Perfectionism's Paralysis

To be quite honest I have literally no clue how to start this. It’s been… a while. Recently, I’ve lost sight of exactly what I want to write about, why I want to write, and honestly of myself. I have been tirelessly trying to determine why I’m in this headspace where I can’t bring myself to write or post. Even right now I am sitting here, typing, thinking to myself ‘why does anyone care? They probably don’t.’ I guess I used to think that putting something honest and authentic out there was reminding others that everything you see and hear online is not true. I do still wholeheartedly believe that; I think I’ve just begun to find it harder to try and be that person.

I’m consistently paralyzed by this idea of perfection. Everything I write and put out has to be perfect. The way I present mental health and my personal experiences have to be perfect. The way in which I produce content has to be perfect. Even if not perfect (because in theory, I know that that doesn’t truly exist), really great. This expectation I set for myself builds a wall that appears insurmountable. It’s such a mental block and I’m aware of it deep down, yet it’s kept me from even sitting down to write because I feel like anything I do will fail to reach that standard.

I kind of wonder what’s set that standard in the first place though. I’ve been experiencing this strange feeling that I’ve regressed. All of a sudden I care what people think? I’ve been harping on myself for withdrawing into this self-conscious shell when I thought I’d reached a place of self-assuredness and self-worth that allowed me to be confident in who I am. After far too much introspection and overthinking (welcome to the anxiety-riddled mind), I realized I gave myself no room to adapt. When I started writing and posting on Life Beyond the Box, it was at the height of quarantine. I wasn’t meeting new people or engaging with others face to face enough to question the impact of my posts’ on people’s perceptions. Of course, the perception existed, but outside of my realm of awareness, so it felt like a distant concern. Everyone was far too preoccupied with themselves, their experiences with isolation and wellbeing amidst the pandemic, and trying to band with others to get through it all. It felt more like everyone was in the same boat. Now, I’m sitting here with this astute awareness that a new normal has evolved, and with it the recurrent instinct to judge and jump to conclusions. I am going to have to sit in class next to someone knowing they may have read this and potentially developed an own opinion about me or what I have to say. Or I’m just self-absorbed and no one actually pays any of this that much mind (probably the more likely one).

Nonetheless, I think a lot of people are kept from their greatest potential because of that mental wall. The one that tells you whatever you do is not going to be all that wonderful, so really, why bother starting? The one that nags at you, berating you with the idea that nothing will ever be good enough. If it’s not going to be successful and a hit, what is it worth? I am still trying to figure this one out, but I have decided that it’s time I get back to doing something for myself. I am still so passionate about this; I’ve yet to encounter sufficient authenticity, and I want to contribute to shifting that - even if only the teeniest smidge. Just because it’s not perfect, doesn’t mean there isn’t worth to it. Wow, could I benefit from hearing that again. Not just hearing it, but rather internalizing it. It’s a learning curve…

Perfectionism plagues a lot of us. It manifests in several ways; there are more conventional interpretations as with OCD and other instances where we imagine repetition until something is just so. There’s the student who strives for straight As and nothing less. There’s the athlete who refuses to relent until a skill is mastered or score unbeaten. There’s every form of hyper fixation that consumes one’s mind to the point that no other thought persists; you need to be perfect. But you don’t. Actually… you can’t. The idea of perfection suggests a finite point of achievement that cannot be improved upon and, as we all know, you can always improve. I’ve stunted a lot of my growth in obsessing over the idea of perfection because it’s so intimidating it’s kept me from even starting. As cliched as it is, I guess you do have to start somewhere.

This post is far from perfect. Frankly, this may be one of the more discombobulated trains of thought I’ve decided to post publicly on the internet, but hey I put myself out there again. I conquered that wall, pushed aside that nagging inclination toward perfection, and started somewhere. I’ve preached embracing imperfection, but it’s entirely unfair when I’ve let perfection’s paralysis press pause on things I’m passionate about. Hopefully not anymore though - I may not have a perfect posting schedule. It might not be once every other week or accompanied by the “perfect” Instagram posts, but it’ll be something and that’s a hell of a lot more than it has been.


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