The day I discovered I was a perfectionist

The day I discovered I was a perfectionist - student project



I was talking to my good friend, who also happened to be a life coach, when a sinking truth dawned upon me. Oh shit, I thought. ‘I am a perfectionist, aren’t I?’ I said out loud. My friend solemnly agreed . “Of course you are,” she replied, and continued, in true life-coach fashion: “How do you think it’s served you?”  I thought quickly- “Growing up, I saw that my parents dealt with a lot of problems and I felt like I didn’t want them to worry about me. I think pretending like I could manage everything on my own was my way of keeping the peace in my family” Aha!

It was true. As first generation Russian/Armenian immigrants, my parents argued and fought incessantly about anything and everything. It was like they were Italian, but worse- yelling and screaming was the norm, as was name calling and hurled insults. It was like a game of tennis- one parent served their anger at the other, the other swung back with vengeance. I grew up dodging their emotions and problems by immersing my self in to school and books, and then running off to college to continue dodging their emotions - and subsequently, my emotions too. This lead to perpetual perfectionism.

Wait, no, I can’t be, I argued internally. No-one thinks I am…Her? She isn’t a  perfectionist, she is always running late, and when is the last time she actually brushed her hair? And that’s when it made sense- I have been avoiding the truth of being a perfectionist by trying to prove to myself and others that I was not that. I pretended to be cool and calm and collected, like I always had my shit together, but really I was an anxious wreck. It probably seemed like I had my shit together because I never put myself out there. In fact, I had never really failed at anything because I never gave myself the opportunity to try anything long enough to find out.

I was knees deep in my perfectionism, a closet- perfectionist, really. It’s a subtle, insidious thing that has seeped in to all areas of my life, this thing Perfectionism. (I imagine it gray in color, and it’s pretty ugly, but it’s wearing a fluffy pink bow).  It explained why I avoided romantic relationships unless it was the perfect relationship, which then explained why I am still single. It explained why I had an insurmountable fear of being judged or failing, and why I put so much pressure on myself to succeed in my career. I thought I was self aware-  I’m a personal growth junkie: I've read every self-help book, I had done therapy, and life coaching, I meditate every day.  I didn’t think I fit the bill as being a perfectionist until I realized I was the poster child for perfectionism.

Upon doing further investigation on this phenomenon, I came across this quote by Elizabeth Gilbert: “I think perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat, pretending to be elegant when actually it's just terrified. Because underneath that shiny veneer, perfectionism is nothing more that a deep existential angst the says, again and again, 'I am not good enough and I will never be good enough.”

Liz is right. And- fuck that! I am enough! I have come to realize that I am much more happy doing what I want, when I want, while not caring what people think. I am a recovering Perfectionist and the first step is admitting that I have a problem. I don’t need to pretend to have my shit together anymore. I feel like screaming it from a rooftop: I DON’T HAVE MY SHIT TOGETHER! This is my new mantra and it has helped me more than any self help book I’ve ever read.