Posted in Making Sense Analysis, What Just Happened: Personal Anecdotes

Why Perfectionism Isn’t Healthy and Caused Me Months of Procrastination and Exhaustion

I’ve been an over achiever for as long as I remember.  I strive to do my best at all times and won’t take any less than almost perfect.  When I was in school, from grade school to undergrad, I would try to do more than was asked and be at the top of each class and level.  I wouldn’t sleep, sometimes wouldn’t eat, until things were done in its longest and most thought out form (still first drafts so it wasn’t perfect) but I would put my all in everything.  From first grade to my last semester in college I continued to run my race of perfectionism but recently noticed it began to effect my health last January.

When I was in grade school I made it my goal to get over a 90 in every test, in every class and do every assignment and go to school every single day.  When I didn’t go to school I would cringe in my skin and worry that I would get too far behind.  A break in my streak occurred in a vocal class in high school I had for four years.  That’s when the “weakest link” phrase entered my psyche.  I couldn’t be perfect in that class and I wasn’t as good as I thought (or at least the teacher made me think so) so I worked my butt off just to get the same results.  Every day I started to hate myself and the class because I couldn’t be the perfectionist I wanted to be.  I liked to sing but I found and believed and couldn’t sing well and I wasn’t good enough.  I compared myself to others and ingrained the “weakest link”mindset in how I thought about myself. When I graduated high school and left the class, my perfectionism got worse, but I began to get tired.


As my last year in college progressed I noticed that I didn’t want to do anything and lacked the motivation and drive to wake up in the morning.  I dreaded every day and would leave my assignments to the absolute last minute (not a good idea for perfectionist tendencies and results).  Because I was a perfectionist procrastinator I started to feel my anxiety peak at its all time high because I had lots to do and no motivation to do but the guilt of my perfectionism at the forefront of my anxiety and minor depression.  I feared I would disappoint my professors and damage my GPA so I pushed myself beyond my limits (health wise) and found myself exhausted and unhappy.

I was tired.  My body.  My soul.  My motivation.  Me, I was tired.  I wanted to leave it all there in my campus apartment because I couldn’t do it.  I was plagued with panic because it was a lot and I didn’t believe I could do it.

Despite the struggle of getting up in the morning everyday for a year I managed to get two 4.0s (surprisingly) first in all four years.  I wasn’t proud of myself really.  I felt I was supposed to get it.  I’m a perfectionist.

Now, at the end of the summer a Syracuse University graduate I’m still exhausted and I don’t get up early.  I do one thing and I’m tired. I want to sleep all the time and its been three months.  Shouldn’t I be rested? Well I’m not.  I just want to spend time with my family and not have to put in effort to be perfect.  I don’t want to try anymore to make others happy.  I want to be happy.

If you read through all that I’ve written and find yourself to be a perfectionist, its okay…you don’t have to be.  If you’re a hard worker, great! Keep working hard, but don’t let failure or what people say to you make you feel your not working as hard as you are.  Don’t compare yourself to anyone and don’t push yourself past what you can take.  Take breaks you don’t have to be perfect.  One or two or three “low scores” isn’t bad nor is lost opportunities.  Sleep and be proud of yourself.  Be vocal to the ones who care.  Don’t wait till you’re too drained to say you need support and please love yourself, say no when necessary.

From someone who is still exhausted from years or perfectionism, know that its okay not to be at the top.  Try your best.  It is good enough.  Your effort will reap its harvest.

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