Before I turn in each night I make sure my living room is straightened before I head to bed to crawl under the covers. Books and magazines are stacked, pillows are perfectly aligned, and not a thing is misplaced. Call it OCD, call it obsessive, but what I used to fondly refer to it as was perfectionism.
I’ve done things like this all of my life. Ritualistic, creature of habit, or predictable – that’s me. So when asked about weaknesses in an interview, I always used to use the “I’m a perfectionist” pitch as a go-to for a”constructive”/”good weakness”. It was 100% true, and I could back up my claims. Until recently, I was still using that as my answer, but now I see that perfectionism is a really problematic trait that if not used productively and moderately, can cause more harm than actual good. And I know a lot of girls suffer from this.
“But now I see, that perfectionism is a really problematic trait that if not used productively and moderately, can cause more harm than actual good.”
So maybe I’ve lost you. If so, hang tight.
If you’re not like me this may all seem foreign to you. You don’t obsess, you don’t overthink, and you don’t care whether or not the clothes in your closet are sorted by color, sleeve length, and material. However, I do obsess, I do overthink, and my clothes are organized in more ways than you can probably fathom. It’s okay because that’s who I am, but what happens when your own personality traits don’t allow you to grow like you should? When they limit you? When they hurt you?
Sometimes we don’t realize that the very things that make us, US are the things that we need to learn to channel positively or use in a new way. To redirect our traits. See, I allowed (and still often do allow) my perfectionism to keep me from living life to the fullest extent. I allowed my perfectionism to haunt me every time I looked in the mirror, or anytime I said something that probably wasn’t the most intelligent thing I’ve ever said. My perfectionism plagued me.
“That was so stupid. Did I just say that?”
“Seriously? Are those forehead wrinkles? Already? I’m 22.”
“Seriously, my butt is huge. Just 5 more pounds.”
“I’m too short. If only I were 4 inches taller. Hmm.. I’ll just wear wedges the rest of my life.”
“My eyebrows are awful.”
“Why does my skin look dingy today?”
“My natural hair color is THE worst.”
“Just muscle definition in my arms. It’s all I ask.”
“Whiter teeth? Crest white strips, I’m lookin’ at you.”
So recently I’ve been thinking: WHAT would happen if instead of using all of this negative energy scrutinizing myself and analyzing every mistake I made, I used it to get better at the things that truly matter. If I found a positive way to channel it all? Because the reality is: no human currently on this earth is perfect and no human ever will be, thus striving for perfectionism is unrealistic. Instead, what if I used the energy of attempting to be perfect in a more productive way?
Remember the parable in Luke 10:38-42 when Jesus goes to visit Mary and Martha? Essentially (and I’m paraphrasing)- Jesus surprises Mary and Martha at their home. Martha freaks out because of all the preparations that JUST HAVE to be made. Mary? She’s chill and sits at Jesus’ feet listening to what he has to say. This doesn’t bode well with Martha. She continues to freak out and asks Jesus why it doesn’t bother him that Mary isn’t helping her prepare. (I can just see this all unfolding.) Jesus just looks at Martha (probably with a smile on his face/shakes his head laughingly) and tells her:
“Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Ouch. Jesus sticks it to Martha. And in turn, sticks it to us, too.
How often do we selfishly look past the true good in this life? How often do we choose to invest our energy in the petty things over the things that can create significant and positive impacts? We are just so busy with unnecessary self-hate and comparison that it becomes habitual. We don’t even realize the negativity anymore because criticizing ourselves and others has become SO normal.
But that’s SO wrong. And it’s gotta stop.
Maybe you’re not a perfectionist, maybe this isn’t something you struggle with, or maybe it is. Whatever the case, I think that we can all agree that we often need to reevaluate how we look at ourselves, how we view others, and how we are learning to shape both our strengths, and our weaknesses.
So in an effort to to channel my perfectionism positively I am going to begin a series of posts dedicated to: real women that do real things that really matter.
Because it’s time to lend a hand to our fellow girlfriends. It’s time to bring each other up, rather than pushing each other down.
If you’d like to see a piece on a woman that makes an impact in your life and the lives of many others, and that represents what a real woman is and should aspire to be – please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.