They push. They tell you to keep learning. They constantly check your grades. There is always someone better who got an A. And you are not stupid, and you can get an A, too. You have to work harder.
Don’t oversleep. Don’t spend too much time hanging around. Come back home before midnight. Be disciplined. You will thank me one day.
We all heard these words. I didn’t thank them. Neither did my anxiety disorder.
Days of anxiety
I grew up with that tiny little voice in my head that constantly told me to work harder. And, oh gosh, how I worked harder. I worked 10 hours a day in a company where I didn’t even have the time to eat. I slept only three to four hours a night. I was taking several courses at the time. I was still at college and studied for exams. I was trying to keep up with my hobbies. I was writing, reading, exercising.
God knows how I managed to find free time to hang out with friends. We usually went to parties on weekends, so even on weekends, I was out all night, drinking. And I was hungover the day after.
It was my coping mechanism, but the choice was bad.
I traveled and worked, went to festivals, was always active more than 10 hours a day, never had the time to take a break and relax, be with myself, do some introspection.
Nothing I achieved, despite how amazing it was, wasn’t good enough for me. I graduated, at the same time, I changed a profession, successfully finished several design courses, found a job as a self-taught designer, had a decent salary, I was a published poet.
Still, I had never felt good enough. I was always running for more. I was always after the next challenge.
We have a problem, girl.
I learned the hard way that this has to stop. It was summer 2018. I was at a music festival. The day after the first night of the festival, I ended up shaking on the floor in a holocaust museum 200 km away from home. I couldn’t get up. I felt nausea, vertigo, couldn’t breathe or talk. I felt totally dissociated,
I thought I was dying. That was my first panic attack experience. Luckily, my friend was with me and called an ambulance.
I only remember how they took me back to the apartment and the smell of that shabby ambulance car. I was lying in bed all day and night, couldn’t do anything at all. I couldn’t even think. My mind was foggy. I could only go to the toilet and pee every hour as I was extremely nervous.
I was feeling overwhelmed. I burnt out. I don’t know how I managed to come back home, but I did. I went to my cottage near my hometown. I spent two months there. I quit my job, quit lessons, quit everything. I was only working on my poetry, as this was something good for my mental health. I didn’t see anyone except my mom and my brother.
Then I found a therapist. I had serious insomnia, anxiety, depression, and panic disorder.
Breaking up with perfectionism
What good did this neverending cycle of aiming for more do? And why is perfectionism still considered a ‘good thing’? Why do we still hear at job interviews how people are constantly bragging about being perfectionists? “Oh, my flaws? Well, I am a perfectionist”, and that humble, fake smile.
Do we actually achieve more with the perfectionist lifestyle? Not at all. Studies showed that people who are perfectionists feel disconnected and dissatisfied. They always have a lingering urge to do more.
They experience things like anxiety, depression, anorexia, bulimia, and several more disorders. They even have suicidal thoughts.
And where does it come from?
Studies have shown that perfectionism is rooted in self-hatred. It’s connected to our memories of those who should have praised us more in childhood. We become perfectionists from a sense of being unworthy, uninteresting, flawed. Perfectionists are not interested in perfect work at all. They are trying to escape a feeling of being unworthy.
Their goal isn’t to be an ideal team member. Their goal is to feel acceptable.
Perfectionists are sorrowful people. They are never satisfied with what they do. They struggle to relax, enjoy life, share their thoughts and feelings. If trying new things means not doing it perfectly, they may not give it a go. They never ask for help. In their heads, it means they are weak because they can’t do it on their own. They become obsessed with rules, lists, and work or become extremely apathetic.
They sacrifice their free time, sleep and spend plenty of time on tasks. They will either do everything well, or they don’t do it at all. They want to have 100% of control over everything. But is it possible? How could we be 100% sure that we will even make the way to the office today?
Hello, world. Let’s put an end to this workaholic, perfectionist culture! Let’s admit that perfectionism isn’t something we should be bragging about. Perfectionism is ruining our souls.
It’s terrible for our mental health, our self-esteem, for our overall wellbeing.
We all agree that we don’t want anxious kids with panic attacks and suicidal thoughts. We don’t want burnout coworkers.
We need to remind ourselves that we deserve to be accepted from the start. We don’t need to prove to anyone that we have the right to exist. Hardworking mustn’t be a cover for a secret aspiration to correct a deficit of early love.
Let’s learn how to speak more kindly to ourselves. Let’s listen to our body and welcome an ability to tolerate periods of laziness.
We all need healthy and happy culture.
We don’t have to be perfect. We have to keep learning and enjoy the road.