Author, journalist and opinion columnist Anna Quindlen said, “the thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.”
I’ve been a hardcore perfectionist ever since I can remember. I can boldly proclaim from a mountaintop that the outrageous struggle I have with striving to be perfect in literally everything I put my mind to do is exhausting, to say the very least. Being a student leader, writer, creator, the oldest of my siblings and a woman — a woman of color, to be frank — chasing perfection in everything I do may be the biggest struggle I face going about my daily life.
With every word I speak or write, every note I play on my keyboard or guitar and practically every project I am apart of, there comes an inner obligatory need for me to be flawless. If what I do doesn’t meet my standard of perfection, in addition to being disappointed in myself, I am beyond uncomfortable with the entire project.
It wasn’t until I got to college that I came to terms with the reality that in my quest and attempts to be perfect in everything I do, I wasn’t really living. I continually hindered myself from embracing my very own process of growth by striving for perfectionism.
Perfectionists like myself spend so much time in an endless pursuit for everything to be perfect. We end up missing out on what life is really about: being present in each moment and experiencing life where we are, as we are. Many people who strive for perfection in their daily lives — wanting to plan it out step-by-step and have it go exactly how they believe it should — end up missing out on some of life’s best surprises and most meaningful moments.
I, too, am guilty of this.
There are times when we try so hard to reach a degree of perfection that is nearly impossible. However, I am learning that perfection cannot be attained. Agendas change, conflicts emerge and it is all inevitable.
When we begin to understand that perfection isn’t actually something we can reach and maintain forever, we can finally let go of the never-ending quest for perfection with our body, our career and our relationships. Once we indulge in the idea of letting go of perfection, life is smoother, less stressful and much more enjoyable, especially for hardcore perfectionists like me.
We must also realize that perfection isn’t authentic either. Besides feeling excessive levels of stress, pressure and anxiety, when perfection is my goal, my passion for the things I love to do can get lost in the midst of my strongest attempts to be flawless. I can’t really think of a time where I have given myself the chance to truly be patient with myself in whatever task is at hand while simultaneously attempting to attain perfection. I thought when I’d reached perfection, I’d find satisfaction in my efforts. However, since the pursuit of perfection is an endless chase, the satisfaction never came.
Only when I had the courage to work toward breaking my perfectionist mindset was I fully able to bring my true self to the world. This was the first moment I began to find the inner satisfaction I was craving all along. This process isn’t easy or comfortable for me, but surely, it is incredibly freeing.
When we’ve demanded perfection from ourselves for years, it can be scary to let go of our customs and let the world see us authentically. However, this is where your true beauty resides, not in perfection, but in bringing all of who you are to the world.
Nothing is ever meant to be perfect in life. If that were the case, there would be no such thing as growth and evolution. Therefore, allow yourself to show up in the world as you are. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Allow yourself to learn. Whether you perform badly on a test, get into a quarrel with a relative, express feelings to a close friend and have it all come out wrong or experiment with a new hobby knowing it is likely one that you will never master, embrace this journey. “Mistakes” like these turn into lessons that allow us to incorporate feedback and work towards being better people.
Perfection isn’t something you can achieve because it doesn’t actually exist. As I am on this route to shattering my own perfectionist mindset, I encourage you to do the same if you share this same struggle. Rest in the truth that the imperfect, flawed, vulnerable, talented and unique you is enough. Trading perfectionism for being patient with yourself and in your growth is the first step to becoming you.
Trinity Bland is a sophomore studying journalism. Follow her on Twitter @trinityaliciaa.