Panting, I look down at my watch to check my run pace. I’m running at a 6:30 minute pace.
“Ok. This is the perfect pace” I begin calculating my distance until the end of the race. In my mind, I’m visualizing various stretches of the run where to either conserve or exert energy. In my calculation, I begin to internally celebrate the end of the run. I’ll finally have gotten that “perfect” score that has alluded me for over eight years.
Then I hit a wall (almost literally), I had run off course. My heart somehow began to beat harder than it had during the entire race. I turn around, and notice the other racers in the distance running down another route.
Perfection went out the window. Where it should be.
Panting, again, I lie on the grass at the conclusion of the race. I look down and check my watch and notice I added another two minutes to my goal.
My new friend Captain (intentionally left blank), slaps me on the back in laughter. “Where did you run off too, LT? You get lost?”. Laughing to myself, I explain what happened. His reply was simple and cliche’: “Well, you’ll only make that mistake once.” On the surface, I agreed. I would only fail that route once. However, I’ve continued to chase the idea of perfectionism my entire adult life.
Perfectionism is a marathon without a finish line.
Perfectionism turns something as bizarre as life and attempts to put it on a report card. All thoughts, actions, and emotions are recorded on a metaphorical report card.
You have over 1000 followers on instagram? B+ for “popularity”
Your child drops spaghetti all over your fresh mopped floor? C- for “parenting”
Your boyfriend cheats on you? D- for not being “pretty enough”
Slams over ten drinks in three hours? A+ for “tolerance”
Perfectionism is a term used by Mental Health Professionals as the standard to refuse any standard short of perfection. Given that EVERY human is fallible and prone to mistakes, perfectionism is toxic to the human psyche.
Don’t get me wrong, it sometimes helps you succeed. Don’t get me wrong, it also shoots yourself in the foot. In the chase for perfection, we find that we are more motivated by fear of failure instead of the joy of accomplishment. In doing so, we associate damaging thoughts to failure.
“I (bleeped) up”
“I am such a failure”
“I will never amount to anything”
These thoughts often contribute to damaging behaviors. These thoughts are the fuel for the vehicle that is self sabotage.
Some put off happiness until the perfect opportunity presents itself. “I will do this thing I’ve always dreamed of only when x, y, and z, present themselves.
Perfectionists often have low tolerance for a lack of consistency and reliability. “Everyone must act a certain way, or they’re completely untrustworthy.
Being unwilling to try new things because of the chance of things not working all the time. Because of this, perfectionist over plan even some of the simplest tasks.
Perfectionism has greatly increased over the last 30 years, according to psychologists. We find that this distortion of thought have direct links to maladaptive behaviors often resulting in mental health illness — most commonly anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and substance use disorder.
It’s interesting to reflect on perfectionism. I, too, disdain the feeling of failure and torture myself in order to avoid it. However, when I reflect on my failures, did they not foster the most growth? In fact, I am curious about some of the worlds greatest leaders? How many of them experienced catastrophic failures?
We have to peel apart the idea that a failure is a reflection of our human soul.
Michael Jordan said it best himself: “I have missed over 9000 shots, lost over 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to make the game winning shot and missed. I have failed over and over again. And that is why I succeed.”
So when you look at your report card on life, I invite you not to look at the individual grades, but what you’re saying to yourself about the individual grades. No report card can take you away from your hopes, dreams, and human worth.
Shout outs to Cafe’ Lucida in Wahiawa, HI for the writing venue.