As far as I can remember, I have ALWAYS been a perfectionist. It was something that always motivated me, until I developed unhealthy patterns that affected my emotional and mental health. In today’s blog, I’m going to share some of my unhealthy battles with perfectionism and why I’m breaking them.
So, a part of my self-care and healing journey has been me calling myself out on toxic and/or unhealthy patterns of behavior and perspectives that have been counterproductive. During this journey, I started paying attention to how I handled failure and rejection. I found that when I encountered failure and rejection, I retreated into isolation. I would pick myself apart bit by bit; sending myself into an emotional frenzy. I began to question if I was really cutout to do it, if I was smart enough, and if God had really called me to do what He was guiding me to. I asked God to reveal these deep seeded issues to me; that they would be exposed so I could truly heal and become whole from them. I had no idea how deep those roots went. Are you ready to take this journey with me? Let’s go!
The first stop on this journey took me back to my elementary, middle school, and high school years. During these years, I had the opportunity to participate in various camps and activities outside of school. I excelled academically and tried to do the right things. However, I did feel this underlying pressure to be perfect all the time. Let me explain. During some of these activities, I was either the only black student or one of the few minority students there. At a young age, I felt the weight of “getting it right” and made sure to “represent my people” well. I didn’t feel like there was any room for error. While I understand why there was a push to succeed, I also recognized that not having a healthy way of processing setbacks negatively impacted my confidence. This mindset followed me on into adulthood.
The next stop on this journey had me reflecting on religion. I was raised as Missionary Baptist. There was a way that you were to carry yourself and certain rules that you were to obey. This is where I was first introduced to Christ and where I was baptized. I learned the stories in The Bible, and I knew that Jesus died for my sins, but I did not begin to cultivate that relationship with Christ until my mid-20s. Yes, I was dutiful in church, but a relationship with Christ is more than what you do; it is about the time you spend with Him. You may be wondering, “Where does perfectionism fit in all of this”? Well, there was an expectation and a standard to uphold within church. While it is important to reverence the House of God with respect, I did feel that there were times when others and myself were struggling with real-life issues but did not feel there was the space in church to talk about them. Maybe it was the fear of shame, guilt, or disappointment. Yeah, I know, I should’ve “prayed about it”, right? Well I did pray, and I was trying to find the strength to maintain a “perfect image” while I carried the mantle of responsibility at the same time.
The last stop on this journey brought me to reflecting on the cultural and societal perceptions of women, particularly Black women. There are labels that depict Black women as unprofessional, loud, and mean. I have encountered these stereotypes in various professional and social capacities; more commonly in settings where I was one of few minorities present. Over time, I noticed that I became more and more consumed with going above and beyond to prove I belonged. I would critique the way I talked, the tone of my voice, how I wore my hair, and how I dressed. I think this is where I noticed that anxiety was becoming more common for me because I would overthink my responses to make sure I did not conform into those stereotypes. Mentally, I grew exhausted and physically I was fatigued. Why was I allowing these thoughts and misconceptions to control how I perceived myself? When did I lose sight of my individuality?
Perfectionism, if developed in unhealthy ways, can cause you to spiral out of control. For me, I was constantly placing myself under a microscope to appeal to and appease everyone. Often, we become frustrated with attempting to achieve perfection because we are trying to prove or disprove something to people. Next thing we know, years have passed by and we still haven’t tapped into what we’ve been called to do. I encourage you to strive toward excellence in what you do, and in whatever you do, be GREAT!!! It was important for me to be vulnerable to this process because I know there are others who can identify with what I’m talking about. This journey has helped me to sort through years of stagnancy and unfulfilled goals by removing certain ideals and beliefs that are not conducive to my purpose. I’m sharing this because as I now sit here at 30yrs old, I am learning to be intentional about providing myself with the space, grace, and compassion to grow without succumbing to the pressures of outside influences and perceptions. I am intentional about not letting certain roles, stereotypes, and images be a determining factor in who I am or what I have been called to do.
So where am I currently on this journey? I am striding and making purposeful steps toward results. I am pursuing excellence, not perfectionism. Most importantly, I am reaffirming myself with what God says about me so that I can navigate life in true peace. So, I’m giving you a little homework. I want you to set aside time to reflect on everything you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how it makes you feel. Prioritize as you see fit and be intentional about YOU from this day forward. Your experiences by differ from mine, but I do know that we can always encourage others with our testimonies. Feel free to reach out to me and let me know how you’re doing. I pray God’s blessings upon you along your journey.