How I’m breaking out of my perfectionism paralysis

Illustration of a stressed out girl
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Let me walk you through what happens every time I sit down to write a blog article for The Daily Clog. 

Just as I’m about to start writing, I remember that I need to respond to an email from a friend. Once that’s done, I remember that I forgot to upload my math homework that’s not due until the end of the week, and after that, I’ll remember that I have a sociology paper to read before class. Eventually, I start to feel a little tired. Am I really going to write this article to the best of my ability if I’m being restrained by this fatigue? I don’t think so, I tell myself. I guess I should call it a day.

It’s been a few days, and I’ve reached the point where I can’t afford to procrastinate anymore. My article is due today. 

I have some breakfast and trudge towards the library. Once I’ve found a seat, I reluctantly open up my article document and curse my past self for leaving it to the last minute. At this point, you’re probably wondering, “Why is she even a blogger? She obviously doesn’t like it.” The reason I feel this way isn’t because I don’t like blogging; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. 

I suffer from perfectionism. Whenever I set a goal for myself, I feel like I need to achieve “perfection,” and nothing less. I’m discontent with anything lower because I feel like I haven’t worked as hard as I could have. Perfection, however, is extremely hard to achieve considering that another characteristic of perfectionists is that they’re highly critical of themselves. Although I strive to be perfect, I ultimately never will be. I will forever pick out the imperfections in myself and in my work, and beat myself up for them.

Perfectionism, at its core, is fear. And this fear turns into anxiety. I’m so afraid that I won’t attain this standard of perfection that I’ve set for myself, and it hinders me from doing the things that I love.

Perfectionism is malicious. It consumes you to the point where you lose sight of the things you love. When I’m going to write an article, I’m so focused on the result I want to achieve that I stop enjoying the process of writing. I’m so concerned about the quality of my work, and so terrified of potential failure, I dread the process of writing itself.

Writing blog articles is only one example of how perfectionism infiltrates my day-to-day activities. I suffer from these thoughts throughout most of my daily tasks. I procrastinate on essays, assignments, projects, emails, applications and sometimes even replies to friends.

Today, though, I’m making a change. 

So this is the authentic me. I didn’t procrastinate (that much) in writing this article. It didn’t take me four hours to start writing. I’m choosing to be my most true and honest self. 

This is the first step I’m making towards being content with progress. From now on, I will try to be happy with any steps I make in the right direction, not whether I’m completing something to perfection. 

And I’ve been trying to integrate this into my everyday life. I set small goals for myself, I give myself rewards. I tell myself that if I face my fears and write out my ideas for only thirty minutes, I can take a break and work on something else. And even more importantly, I allow myself to make mistakes, and I choose to accept them and learn from them. And I think it’s working. I really enjoyed writing this article. In fact, I enjoyed the process so much that it doesn’t really matter if it’s not “perfect.”

Just remember, the hardest part is always starting. Focus on finding meaning in your work, beyond perfection. Go easy on yourself, set small goals and celebrate your progress.

Contact Salma Sarkis at [email protected].