My Battle with Perfectionism: To Be Loved
Hello my dears!
Today I thought I would pull up a post from the archives! It has been such a busy day with family in town, the Fourth of July, and many other things, but I still wanted to post a blog for Wednesday. Does it still count as Wednesday if it's 11:55pm? LOL!
I really loved writing this post back in November, and I hope that it helps you discover your own journey with perfectionism, love, and accepting yourself. Xoxo
1. Perfectionism: When It Began
I've come to believe that perfectionism comes from a deep-seeded fear of what other people think of you. This is close to my story.
When I was a small child my mom was still working full-time, so she sent us to the babysitter's a few days a week. Our babysitter lived down the road with her 5 rough and tumble sons, who were unfortunately kind of mean to me.
There is one moment that I will never forget: I was playing with a plastic zebra in the living room, setting up some sort of zoo. I heard a noise, and looked up to the sight of the eldest brother putting his fingers to his forehead in the shape of an L. With a serious face, he pointed towards me and called me a loser. His brothers were gathered around him and they all smirked at me, laughing. I remember looking down at that small zebra in my hands, wishing I could disappear into the ground.
I was only four years old. "Loser" was basically a swear word at that point in my life! I remember feeling so ashamed of myself, thinking that I must have done something to earn the term "loser." Those boys were cruel throughout the entirety of my babysitting days, and I don't think I'll ever know quite why.
That experience planted a lie in my mind and heart; I began believing that something was inherently wrong with me as a person and that people were going to be mean to me through out my entire life. I believed that I was a loser.
2. How I Handled It: The WRONG Way
So how do you defend yourself against mean people? My strategy formed quickly: I decided to be perfect in EVERY way because if I was perfect, I thought there would be nothing left for anyone to tease me about. In short, I believed that if I was perfect, I wouldn't be a loser.
The next 17 years of my life were spent addicted to perfectionism: beauty, style, talent, morality, reputation, grades, and relationships. I desperately sought the approval of others and lived in constant fear of losing it.
By the time I went off to college, my perfectionism was at a fever pitch: I immediately set to work building up the "perfect" college life; friends, grades, and the perfect boyfriend.
Sophomore year was as perfect as you could imagine: perfect dates with a perfect Christian boyfriend, vacations with my family, a coveted internship, and a friend group of gorgeous girls. All year I made sure my life looked perfect on social media and in person. Hell, the boyfriend and I even MODELED together! (I know, BARF.)
I think you all know where this story is going don't you? All fake things must come to an end, and yes, my perfect-Barbie days were numbered. Sophomore year came to a close, and my energy for perfection began to wane as a deep sadness started to overtake my mind. A series of "imperfect" events began chipping away at my perfect life: the breaking up of my friend group, a car accident, fights with my family, fights with my boyfriend, and a deep depression.
Everything came to a swift and final end however half way through Junior Year, when I broke up with the "perfect" boyfriend and started a new relationship with my (now) husband. A lot of people were absolutely SHOCKED at my choice. It was the first time in my life I actively chose to do something that didn't look perfect to the eyes of others, and honestly, it felt AMAZING. For about 2 minutes.
3. Happiness, Meet Backlash
In my new relationship, my (now) husband helped me see myself without perfection for the first time in my life. I think that was one of the things that drew me to him: he simply did NOT care what anyone else thought about him. He STILL doesn't LOL!
Grant taught me to embrace the silly parts of life and rejoice in the failures. He helped me learn how to take a joke and how to make a joke. He helped me handle criticism and showed me that I wasn't a loser, even without all the hair, makeup, photos, grades, or friends.
Unfortunately, while I was LOVING my break from perfectionism, a lot of people just didn't get it. Why would she get rid of such a perfect "godly" relationship and jump into a new one with a random guy? Who even is this new guy!? Why would she go and mess up her "perfect" life like that!?
Well, you already know! My "perfect" relationship wasn't REAL. Sure, I loved the way we looked together, but I was not in love with him. He deserved to be with someone who truly loved him for HIM, not just the image he gave off. It was one thing for me to try to be perfect in school, but when it came to finding perfection with someone I was considering MARRYING? Absolute bonkers.
PSA: You can fake a perfect hairstyle, but you CANNOT fake true love.
This isn't some sugary story where I stopped being perfect and everyone was super happy for me: no. I stopped being perfect and a lot of people didn't really "get" me anymore. Instead of cheering me on, they thought I was losing my mind or "letting myself go." I'll never forget one of my girlfriends reacting to Grant, pointing out that he drove a TRUCK! (How distasteful! So very "hick" and definitely not cosmopolitan enough for our friend group LOL!!)
But you know what? I don't really blame her or anyone! Those people never really knew ME: they only knew the perfectionism that I showed them.
My new relationship with Grant was never viewed as "perfect" by anyone, but that was actually just what I needed. God allowed the world to see something I wasn't able to show on my own: CAITLIN IS NOT PERFECT!
4. Moving Forward: Was I Able to Change?
Yes, I was actually able to change. Through the encouragement of Grant and a new group of friends who didn't care about status, popularity, or trendy restaurants, I slowly began to discover myself again.
Here's a little insight from someone else's perspective:
I was a camp counselor back during my perfectionism days, working alongside a few women who became my friends. However, the camp only ran every other year, so the next time I saw them I had already made huge changes in my life and stopped with perfectionism.
At the end of camp that SECOND time, one of the counsellors came up to me and said "I'm so happy that I got to know you this time. Like, I liked you two years ago, but now I feel like I really KNOW you."
I will never forget that lesson: before I was "likable," but now I was "KNOWABLE."
How much better is that?
There is a quote that I adore: to be truly loved is to be fully known and to be fully known is to be truly loved. When we drop our perfectionism, we can become known, sometimes for the first time, to those around us. The moment I stopped chasing perfection, I was able to be fully known and truly loved.
5. Words For You, Dear Reader
Today I want to encourage you that you DON'T have to be perfect for the approval of others. If you have been hurt by people in the past, no amount of perfectionism will protect you in the future. You will still find bullies who want you to believe that you are a loser, but it's NOT true! For every bully you meet, you will meet three people who love to be around you! I promise!
Please don't be like me and create an image SO perfect that when you drop it, other people don't even recognize you. Let go of your fear of others: the only approval you need is God's and yourself.
PSA: Perfection is a burden, not a blessing.
Come join the rest of the human race with me: let's hold hands and laugh at our mistakes. Let's listen to some criticism from our professors and boss. Let's cut our own bangs (I actually did this) and then wear a frumpy shirt to the grocery store. Let people accept and love you for every part, not just the sparkly parts.
Let the perfectionism go.