Acts once performed with the intention of loving kindness have become just additional burdens of mindless routine every little task now resonates with resentment self-care disfigured and transmuted into self-harm Somehow I turn even healing practices into poison to punish myself for not meeting my own expectations what is there inside me that turns self-love so sour? why doesn't putting in the work work for me? Tools I was told would transform me if I was patient were twisted into weapons of perfectionism just more masochistic mutations of all the miracles I used to think would some day save me I'm so tired of this futile self-improvement project called me the pearls of ancient wisdom I've turned to soot within my fingers the internal pressure of trying to get better is the terminal illness of my inner-most essence
One of the hardest things about perfectionism is determining whether or not you struggle with it. There are certainly people who describe themselves as perfectionists, but I think a vast majority don’t recognize themselves as such. I definitely identify with a lot of the characteristics of perfectionists, but have an extremely hard time describing myself as one. Only recently did I learn that this is quite common.
Even if everyone around you recognizes you as a perfectionist, you might not see it in yourself. For me, it doesn’t feel like an accurate description because I am so imperfect. It feels foolish to say I’m a perfectionist when I am so highly critical of myself and everything that I do. Yet that is simultaneously one of the aspects of perfectionism. I suppose the main issue, in my mind, is that a perfectionist is someone who is nearly perfect in all that they do. But I don’t think I would ever consider anything I’ve done or anything about me to be “perfect.” I wouldn’t even say that I strive for perfection, because I genuinely don’t believe myself to be capable of it. To me it feels like I am just trying to be adequate. My standards are just higher than what a lot of other people’s might be, or so I’m told.
A few of the qualities of perfectionists are: all-or-nothing thinking, being highly critical, fear motivated, having unrealistic standards, being hyper focused on results, sensitive to criticism, tendency towards procrastination, and low self-esteem. I identify with every single one of these characteristics and see how they would apply to a perfectionist, but still I feel too flawed to be one myself. And that’s part of the problem. I don’t believe myself to be a high-achiever or acknowledge in a practical sense that my standards and expectations for myself may be unrealistic. It is extremely hard for me to relax and let go.
From the outside, I would agree that perfectionists need to be less rigid and try to be more easy going, accepting that they are already doing more than enough, I don’t feel that same advice applies to myself. “Well I can’t relax,” I think, “If I stop pushing myself, I’ll devolve into an even worse person than I am right now!” This is where that sense of being pushed by fear rather than pulled by aspirations comes in. When I make a goal for myself, my mind focuses more on the anxiety of not achieving my goal instead of the joy and satisfaction of accomplishing it.
In fact, no matter what I accomplish, I never feel much satisfaction from it. If I finish 9 out of 10 things on my to-do list, I don’t pat myself on the back for the majority being finished. I fixate on the one that I wasn’t able to get to. And I feel like I could have done a better job on the other 9. I notice this a lot when I’m cleaning my house. Vacuuming and sweeping the floors feels pointless (even though I still do it every other week) because all I think about as I’m going through my house is all of the other things I don’t have time to clean and organize. I feel overwhelmed by the mountain of things I can’t find time to address rather than giving myself credit for what I am doing well.
It is this very desperation for perfection and control that led me down the road of disordered eating. My body is one of my main areas of distress. Despite all of the wonderful, attractive qualities I have, they mean nothing to me in the face of my perceived flaws. It feels impossible to change them or accept them. Instead I try to avoid and disassociate from my own body most of the time.
I don’t know where this toxic mindset began. Often it stems from having high expectations placed on you by family when you are young. Some children grow up believing that if they are not perfect then they will not be given the love and support that they need. Deep down, I do feel unworthy of the love and consideration I receive, but I don’t recall anyone besides myself ever making me feel that way. My parents were always very supportive and did not pressure my sister or I to perform at any particular level. I am harder on and more critical of myself by far than any other person I’ve encountered in life has been. It seems like everyone in my life has always been very impressed by me and what I’m capable of, except me, that is.
I’m still learning how to obtain that one most illusive love, my own. I hope I am finally able to find it in 2022. I feel closer than I ever have before at least. I just have to keep reminding myself that flaws and mistakes do not disqualify you from happiness and love. I don’t need to wait until I prove myself in order to give myself those things. I deserve them just as I am now. We all do.
