Confessions of a Perfectionist

There’s a reason why I gave myself a huge callus on my middle finger – that I still have – when learning how to write in cursive in third grade.

There’s a reason why I put too much on my schedule and experience frequent meltdowns.

There’s a reason why I ditch flawed relationships that rather than bothering to fix them.

I am a perfectionist.

Perfectionism Is Actually About You Not Being Good Enough…Ever

I’ve  come to realize that perfectionism really isn’t about perfection.   It’s actually just a bunch of lies to make you feel bad about yourself and your accomplishments.

Perfectionism lies to us and says that if we just work hard enough, we can achieve anything and it will be perfect.   That if we aren’t achieving perfection, something is wrong with us.

It tells us everyone else is moving faster and achieving more.  And they’re making fun of you for not being as perfect as them.

Perfectionism also tells you that whatever you DO accomplish isn’t good enough and that you shouldn’t  suck so much the next time you try.

Or else everyone will realize that you aren’t good enough.

Thankfully, nobody is perfect.   As Julia Cameron wrote, “Perfectionism doesn’t believe in practice shots. It doesn’t believe in improvement…Perfectionism measures our beginner’s work against the finished work of masters.”

That’s just unfair and wrong.

Why Feminism Can Help You Let Go of Perfectionism

 I bet a lot of people are wondering why feminism can be used to address perfectionism.  It’s not the most obvious connection.  But believe me, it can.

Feminism teaches us self-acceptance and compassion towards ourselves. We don’t have to measure ourselves against some arbitrary standard and fit into these narrow social roles in order to be worthy. Our imperfections are not inadequacies.  They are what make us unique.

Feminism shows us that we are not all suffering alone.  We were all raised in a society that taught us that to be good enough, we had to be perfect.  It tells us that we are not alone in feeling this way; we are not “crazy” for feeling like we need to be perfect and we are not terrible when we don’t succeed.

Feminism says, actually, you are enough.

Testing Feminism Against My Perfectionism

I was asked to create a poster describing why I’m an everyday feminist. This is normally about when I would break out the pencils and rulers and begin laying out the poster so that it looks visually equal.

But I wanted to try being “enough,” as feminism tells me I am, by applying it in a situation that would normally cause my perfectionism to flare.

I took out acrylic paint. I dug around and found a paint brush. I grabbed a scrap piece of poster board that had rough edges and an uneven border. Then I took a deep breath and started to paint.

No rulers. No perfect spaces or penciled in lines. Just a blank piece of uneven poster board and me.

At first, I still tried to make every letter even and perfect.  But I realized I didn’t leave enough room on the first line for the word “feminist”.  This made the first line appear uneven and not centered on the page.

It was really hard for me to keep going without cutting the paper to make the “I am an everyday” centered. You can tell I tried to make the next line centered on the page.  This only made the first line appear more left-oriented.

At this point, I told myself there was no way I was going to submit anything that looked like this.

You can see my frustration in the words “because” and “questioned” – the words look sloppy on the page compared to the words that come before them.  But still I kept going.

Then, a few lines down, I didn’t put enough space between “dawned” and “on” on the third to last line.

That made me stop.

I didn’t want to keep going. But I forced myself.

When I stepped back, I saw all of the flaws and imperfections as a whole.

Where I had smudged a letter.

Where the paintbrush had run out of paint.

How the words were not aligned on the page.

And right about then, I saw it.

I saw my 7 year old self, looking at her art saying to herself “actually, that’s refrigerator worthy.”

I saw pride in what the words said, not the way they looked.

I don’t want to be perfect. I want to be unique.

And that’s what the poster showed. It showed that I am enough and that I can find love in my heart to embrace my imperfections.