Would you believe me if I told you it took me weeks to write this short blurb? Hi, I am Tanner, and I am a self-proclaimed perfectionist. The grossly incorrect mantra that hums in my head: If it cannot be done perfectly, it is not worth doing at all. Can you believe that?
For decades, I operated from a place of fear of worthlessness, and I measured my worth primarily by my athletic, artistic, and academic performances. I had one rule: no mistakes. If someone scored a goal on me in a soccer game, I was the worst goalie in the world. If I could not create Picassoesque art, I did not pick up the brush. If I took a test, I had to get a 100% or I was a failure.
I can imagine you reading this and thinking, “Tanner, perfection is impossible. Nobody is perfect at everything all the time, maybe ever.” If you are thinking this, congratulations! You are right and you figured that out way before I did!
If you, too, are a perfectionist, welcome to the community. There are plenty of us and we greet you in empathetic arms. Perfectionism is daunting, exhausting, dynamic (always changing). What is “perfect” may look different in a year. Just look at beauty standards or putting green shag carpet over original hardwood floors.
I look back at old photos with friends that I made from years of competitive sports, and as I’ve grown and gone through my own counseling, I see fewer game errors and more wonderful memories of playing with my best friends. Opening old art journals, I see beautiful shapes and colors, and most importantly, my heart, on the grainy pages. I do not see Picasso, but I am not Picasso, and I still remind myself that that is okay. As for academia, this I am still working on. Thankfully, I do not haveto step foot in a classroom ever again. Woohoo!
For so long my worth and my performance were intertwined, and it has taken some time to untangle the two. It is okay to want to do well, in fact, it is motivating. When the desire to do well consumes you, petrifies you from trying at all, and leaves you rattled and broken when you perceive you have made an error, then I recommend taking a pause and a deep breath. Then, I encourage you to remember that you are more than what you do well. You are a beautiful person, intentionally created to make mistakes because that’s when we grow.
Even now, I get tripped up in my entanglement of worth and performance. Remember, I am only human. But even as humans we can do some pretty amazing things. When I get caught in my perfectionist web, I talk to someone. A friend, my mom, my counselor. These are people who know my heart, deeper than just my athleticism, artistic ability, or academic performance. So, I listen to them tell me the good things about my heart, my perfectly imperfect heart.
You are worthy. Mistakes and fears included. And when the voice to be perfect is louder than the voice of worth, turn to people who know your heart.