The Fear of Mediocrity
I like creating because it fills an emptiness that used to be there. It’s so simple, and so lovely, that humans are like this. That we want to build with our hands. That we want to assemble and construct. That we derive joy from stacking pieces together, and stringing words together, and assembling colors on a page, and moving, and singing, and baking and knitting. Humans love to build little worlds around them.Unknown
This quote is just a segment of a long post I read on Tumblr this morning about the fear of mediocrity. It was so cathartic to realize that other people struggle with their creativity in the same ways that I do. I identified so much with what this person wrote. I can remember criticizing my own art for as long as I’ve been creating it, even back when I was a child. Nothing I drew or made was ever “good enough” despite the fact that I had always been praised by the adults around me. My sister and I both always performed above the developmental level of other children at our age, especially when it came to drawing and art. But given that my sister is three years older than me, I still compared myself to her and felt that I wasn’t good by comparison.
I allowed this self-criticism to stifle my creative energy for many years of my life. That fear of failure can become crippling. It keeps you from trying new things. It holds you back from the hobbies you love, but aren’t “exceptional” at. I still remember reading something before that was talking about the way other cultures find it odd when people from America for instance say they “can’t sing.” What we mean to say is we don’t sing well enough to be comfortable doing so. But this idea is simply bizarre in other places in the world. Singing is just a natural part of being human. Just as all birds sing, all humans are capable of song as well. So why not allow ourselves to? The same can be said for dancing, writing, drawing, building, etc. All of these creative endeavors are a natural part of human existence. It is terribly sad that the vast majority of us seem to cut ourselves off from our own creative drives out of shame or fear.
If I only had a nickel for every time someone told me that they can’t do yoga because they aren’t flexible. It truly breaks my heart to hear that. Yoga isn’t about doing fancy, impressive poses or having a perfect, flawless body. Yoga is a spiritual act of self-love. Yoga is about presence and healing and showing up for yourself as you are. Yoga is a beautiful journey inward, a dance with your own soul. I’m tearing up right now just imagining how many people have denied themselves the right to practice yoga because of how they look or the real/perceived limitations of their bodies. I was nearly one of those people myself.
I can only imagine that this strange and sad phenomenon has gotten worse with the advent of the internet. It has certainly made me feel worse about my own creations. Before the internet, I may have seen incredible anime or animal drawings in books or something, but even though these images were far out of my league, it never bothered me on a personal level. The people who contributed to these books were much older than me, I could tell myself. They are professionals. It is their job to draw. There is no need to compare myself to them. However, now with Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, DeviantArt, Pinterest, etc. we are able to see the best of the best from people around the globe that aren’t necessarily older than us, or professional artists. For some reason this is much harder to cope with.
DeviantArt particularly was a place I used to love to visit. At first I was inspired. How incredible it was to see the vast amount of amazing artwork regular people like me were creating and sharing with the world! But soon it became more about how far away my skills were from theirs. I started to feel that I would never be able to create anything as good, so I should just stop all together. It made it hard to find the fun in drawing anymore.
Even though for the past year I’ve been working to incorporate creativity into my everyday life again, I still struggle with this fear of mediocrity. I constantly have to remind myself that it doesn’t matter at all how good my art is compared to other people. It doesn’t even matter if what I drew yesterday is better than what I’ll draw today or tomorrow. It is the act of creation itself that matters. It is the beauty of making something where there was once nothing at all. That alone is something to marvel at, something to be so grateful for being able to do. Everything else is just a distraction, a misdirection, insignificant chatter of the mind.
I don’t write these posts to be the best writer in the world, or even a good writer, to be honest. I do it because I am a writer. I like to write. It brings me joy. And that’s enough. I don’t draw to compete with anyone else, even the person I was the day before. I don’t do it to make money or to prove something to anyone else or myself. I do it because I am human. I do it to manifest my unique, miraculous consciousness into the world. Because we are all here to create, no matter our skill level or medium. Don’t allow anyone to tell you that you are not good enough, especially yourself.
Blogging as Self-help
You may have noticed that the topics I’ve been writing about lately aren’t exactly in line with my original intention for this blog. Years ago when I created it, my goal was to write about veganism, specifically helpful tips for new vegans or vegans in rural areas like myself. It is self evident that even in the beginning this resulted in few, infrequent posts. I was getting too in my head. Limiting myself and allowing perfectionism to stop me before I even started. I believe I went years without posting anything at all. I was too anxious to even think about it. Something that was supposed to be a fun way to improve my writing skills and share with others became just another source of distress.
