Wanting to have it all, do it all, be it all can be a strong motivator, pushing you to achieve more in life, personally, professionally, philanthropically. This sense of perfectionism, however, when taken to the extreme, can also be the perfectionist’s downfall and lead to frequent bouts of depression.
The seemingly successful are peeking at us from every corner of social media today: showing us their perfect homes, perfect husbands, perfect pets, perfect friends, perfect cars, perfect teeth, perfect vacations… we can’t help but feel like utter losers checking out the Instagram profiles of some of those high-flying, world-traveling socialites/business people/chefs/fitness pros/health coaches. Behind the façade, however, often hide deep insecurities about one’s past, that these purveyors of the perfect aim to erase.
When we’re little, we’re taught to be good girls, to please our parents, grandparents, their friends, our teachers, and just about anyone and everyone. When we grow up, we learn that good behavior and good grades at school score us major points at home, and we comply. Sometimes, though, nothing seems enough as our elders get more and more demanding, assignments – more challenging, criteria – harder to achieve.
We aim to please but what we do is never enough and this is an issue that young women are particularly susceptible to. Our moms, dads, uncles, grandmothers, boyfriends, neighbours just aren’t happy and we blame ourselves for not doing or being enough. Thus, we push harder, doubling down on our efforts at the expense of sleep, nourishment or self-esteem. We just want to make them happy, and who can blame us? The truth is that no matter how hard we try to make the perfect shortbread cake, to be the perfect daughters/mothers/sisters/wives, it will never be enough.
We enter a perpetual cycle of perfectionism and self-loathing, from which there is no escape. Blaming ourselves for the past, getting anxious about the future and trying to get through the present with any means necessary, just to prove to ourselves that we’re someone worthy of others’ love, or their praise or their recognition. Sometimes those feelings or outwardly expressions of acknowledgement never come, even later in life. Yet, we continue to beat ourselves up, living up to someone else’s standards on who we should be in life, love, or career.
The perfectionist’s depression is one that’s not as melancholic and can often manifest itself in eating disorders, self-harming, drug, alcohol or fitness abuse and other self-destructive behaviours that aim to quench that constant urge to prove ourselves. It’s important to recognize when you are indulging less-than-kind thoughts about yourself and to stop them in their tracks, before they become harmful to you. Be gentle with yourself, treat yourself the way you want and deserve to be treated and expect nothing less of others. When you feel like doing more, don’t. Take time to reflect on everything you’ve already accomplished and be proud of it. Look at what you have, not at what you don’t and focus on who you are today. Being present is the only thing you need to do from now on.
Remember that you are enough. You need to prove nothing, to no one. You were created perfect and you will always be perfect the way you are, without changing a thing. Spending hours at the gym, school, kitchen or the office won’t make you more perfect to yourself because you already are everything you need to be who you want to be in today’s world. If someone else’s ideals for what a woman/wife/daughter/sister needs to look or behave like don’t match yours, let them be and move on from the prison of perfectionism. Live your life with your values, as you see fit, fulfilling your potential, not someone’s idea of it.