Guest Blog Written by Jenn Sternecker (firstname.lastname@example.org)
“Life isn’t about finding yourself…life is about creating yourself.” – George Bernard Shaw.
When defining perfectionism, I think that something has to be done to the upmost standards and putting that thought into action so that the end result of whatever it is you are working on (project, quality of self, etc) is better then anyone else’s. Hi, my name is Jenn and yes, I am a recovering perfectionist. I can recall perfectionism being a part of my life from a very early age. In fact, my parents always told me that I was a perfectionist from the day I was born and would not do simple things such as roll over until I could roll over the entire house. When I was about 5 or 6, I remember trying to fix a broken swing at my grandma’s house. I spent 30+ minutes as a young girl trying to untangle the swing on the tree and I was not going to stop until it was fixed, even though it was functional how it was.
My perfectionism was rewarded at times, or the results of it were. I always seemed to get more attention when I was performing well (sports, school, dance, gymnastics, girl scouts, etc). Getting A’s were praised but they also became the norm so anything other than an A was looked down upon, or so I thought. If I did something extra special, my parents would take me out for a special treat like ice cream at Baskin Robbins. Therefore, I felt that I was more loved if I did something good, got a reward or medal, or was praised for something. My dad is very analytical and a perfectionist in some areas himself so I think I picked up some of it from him. I remember getting a 98% on something for school one time and being told “Well, there’s room for improvement.” I also think my personal qualities play into as well though, or at least make it more difficult to break out of, such as my determination, goal oriented, introvert, stubbornness, lack of self confidence, etc.
It wasn’t until late high school that my perfectionism really started to become a problem, or at least an outward problem. I’m sure it was always an inward problem as I would constantly beat myself up emotionally if I did not perform to the standard that I had set for myself which was beyond attainable in most instances. With the development of my eating disorder in 2003/2004, my perfectionism was no longer on what I did, but also on what I looked like, the number on the scale, the size of my pants, what my mind told me when I looked in the mirror, how far I could run in a certain amount of time, and how few calories I could eat. No matter what my goal was set at, it always changed once I hit it. Nothing was ever good enough. I was not good enough, or so I thought. Thoughts of self-hatred, depression, anxiety, inadequacy, unworthiness, bad body image and just flat out not being good enough plagued my every thought. I had to constantly try harder, continually strive for more, and always prove to myself, and others, that I would go the extra mile.
However, there came a point when I realized that this was not the life I wanted to live. I could no longer physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually handle what I was putting myself through. I was drained. I was not happy. I was not living the life I wanted to live. My passions and desires had been wiped away and my eating disorder was my every thought and really, my biggest companion. It turned me into a person I was not. I became hateful, angry, resentful; I lied, I manipulated and I cared about no one but myself. While I said I cared about others, my actions did nothing but hurt others. It was at this time in 2007 that I decided to start along my road of recovery.
It has been a bumpy road. There have been many evenings when I wished parts of life were just a little easier. Or that I could take a break from recovery just for the day so that I could surpass the day of uncomfortable feelings that seem to be accompanying in order to focus on something else (school/finals often in my case). But alas, I have learned that this “just for the day” syndrome is not a “just for the day.” So fight on I have. But yes, it has been uncomfortable. Thoughts have plagued my mind. Lies have crept in. Fight on. Some things just don’t seem to be going as planned. Those “rules” that guided my life so many years, rules that made me feel a little closer to being perfect, rules that sometimes seem impossible to break. Fight on….fight on! Through all the self talk, affirmations, prayers, music, I have managed to fight on.
I was once asked how I feel about someone who is not a perfectionist? To that I can answer: I admire them! Being able to be spontaneous, happy-go-lucky, and content with just doing your best is something I wish to have. My brother is far from a perfectionist and while he gets teased by my family for doing just enough to slide by, I find it fascinating!
I think I am slowly going about changing my thoughts regarding perfectionism day by day. This happens through walking in the grey, not just living in the black or the white, creating short-term goals to help me get to the long-term, and being present in the moment. Even when thinking about having my perfectionism not rule me, I automatically jump to having it gone completely, however, I know its just a day to day process, being conscious of when the perfectionism is kicking in and taking the steps to stop it in its tracks.
Today I believe that there is a life ahead of me. While I do not know what my future holds, I believe that God has a purpose for whatever he is throwing at me right now. He has a plan. He will use me and my experiences. Life is a journey and I want to experience that journey. I have spent too much time just being a part of society, a statistic on the census, trying to be that perfect person with perfect grades, a perfect body, a perfect life. I want to experience what is actually happening on my journey. I want to walk. Not just stand there and watch it pass by. I will be active in my journey. My journey is not only mine, it is intertwined with those I love and whom love me. They come. Some go. Some stay. But they are all a part of the journey and for that I am grateful. Every action. Every happening. Every person. Every tear. Every laughter. They all have molded me, shaped me, and formed me to who I am. While I need all those things, I am now choosing to take some of my own ideas, my own passions that were once lost, and my own goals to add into the mix. I will no longer be passive. I believe that I have a future and more molding to be done.