Perfectionism, Personified

I have a frenemy, and her name is Perfectionism.

Like any frenemy (that’s a combination of friend and enemy) Perfectionism is always one step ahead of me. She’s also the worst kind of know-it- all—for any great idea I share with her, Perfectionism will give me five reasons to reconsider. I get the feeling she makes some things up as she goes, though—she hasn’t even tried half the things she tells me to stay away from. Just trust me, she says, that’s not for you.

Perfectionism was my best friend in college, although her methods of motivation and moral support were sometimes questionable. Looking back, while I’m glad I landed my first internship at 19, I don’t necessarily think I would have ended up homeless had I not. (I was just kidding, she told me years later. Can’t you take a joke?) But still, Perfectionism motivated me daily, always encouraging me to do more and better myself.

Her encouragement helped me land my first job after college, then helped me leave that job to attend graduate school. Unappeasable, she’s the reason I juggled a full course load, a graduate assistantship and a job at the same time. That year was a stressful blur, a sped-up montage of school and work. Perfectionism kept me going when I thought I couldn’t, and slowed me down when I thought I was doing well.

Don’t get me wrong—Perfectionism isn’t all bad. When she’s on my side, we’re unstoppable. Together, we meet every deadline, complete every project, and check off each box on the to-do list of life. We set the bar high and don’t believe in doing the bare minimum. We do more.

However, the problem with our high standards is the fear of pushing even further to achieve the impossible. When I have projects that I can’t stop thinking about, Perfectionism tries to give me a reality check. You don’t know how to do that. Why don’t you wait until you’re more experienced? Otherwise, you’ll fail.

I used to fall for it a lot. I would worry about trying new things—even though I wanted to, badly—at the risk of failing. I told myself month after month that it’s not the right time.

And then I woke up.

Because luckily, I’ve come to learn that my passion to create is stronger than Perfectionism.  I’m getting better at standing up to her when she tries to hold me back.

I know I’m not the only one with a frenemy like Perfectionism. I write this not as an invitation to a pity party—these days, having Perfectionism in my life is more of a blessing than a curse. Because what I figured out (finally!) is that there’s never a right time, and you’ll never know everything.

Hey Perfectionism, we just may end up being friends after all.

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