How Relationship Failure Broke My Perfectionism (and why that's a good, thing)
Can I make a confession? I've tried hard for most of my life to appear to be on top of things. We're talkin' compulsive straight A's, late nights in the practice rooms, steady, committed relationships and super efficient in all things when I put my mind to it. But the thing is, it took me some time to realize that I wasn’t really being authentic. I was trying to appear perfect to please other people and in the process, I forgot how to listen to my inner voice — my intuition. This year, I embarked on a journey to rediscover my intuition. And a lot of that process has started with letting go of perfectionism. I’ve written a lot about perfectionism and that’s mostly because it’s a concept I’ve struggled to understand about myself for a long time. I used to be proud to be an over achiever on top of everything all of the time. But the truth was that I was none of those things. I was rigid and pretending to be superhuman, but on the inside there was so much pent up emotion and resistance.
When I was 26, my relationship of 7 years abruptly ended and suddenly, I felt like I was back pedaling. Now I say abruptly, but what I mean is: there were warning signs that I completely ignored for years, warning signs revealing that neither of us was happy, that maybe we weren’t a great fit. We moved four times in four years. We changed careers. We abandoned friends. We played it safe and molded ourselves into the “perfect couple”. I hosted themed dinner parties and not only had a meal plan to have dinner ready each night, but I also had a cleaning plan so I could stay on top of household chores. I went to church three times a week and led the worship team. At the time I wanted to be a Broadway performer, but instead of going on tour like my friends, I stayed home with my honey, because I was afraid of what would happen if we were long distance for too long. I’m not kidding y’all, #perfectionist. But it wasn't perfect. It was a front. I had a blog, at the time it was called Delectable Living (LOL) and I would sometimes offer marriage and relationship advice. I look back to that time and see how I was trying so hard to be the “perfect wife”. But neither of us was happy.
It took ALL THAT to show me that actually — I was pretending to have it all together. And after the relationship ended, I couldn’t pretend to have it all together anymore. I had just accepted an editorial internship at my dream company and instead of being all in, I found myself deeply depressed. My friends in Nashville were having second babies in their fancy houses and I was in New York City, a struggling actress with bad vibes, newly single (and introverted) with no dating experience and completely falling apart. I say all this to say — sometimes it takes falling this hard to show you that no matter how hard you try, you can’t control everything and that maybe, just maybe you DON’T have it all together. Life isn't always perfect and predictable.
And you know what I’ve learned in the past several years healing from this? It’s okay to be a hot mess. It’s OKAY PEOPLE. IT’S OKAY. You know all those inspirational quotes we post all the time to inspire and lift ourselves up?
Limitations live only in our minds. But if we use our imaginations, our possibilities become limitless. —Jamie Paolinetti
How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. —Anne Frank
The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be. —Ralph Waldo Emerson
These quotes were written by people who overcame insurmountable odds at one time or another. As I picked up the pieces of the old Laura, I realized that it would be easy to go back to who I was before. But instead, I work every single day to celebrate imperfection, to embrace my humanness, to question my motives, re-evaluate my reality, take better care of myself and to truly live the life I want to live whether that fits into society's view of a good, "successful", productive life. Sometimes pain and discomfort is a window into something you need to address about yourself.
If mistakes weren't made, failures never occurred and sadness didn't exist, would we really know the heights of joy or feel challenged enough to go deeper in the world, professionally and personally?
The end of my relationship gave me the biggest gift of all — it broke my perfectionism and invited me to make friends with humanity.
Now to be practical, if you’re a perfectionist: why not make it a practice to be a little bad every now and again? To connect with your rebellious side, to play hooky, to do the thing you’re NOT supposed to do, to go against the status quo. I guarantee you can learn a lot about yourself by observing your own habits and behaviors and then acting counterintuitively. (I’m not suggesting that you do this, but) has anyone ever stuffed a date into their mouth as they pass by the bulk dried fruit bins at Whole Foods? Yeah…Me either. Just checking. :D Something to think about though. The antidote to perfectionism is to just be freaking bad every once in a while! :D
What do you think? Are you trying to break perfectionism? What helped you? How has it helped you?