6 Ways To Survive As An Imperfect Perfectionist


It’s my birthday…

Every year around this time I become very introspective. I drag myself hopelessly from one end of the day to the other end of the day thinking deeply about my life and my choices. Unlike a number of my friends I have a very hard time reveling in birthday glory. This year for the first time, I understand why.

Simply put, things are not perfect.

Hello, my name is Sabrina and I am a functioning-imperfect-perfectionist. Every day I have to function with the imperfections of my own life and each year that passes by I am reminded that it has been yet another imperfect year.

So this is for all the functioning-imperfect-perfectionist out there:

1. You are not superman or wonder woman… and that is ok.

If you are anything like me, people see you as a very strong and stable person. You appear to be able to do almost anything with little to no help. But, you and I know that’s not the truth, don’t we? That constant smile on your face is a cover up. The truth is you need help, but you are terrified to ask for it because, (a) that means you are not perfect and, (b) you will surely fall below the expectations of those around you. In response to (a), you will never be perfect and at some point you will have to accept that. And (b), who told you, you had to be perfect any way? Are those really someone else’s expectations or are they just unrealistic expectations that you set for yourself? Ok, let’s stop the madness, no one is perfect, stop killing yourself and ask for help.

2. You’ve always been the good kid, the model student, the overachieving careerist and model citizen.

So what?! You don’t always have to be that person. Break a rule, get an A- (and don’t have a heart attack over it), go on vacation (and DON’T check your email) and get comfortable saying NO. Stop being the middle child who never wants to rock the boat. Who cares if your family is mildly dysfunctional, that doesn’t mean you always have to be the stable one. Take some time to just live outside of the confines of your own perfectionism. Actually live life for enjoyment for once, not the next milestone or achievement.

3. Stop competing with yourself.

I know this one sounds a bit backwards but as perfectionist we aren’t always competing with others. Most times we are competing with ourselves, just trying to keep up with all of our own achievements and awesomeness. By 16 I was in college, by 20 I had a bachelors degree, by 22 I had a masters degree and had moved to a foreign country by myself. That’s when I hit a wall and perfect Polly (me) became regular Polly. I was so used to achieving and being the all-amazing Sabrina that I didn’t know who I was or how to function when the milestones stopped rolling. So, I started to compete with myself, who I used to be and who I thought I should be. It’s ok to just be your best you, and being your best you doesn’t always mean being perfect or awe-inspiring. Sometimes it means being a tree, rooted in one phase of life, collecting nutrients to help you grow.

4. Rejection will make you more perfect, I promise.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, spring 2012 up until this very day has been filled with endless rejection. Achievements that would normally be a piece of cake for me have been almost impossible. I have been met with more closed doors and “no”s than I imagined possible. I couldn’t help thinking, “how many times does one person need to be shown that there are people better than them, more qualified than them and more perfect than them…” Nothing makes your imperfections more clear than rejection and for a perfectionist that is agonizing. But here is where you can use your perfectionism to your benefit. Collect all your rejection into an organized pile and take notes. Write down what went wrong, what skill you didn’t have and what you can do to avoid those things in the future. Use these notes to overcome your imperfections one step at a time and you will slowly become, “more perfect” (warning: be realistic).

5. Don’t give up. Remember that wall I mentioned a bit ago?

Don’t let it become your enemy. As an overachieving perfectionist it is very easy to just give up when things consistently don’t go your way. Honestly, we are pretty weak in the face of long valleys and cement walls. We have never had to deal with them so we don’t know how to. Well here is your chance to learn. Please don’t give up, hide and let everything fall to the wayside. Keep in touch with your family and friends, even if you think they are disappointed in you. Don’t isolate yourself; trust me it’s lonely. Continue to work toward balance in your life even though you feel off-balanced. Most importantly, keep striving and putting your best foot forward. The valley isn’t as long as it looks and the Berlin wall came down so this is definitely not the end for you.

6. Please enjoy your birthday, New Years and every other introspection inducing holiday.

Perfect or not your life is worth celebrating. Every day is an accomplishment. You don’t have to earn your right to celebrate another year of life. Be grateful that you have the opportunity to continue to grow and improve. Show your graciousness by laughing, finding joy in the little things, seeking out positivity and appreciating yourself as more than a thing to be perfected. Being alive in its self makes you a miracle. Don’t every forget that. Perfect or imperfect you are a miracle. So Happy Birthday, Happy New Year, let’s celebrate!

You will always be a functioning-imperfect-perfectionist. It doesn’t stop, not in your 20s, not in your 30s and not in your 40s. So just learn to accept, grow and learn from your imperfections. But, most importantly BE HAPPY and find joy in your journey to becoming better at loving you, despite all of your imperfections.

Love Always,

A fellow functioning-imperfect-perfectionist.

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image – felipe_gabaldon