When You Suck at Being a Perfectionist

Photo by Fischer Twins on Unsplash

I am one of those people who is very good at looking like she has her shit together in a singular area of her life. For me, it’s work. I teach English to adults. I’m not, like, the next teacher of the year, but I’m solid, and more than that, I it. I’m organized, knowledgeable in my content, and deeply invested in my students’ lives. I could tell you where each and every one of my students is academically, what they need to do next in order to graduate, and give you good odds on whether or not that will actually happen. But the rest of my life…I’m barely hanging in there.

My house is, 9 times out of ten, an unmitigated disaster. I cannot tell you the last time either of my children have been to the dentist, and they may have not brushed their teeth at all this week. My check engine light has been on for a month. I love my husband fiercely, and our marriage is a strong, but man, we can have drag-out fights like we’re still hormone-fueled 20 year olds. And I’m currently unhealthy AF with a fresh pre-diabetes diagnosis under my belt. Go me.

I tell you all this not to fish for sympathy or some unconscious desire to be flamed publicly for my failures as a human (though if someone could just go ahead and schedule that dentist’s appointment for me, I’d be grateful), but because it’s weird. It’s weird because I am absolutely a Type A. A perfectionist. A perfectionist who cannot get her shit together.

Believe me, it’s not for a lack of trying. I’ve read books, been to therapy (and should go to therapy), watched the TedTalks, created color-coded schedules, put up charts, started excellent workout habits that petered out even after two months of daily dedication, meditated, seen a nutritionist, done Beachbody (so don’t ask), and talked to my mom. I still can’t get it together. There is something physically within me that will not let me keep up the other end of the scale after putting in the work at my (admittedly emotionally demanding) job.

Now, you might be thinking, “Lady, of course you can’t. It sounds like you give a lot to your job and now your body is telling you to relax and practice some self-care. Do that.” Yeah, . And I try, I really do try to accept that I might have reached my mental and emotional threshold after work and that it’s not fair or appropriate to ask myself to, you know, have a rigid cleaning schedule and to create appealing and nutritious lunches for my kids somehow fit in that 45 minute miracle workout. I get this (have even read some books on that topic, too), BUT that doesn’t make the feeling that I should be doing all that go away.

I would pay insane amounts of money to be a true type A, someone who gets that weird high from accomplishing things in all areas of her life, even if that might mean sacrificing some modicum of sanity. It would probably be better than being a half-assed type A, because being a half-assed type A means you are relegated to a lifetime of self-loathing. And while I do stop and “relax”, I can’t fully enjoy it because I feel like I should still be doing .

I also wouldn’t say no to being transformed into a type B. I could just go with the flow and not care if my house is a mess and just enjoy myself after a fulfilling day at work (because let’s imagine I’d still be good at my job as a type B).

But I’m not going to change, at least not magically or by wishing for it, and while I’m sure there is someone who would take my money to try, no one else can change me, either. And I’m starting to see it’s not so much that I need to change, it’s that I need . I need to I’m doing my best, like anyone else out there. I need to that it would be healthy to pull back a bit in my work so I have more energy to spend at home. Most importantly, maybe, I need to that I am enough. Enough is hard to accept when you’re a perfectionist (even when you suck at it), because there is always room for improvement, but if I’m ever going to break out of the cycle of unattainable expectations that make me a difficult human to be and spend time with, this is the place to start.

I wish I had, in true perfectionist fashion, some sort of tidy ending for you. I wish I had a list of tips and tricks that will help on this journey of self-acceptance, but chances are, if you’re fighting this battle, too, you know who Brene Brown is, watch Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, follow inspirational Instagramers, have tried to carve out quiet moments in your day, and probably journal, too (and if you really are like me, you’ll be annoyed to receive suggestions on things you already do). All I can say is, if anything I said rings true, I’m right there with you, friend. Let’s perfectly half-ass this thing together.

Mom, wife, and teacher who would like to be awesome at all three of those things, but is really only good at, like, one and a half.

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