achievements or insights in the company of whoever is willing to listen. And I don’t mean that in a snobby or pretentious way. I’m searching for something powerful enough to outroar my introverted tendencies of holding back in conversations.

If you’ve made it this far in my splattered list of random thoughts, you’re probably scratching your head, saying something like: “Okay, cool. But when does she EVER get to the point?” 

The truth is that I just don’t know. Much like the way I make several gut-based decisions in life, I’m not writing this piece with a clear path or purpose. I’m just writing, aiming to arrive somewhere meaningful eventually (hopefully within the next 300 words or so).

You see, I got to pick what topic I wanted to write about earlier this week. I was feeling gutsy, so I chose to tackle societal stigmas around perfectionism. 

I thought I’d have a lot to say since I’ve been diagnosed as a perfectionist WAY too many times by WAY too many people who absolutely insist I’m the only one holding myself back. Forgive me for sounding angsty, but I respectfully disagree with just about everyone on this. And okay, I’m probably lying about the respectful part.

It’s odd. Everytime I sit down at my laptop to start this piece, I end up turning it off and moving onto another task. I didn’t know why that was a few days ago. 

However, when I was showering recently (yet another one of my glorious, seemingly productive procrastination tactics), an important idea finally occurred to me: I shy away from addressing why I’m misunderstood as a perfectionist because the complicated theory behind it is triggering.

As I sit here feeling more vulnerable than ever in my pajamas with wet hair, I realize I’m not going to use this space to explain my most tragic sob stories about bullying and mental health. I’m not ready to do that publicly yet. I’ll let you know if that changes in the near future.

Instead, I want to tell you as much as I’m ready to reveal today.

So here’s a rough thesis based solely on anecdotal evidence: Women and girls often have to work harder to achieve equal pay and success as their male counterparts, forcing them to embody near-perfect ideals just to secure stable jobs a lot of the time. 

Results from a study dubbed as Australia’s Biggest Mental Health Check-In report about 33 per cent of women with corporate jobs had high perfectionism scores in 2018, compared to only 21 per cent of men.

When we look at corporate roles from a Canadian lens, the competitive landscape between men and women only gets more bleak. In fact, the 15th annual report from Rosenzweig & Company shows women only held 7.99 per cent of executive titles at Canada’s top 100 public companies in 2020. What’s more problematic is that these numbers have actually shown a year-over-year decline.

Now, let’s get to the point and reverse the mirror. I challenge you to ask yourself: who’s the perfectionist in this society? 

Is it the woman being forced into a perfect mold just so she can see equal results as her male counterparts? 

Or could it be that hiring manager and salary-setter who puts a glass ceiling over her head every single day in every single decision (regardless of whether their choice is intentional or subconscious)? 

Could it also be her male coworker who accepts the promotion she deserved more, without ever reflecting on what true allyship looks like in practice?

Hint: It’s definitely not the woman from Exhibit A!