Perfect is the New Black
The line between selfish and selfless
By: Kristin Johnson
Perfection: it’s something we all know doesn’t exist, yet it’s still something we constantly strive for. But when we spend our lives constantly striving to be a perfect person, it can create quite a strain on our lives and our psyches.
I’m a self-proclaimed perfectionist. It’s my justification for my procrastinating tendencies. I’m always trying to be the perfect co-worker, perfect employee, perfect friend, perfect blogger, perfect daughter, perfect sibling and perfect auntie. My life is spent in a constant battle for perfection. Which, as you can imagine, isn’t always the most exciting way to live your life.
I think this is a struggle for all women because society tells us we have to be many things. We are natural multi-taskers. We aren’t just an employee, friend, mother or wife. We are expected to be all things to all people. And we’re expected to do each and every role perfectly.
What I’ve realized is that in all my striving to be perfect and to give so much of myself to that goal is that I’ve become completely selfless. It’s as if I go out of my way to make people happy, regardless of what I really want or what stress and anxiety it’s going to cause me. And all my striving leaves me quite stressed.
Like many people, I work a full-time office job during the week. And like many people, I enjoy my weekends. Probably too much, seeing as I prefer not to shower and/or leave the house most Saturdays and Sundays. On most weekends, though, I sacrifice those only days off to give my time to spend with others. Because that’s what the perfect person does. They don’t do what they want. They constantly give.
The outcome of all this, especially being a single person, is that I set precedents. I have set the expectation level at an insanely high level. I constantly have to live up to this image of this perfect person that everyone expects. And I can’t falter now, because with that faltering comes disappointment. And perfect people don’t disappoint the people around them, especially their loved ones. Perfect people don’t fail.
The problem is that you can’t just stop or quit while you’re ahead. Your viewed perfection has become the norm for everything you do. This means not only must you keep it up, as to not fail and disappoint, you also don’t get the rewards and the pats on the back for the things that you have done, the lengths you have gone to. It takes something way out of the ordinary for your selfless acts to get noticed. And everyone loves to feel validated and appreciated.
There’s a fine line to walk between selfish and selfless. It’s an ongoing internal battle for me, making sure that I’m doing something I want to do, not just something I feel like I have to do. I have learned that for me to be the best and most enjoyable person I can be–one that is NOT perfect–I have to learn that I have to put myself first sometimes. I have to make me happy first and learn to really enjoy being me–the me I want to be, not the me everyone else expects. I have to enjoy my life. Because it’s the only one I’ve got.
Tell us: When is it OK to be less than perfect?