Since I’ve started posting regularly on this blog again, I decided to write about absolutely anything I felt like writing about that day. I had been doing daily writing for years, but was starting to feel frustrated with the way my journaling always turned out. It seemed like I was just trying to fill the pages with meaningless words in order to get my daily writing over with. I feel like having an audience helps me to stay focused on a topic and actually express myself in a more productive, beneficial way.
I have been using it to explore my own thoughts and follow them to see if I am able to come to any interesting conclusions. It has felt rather therapeutic to me, writing these entries each day for the last few weeks. I can’t guarantee that I’ll continue this new habit, but for right now it is helping me a lot. I’ve really been enjoying contemplating what to write about and listening to lo-fi hip hop as I wander through my own thoughts. It may even be creating something nice for me to look back on some day.
So I do apologize if this blog seems lacking direction now and if you don’t enjoy or understand my seemingly random ramblings. But at the end of the day, I’ve started writing on here again for myself. After all imperfection is far better than radio silence. And I’m proud of this new habit of mine. Proud of myself for trying to remember how to do things for no other reason than my own pleasure and amusement.
I have always had a hard time with allowing myself to be imperfect. Perhaps it is just another part of the black and white thinking. If something I do or something about me isn’t the best, it must be the worst. This mindset has held me back for the majority of my life.
I keep waiting around until everything is in perfect order before I will allow myself to be happy. I don’t know how to keep striving to be better and be content with where I am now at the same time.
I miss being a child and never considering why I wanted to do something or what the point was. Knowing I wanted to do it was a good enough reason. And that should always be a good enough reason. However, I’ve even lost track of what I want to do. I find myself going back and forth in my head, questioning my own desires. Somewhere along the way I have forgotten how to trust myself.
I want to be happy and enjoy my life just as it is, but there is this nagging fear that won’t let me. It tells me I’ll become complacent, that I’ll let myself slip into a bad place and won’t be able to get back out. Whether or not this is actually true I would have no idea, as I haven’t given myself the chance to find out.
I am concerned that I am training my brain to notice every little detail in life that is not ideal and then hounding myself with a mental hum that I need to fix it somehow. Some things are even quite possible for me to achieve, yet the idea that the end result won’t be permanent, or that once I begin I’ll get caught up in even smaller details, overwhelms me.
Instead of doing the best I can, I end up doing nothing at all because I just can’t bear to think about it anymore. This effects every area of my life, from keeping my house clean, to creative endeavors, to hobbies, even to this blog! I never intended to be “internet famous” or even wanted to be. I started this blog because I had things to share and I love to write. Shouldn’t that be enough? Yet up until recently, the imperfection of my blog layout, topics, not owning my domain name, etc. kept me from writing for months or even years at a time. It was never good enough. I marvel at the absurdity of my own actions, especially the fact that recognizing them to be absurd isn’t enough to overcome them.
I suppose I am making small steps in the right direction though. I have really been enjoying writing every day again. Even if it is just random nonsense that happens to be on my mind that I doubt anyone will find interesting to read. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s okay to just do something because you enjoy doing it. It doesn’t have to amount to anything. You don’t have to have a good reason for why you enjoy it.
I want to learn to trust myself again and tap back into that inner wisdom I have ignored for so long. I’ve been allowing myself to do the things I once loved to do as a kid. I’m hoping that’s a start. Part of me wonders if I even really enjoy doing those things anymore, because I get so anxious about them sometimes rather than excited. But I do still get excited when I let myself relax and find those brief moments of flow. I have been drawing anime (that I may share on here if anyone would be interested) and playing new versions of my old favorite video games. I want to start spending more time outside in nature with no technological devices to distract my senses. Just like it was when I was younger. I want to spend focused time with my animals, just playing with them and enjoying their company like I used to.
I know it seems ridiculous that these activities would be hard for anyone, but maybe some of you understand or can relate in your own way. I’m going to keep trying to tap into my intuition and make a point to honor my imperfect progress. This miraculous, complex, insane brain of mine will get better at whatever I am having it practice. I must remember this. I no longer want to focus on the negative, what needs fixing, what I have yet to accomplish. I want to focus on the good, what I’m grateful for, my successes, the small moments of simple happiness. It will be difficult at first, but I must have faith in myself and in the science and know it will only get easier.