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Perfectionism is Bullying Yourself

I am a perfectionist. As in, I have a bit of an issue with beating myself up over every little mistake I make. Some people wear their perfectionism like a badge of honor. They cling to the idea that they can reach a version of themselves where they will always do the right thing and be recognized for all their hard work. People have little competitions, never stated but always there, with other perfectionists about who is working the hardest, suffering the most, and deserves the gold star. And let me be clear, when I say people I am totally including myself.

This isn’t healthy though. Somehow the message, for people like myself, changed from do your best, to be the best AT EVERYTHING OR you are a failure! A lot of perfectionists don’t have a ‘B’, ‘C’, or ‘D’ grade to give themselves. Anything less than an A+ means an automatic F. While employers love those of us with this perfectionism, because we rock at work and put in the extra mile even when we don’t have to, it can lead us into burnout, stress, and worse of all, developing the habit of bullying ourselves.

I’ve been bullying myself a lot this week. I think the closer I get to the end of school, the scarier it is to admit that I am really doing this. Heck, I don’t need the world to tell me I can’t, because I do that enough to myself. I even, for a moment, debated finding a college teaching position, instead of taking this next year off to go after my goal. That felt safe. I also wasted a good hour looking at houses in the area to buy. Even though this goes against everything I am trying to do, it felt like what I am supposed to do. Have full-time job, buy a home, marry and have kids = successful in my mind. Well, the only thing I haven’t done on that list is have kids, and none of it made me happy or feel fulfilled.

I hope I am not coming across as a whiny pants. I’m sharing this because I know I can’t be the only one feeling this way. We like to hide these parts of ourselves, and it’s not until we share these things that we realize we are all a lot more alike than we are different.

I get so bogged down in what I didn’t do well, or what I have yet to accomplish that I am in a constant state of not good enough. Yuck! That’s not a good way to live for me, and it’s not a good way to live for you. We have to learn to keep some of our work ethic but be willing to say things are good enough.

Some really cool things happened for me this week, and my instant reaction was to downplay them. But they are small successes and they are going to add up to big changes. So I am going to share my small successes! They may seem trivial to others, they felt trivial to myself, but they really aren’t.

1. I got my feedback from the “Save the Cat” competition back.

I won’t find out who makes the top 25 scripts until May 29th, but I received my 50 points of feedback along with the written comments. As I opened the email, my heart pounded and I raced through the comments trying to assess my ‘grade’. For those of you who don’t know, Save the Cat uses a scale to grade each ‘point’ which goes like this: ‘Raises the Bar’, ‘It Works!’, ‘Almost There’, and ‘Keep at It’.

Nearly all of my points were ‘It Works’ and I didn’t get a single ‘Keep at It’, but my first reaction was that... you guessed it... I failed! I wouldn’t have been satisfied unless I got ‘Raises the Bar’ on every single point. THAT IS RIDICULOUS! I realize that, hence this post.

Luckily, I let myself sulk for less than a half hour and I went back to the feedback and looked at it with logical eyes rather than emotional reaction. I saw some really great feedback. Even some high praise for things I feel like I usually struggle with, like characterization! Basically, I got back a bunch of compliments, and was told my script works! For my first time entering a competition, with my first full script, I did really well!

Will I get into the top 25? Probably not, as I am guessing those slots are for people who got into the ‘Raising the Bar’ category, BUT that doesn’t matter as much to me after I relaxed. I know what I did well, I learned what wasn’t quite up to par, and I am ready to work to get to the next level.

I’ve got to buck up if I am going to be in this business, and that starts here! Rejection goes hand in hand with this goal of mine, and I will get rejected a million times before I am accepted. I will not say I won’t still have that initial emotional reaction, I am human after all, but I am happy that I didn’t sit and wallow. That is a tremendous success in and of itself!

2. I made a lot of progress on the things I was stressing about in my last post!

That’s right! I have been moving and grooving on my to do list, hence my ability to write this post. I’m back, baby! While I still have a half of a pilot to write and seven more pages of my novel, I completed everything else!

3. I had my first 20 visitors to my TPT store! And even 9 downloads of a resource that I uploaded!

That’s right! Nine people felt like my teaching materials were worth downloading and will use them in their classroom. That gives me chills! Even though the resource was free, so I didn’t make any monetary gain, I am so excited to think about how many more students I will be ‘teaching’ because other educators are using my stuff. Talk about expanding your impact on the world! If I didn’t need money to survive, I’d keep everything free and it would thrill me just knowing my mind created something useful for those great educators who don’t get enough credit for everything they do in our society!

4. And finally, I had my first outside click on this website!

What I mean is that a complete stranger (not you amazing friends and family who are still super important), who searched for something on google, found my website, and clicked to see what I had to say! It’s one. I need plenty more. But it’s a start and I couldn’t be happier.

So to all those perfectionist out there, I challenge you to make the perfect list of imperfect successes you have accrued this week. Stop beating yourself up, it doesn’t help, and it only holds you back. If you need to wallow for a half hour, do it, and then get back on the “I think I can” train.

Productive dreaming,


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