I don’t claim to be a perfectionist. I’m just afraid of being inadequate.
(in the car)
“Mom: I saw John* at the track the other day.
Mom: He was running with the cross country team. That boy works so hard. Remember at the awards ceremony? He got awards in science and math. You didn’t get any awards in science or math. He gets straight A’s too, and he works so hard outside of school. You just sit around all day. Why don’t you do anything?
Mom: Remember Amy*, my friend’s daughter? She got accepted to a prestigious private college. She didn’t even go to high school. Why can’t you be more like her? Why can’t you…”
You know that saying that there’s always someone better than you? Ever since Kindergarten I’ve had that saying drilled into my head. Whether it be my brother, my best friend, or my neighbor’s kid, my mom has always negatively compared me to others. She’s done it so many times not only am I afraid of what she’ll do when I fall short, but I punish myself as well.
“Me: Oh my gosh, I got a B+ on the Chemistry test, what am I going to do?
Friend: I got a B on that test. Don’t worry about it, you’ll pull it up like always… wait, why aren’t you eating?
Me: I can’t eat, I have to study. My mom will kill me once she gets the grade report. I have to do better next time. I have to work harder. I have to…”
Last year I received a C on a geometry test. It was the first C I had ever gotten during my high school career. When my teacher handed me the paper, I literally felt like my life was caving in. I know it sounds melodramatic now, but at the time I couldn’t even think about anything other than how angry my mom would be. I immediately asked my teacher to go to the restroom, where I proceeded to lock myself in a stall and cry for fifteen minutes.
If you think I’m a crybaby because of that incident, I don’t blame you. After much stress I ended up with an A for the quarter and an A for the course. Looking back on that over-dramatic, teenage-hormone induced moment when I imagined my life was ruined forever, there is one piece of advice I would give myself.
There is always going to be someone better than you, but there’s always someone out there who’s worse than you or worse off than you are. I run the risk of sounding like a snob, but it’s true. After all those years of self-deprecating and living in constant fear of not being the best, I’ve realized that I should be thankful for any and all the opportunities life has given me. I’ve been so self-absorbed in my own insignificant problems that I failed to see just how lucky I am.
Who cares if my mom complains I’m not #1 on the tennis team? At least I made it. So what if she yells at me for not having the highest grade in AP US History? At least I have access to a quality education, unlike a myriad of unfortunate souls elsewhere.
So, from now on, I’m going to try my best to accept my shortcomings and strive to improve them without being too hard on myself. It’s the effort that counts, right?
What do you think of perfectionism? Do you have a fear of failure or know someone that does?
*names changed for the sake of anonymity.