This I Believe

Stephanie - South Hadley, Massachusetts
Entered on January 20, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: work

Most say perfectionism is a fault; I believe in the strength and inspiration of my perfectionism. In elementary school, I finished projects much later than other students and sometimes was unable to complete activities because I ran out of time; but I knew that when I did finish, they would be perfect. My parents and teachers tried to educate me to be more conscious of time by limiting how long I worked on projects. After eighteen years, I still have not learned the lesson of working quickly and doing a good job.

As I began to take responsible for managing my time, I became more intent on doing each task to the best of my ability. Perfectionism does not disappear over time, and for me it almost seemed to grow. I became obsessed with doing everything perfectly, but also doing everything. Naturally, I ran into problems, but did not give up. I believed that striving for perfection was the only way to survive.

Friends would to ask me why I was always working on homework and my parents would reminded me periodically that I did not need to be stressing myself out to get all A’s for them. I wasn’t. I needed to get the grades and do the hard work for myself. I felt physically ill if I turned a paper or project in that I knew was not my very best. Knowing that I did not have to be perfect for anyone else only reinforced in my mind that I had to do this for myself.

It was not until the college application process that I truly learned the negative side of perfectionism. I was confidant; I had successfully challenged myself and I was an active participant and leader within my school. I felt I was a well-rounded, intelligent and talented young adult. As I applied early decision to my dream school, I had no doubts that all my hard work and late nights would pay off. When I got my deferral letter, my ego was hurt, but I looked at it as an opportunity to prove and improve myself. I was warned numerous times that I could still be rejected. I chose to ignore the warnings and went ahead doing everything in my power that I could. Reading the rejection letter, I felt that I had betrayed my parents, my teachers and most of all myself. I was not good enough.

I have learned that perfection does not exist. I have also discovered that I can use my perfectionism as a tool to push myself farther, and as an inspiration. Growing up we are always told to do our best, I have no worries that I always will. I am also confidant because now I believe in the inner drive which perfectionism can ignite. I also believe that living as a perfectionist is my way to strive to be the best I can.