This is a short essay we’ve received from our reader. It depicts the struggles of a female with perfectionism ideals in studies. While perfectionism might produce amazing short-term results, it’s inevitably connected with depression and anxiety in the long run. The story of our subscriber is the living proof that balance matters. Take care!
For as long as I remember, I’ve been a perfectionist. Always unsatisfied with what I do and longing for more.
First grade. I swear to God that drama club dress for the regional performance was just perfect. Mom did her best to make me look like a little Broadway star, and I cried my eyes out because Mandy Winkles had more sequins on her sleeves. I guess I counted them.
High school. The chemistry lab report seemed to be the next Oscar nominee. But my inner Marie Curie was searching hard for the errors that my partner Jimmy (God bless his eternal patience!), I was sure, made due to his carelessness. After all my “Are you sure it’s good enough?” and “We’re gonna fail it!” we handed the piece in. It was perfect. But…was it perfect enough? Jimmy approached our teacher for a lab partner switch the next day.
My first date. Ted Winston was about to go insane while waiting for me to get ready for the big night. I squeezed myself into that dark-purple dress (not dark and not purple enough) and could hardly breathe. But I guess only those butterflies running through my stomach helped me not to just drop dead on my way to the gate. I didn’t know my quota for the awkwardness of that day wasn’t completed yet (but that’s a completely different story).
Today, I’m a second-year college student navigating my personal perfectionist hell. Sweating over every other book review, lab report, presentation, research paper, or essay is still on the list.
I started college life as a perfectionist and swore to end it like that. In addition to hard work to get an A+, every time I set my weekly, daily or monthly goals, I chose something unrealistic. As I failed to cross all tasks off my to-do list, I was sure I was not worthy of anything. Because…Well, if you have order – you have control (should I mention my color-coded sock drawer and closet here?).
While it seemed that my college friends were on top of their game with less effort put to get homework done, I felt like I’m stuck with every project assigned in class. Needless to say, I did double work to re-check, re-fix, re-edit, and re-perfect (repeat!) every single assignment.
By the end of the first semester, my anxiety reached its critical point as I noticed more and more tasks piling up. Sudden episodes of panic attacks without knowing why hit more and more frequently. Still, I was in the I-can-do-that mode until the day I found myself staring at the drug store counter with antidepressants.
I believed that everyone was judging me as harshly as I judged myself. My college failures were a source of embarrassment and headache, so I tried harder to keep things clean and orderly. In my part-time job routine, I turned in excellent work and always was there to embrace the challenge of new tasks. I sang in the choir. I volunteered. I exercised myself down to my high school size and usually even smaller. Better. Higher. Stronger. Always.
I believed my first poorly rated essay was just a side effect of a family emergency. My uncle passed away all of a sudden, and all the academic issues were paused for a while. The next paper I accomplished the night before it was due (its quality was awful, I confess) proved I’m at the dead point. Multiplied by extracurriculars and job responsibilities, all the tasks were hovering over me as an inevitability. I was just overburdened up to my neck with what I required of myself. Soon I found myself slipping into anxiety. More and more deeply.
First, it was my daily meal that I began to skip unconsciously. Thus, I won more time to focus on the lectures, home tasks, and test preparation sessions. At the end of the day, the untouched bottle of water in my knapsack signalized I was dehydrated. It was exhausting but I knew I had more time to beat all the deadlines. More but not enough. Then I wondered if I should quit my part-time job to focus more on my college routine. But I knew my income would drop dramatically if I stopped working. I had to be more productive but at some point, I found myself pushing more than I had strength. I was about to break down, and with each new “task to fail,” anxiety and depression would kick in more and more.
One day I was talking to a friend describing my personal hell. I told him that all I wanted was just simple perfection. I was stunned by what he said, “You need help. You’re drowning, and you need a hand.” Finally, the reality hit me. If I want to progress, I need to learn to delegate tasks. Not because I’m lazy or dumb. But because I want to be more productive and effective in my studies, as well as grow new skills.
Based on my friend’s recommendations, I browsed a few websites that offered writing help. I confess I paused for a minute before I pressed the Send button for the “Please, write my paper for me” message. Write my essay for me. Write an essay for me. I repeated it several times in my mind before I got used to the idea that someone else (not my Majesty!) would get the task done. But despite my sweaty hands and rapid heartbeat, I let some peace into my routine and felt relieved.
And you know what? The world didn’t stop spinning! I was at war with myself for an hour or two but overpowered myself to let it go. My essay was done right on time and was a pleasure to read and mark, as my professor said (oh, the joy!). However the best thing is now I know that to be a healthy and successful student, you have to learn from your mistakes and be comfortable with making them. And God knows, I’ve learned my lesson well. Putting on my pajamas and immersing in a new Netflix show is not a deadly sin anymore. I would even say it is a perfect alternative to late-night essay writing or reading sessions at times. No more shame, guilt, or anger that I used to feel every time I tried to pause my study race. After an in-depth self-discovery and timely help from online experts, I’m finally at peace with myself accepting the present moment for what it is.
I’m still working hard on college assignments because…well, that’s me. Some things remain unchanged. I like me. However, now I know that it is human to feel tired, inadequate, and in need of help at times. And so I willingly accept the balance between wanting to progress and living a fulfilling and harmonious life.