Perfectionism

Job hunting. Right now it’s the worst time in recent memory for it with the state of the economy, budget cuts, overabundance of graduates and ridiculous competition. I’m not here to complain about it because it is what it is, and I’m beginning to realise that as much as a steady income will be greatly appreciated, and as psychologically frustrating as it can be when you know you’ve got a great degree, valuable experience and a desire to work hard and still can’t seem to get a break, things happen for a reason and I’ve got to make the most of the opportunities in front of me.

It might sound strange to claim to have an opportunity in the midst of unemployment, but it’s there, and it’s been the time to write, learn more about the craft and get inspired. I’m trying to do more of this every day I can before I do land a job. What I’m also hoping to learn through this stage though is how to respect and view myself, regardless of what other people say, or don’t say. No matter whether other people accept me or don’t even have time to read what I send them.

Perfectionism isn’t a positive. Maybe some people use the word to mean striving for the best and not settling for anything less, but even that is unrealistic, unachievable, and unhealthy. I’ve struggled with perfectionism since I was a kid but I always thought the term inferred that a perfectionist “does things perfectly”, so I never considered it described me. I don’t think I do anything perfectly. I do some things well, but I’m not one to blow my own horn. Far from it. But I have been a perfectionist in certain situations. Perfectionism is when you beat yourself up for not reaching your mental idea of perfection. The Free Dictionary says it’s “a personality trait manifested by the rejection of personal achievements falling short of perfection, often leading to distress and self-condemnation”.

So it’s definitely not cool.

I struggled with it during university. Because I was a mature student, I wanted this time around to do things right, get the best grades I could, get as involved as I could. It paid off: I got a 1st class degree and I learned and enjoyed so much. But the perfectionism saw me sleeping about 4 hours a night sometimes, trying way too hard to please some people, and expecting way too much of myself. Example: I got upset at certain lessons when I felt like I should already know what was being taught simply because I was older than most other students. It’s not healthy.

I thought about all this today when I saw a job post that listed perfectionism as part of the person specification.

Am I applying for that job? I have the experience and it sounds like an interesting industry. But no way am I applying. I can already imagine what that position would look like. They’re not asking that I try my best, be diligent and give it 100%. I’ve had jobs in the past where it was expected I’d only do everything perfectly, and a spotlight came on every time I didn’t. I didn’t wait this long for a job to get one where I’m condemned before I begin. I know I’m a hard worker, because I don’t like letting people down, and I like how it feels to know I’ve contributed something worthwhile and beneficial to others. In that respect, I’m completely happy to no longer be a perfectionist, nor take a job that requires I be one.

Celebrating perfectionism is not a good thing. Doing my best and then calling it a day and going on to the next thing – that’s what I’m trying to learn right now. Accepting that if I try my best and then let go and not worry about what’s out of my control, that’s what I want. I want that more than a job, and that’s difficult to say out loud, but if I get to 90 I’ll be glad to say that I finally conquered worrying about the what-ifs, and that whole time period of job hunting will be a blip on the radar compared to the memory of when I learned to be okay with my best. Besides, my best is pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.

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