I have a confession to make…I am a perfectionist. This might surprise some people who know me because there are many aspects of my life where my perfectionism does not come up, such as being organized (you should see my house- seriously) or school assignments. When my perfectionism does come out, it is nasty. It is critical. It is mean. It is poison.
I sat down with my director over a month ago because I was really struggling at work. I hit that wall. In social work we call it compassion fatigue, but I called it “I just can’t handle other people’s stories right now.” It was incredibly hard for me to admit that I had gotten to this point. I know I have a tough job and I have never judged a coworker for hitting their limit, but I should be better. I need to be stronger than everyone else. I cannot show any weakness. I can look at those statements and logically think there is no weakness in admitting your vulnerabilities but do I feel that? Nope.
She asked if I was a perfectionist and was surprised to hear that I was. Because I care about what I do, I criticize myself every contact I have. I should have said something else. I should have asked about blank. I am not good enough to do this work. I finally said out loud that I have never left my job feeling like I did enough. It was becoming clear that my perfectionism was getting in the way of being able to have any self-love and resiliency to do the work I do.
I have, over the years, reaped the benefits of being a perfectionist. I have accomplished a lot in my life. The problem is, I have never been able to enjoy those accomplishments. My therapist asked me if I had a bar for myself and I said that I do and it is constantly rising. Even when I wrote my book, it was not good enough. I needed to be more successful with it. This is such a subjective goal that with every achievement, I expect more of myself. I am even so critical of myself that I have not read any of my book since publishing it because I am petrified that I will find faults and hate that I ever wrote it.
So here I am. I am finally acknowledging my perfectionist ways. I am hearing those criticisms and fully listening to them. I cannot ignore my vulnerabilities and self-doubt, but I can try to identify when the poisonous self-talk starts and replace it with positive affirmations. I have been seeing a therapist and reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown to continue to better understand my perfectionism. I feel more raw than ever and incredibly vulnerable. I am scared shitless. But this is probably the healthiest I have been in a very long time.