I’m a perfectionist.
I know this doesn’t make me unique—especially if you’ve conducted any job interviews lately—but my perfectionism has seeped into every part of my life.
There’s nothing wrong with feeling accomplished for doing something well and doing so alone, but it’s important to find the happy medium where you can feel accomplished while still allowing yourself moments of instability. That balance, unfortunately, is not one I’m always able to find.
I don’t want to accept my roommate’s offer to cook dinner because I feel the need to provide for myself. I don’t want my mom to help tidy my apartment when she visits because I like it to be my responsibility alone. Really, I don’t want to accept help because it feels like an admission of my own deficiency.
I’m not only reluctant to accept literal, physical acts of service, but emotional support, too.
Not too long ago, I was upset because I felt I wasn’t as close to some of my friends as I wanted to be. As much as we’d spend time together and enjoy each other’s company, I knew they weren’t opening up to me about their deeper problems—things beyond the inconveniences or pet peeves they encountered over the course of a given day.
At first, I assumed they must think me untrustworthy or prefer to keep me an arm’s length away. Cue dramatic music and lamenting my unalterable fate of never bonding with these people, not to mention every new person I would meet from then on.
I realized eventually I’d given them little reason to share their emotional burdens with me, having never shared mine with them.
For me, not wanting to accept help stems from not wanting to admit a task is too difficult for me to complete on my own. Being overcome or overly challenged by something feels like admitting imperfection which, as a perfectionist, I’m not comfortable doing.
In that same vein, I avoid confiding in my friends at risk of revealing the flaws I’m most insecure about. I’ve even banned close friends from the kitchen while I was cooking because I didn’t want to risk them watching me spill my fried rice onto the stovetop.
I also hesitate to talk about my emotional distress because I prefer to feel assured it’s nothing I can’t resolve on my own. My perfectionism makes it difficult for me to be vulnerable.
Not being vulnerable makes profound connections with people feel less accessible. Although vulnerability isn’t a necessity in every relationship, when you’re close to somebody, it seems a shame not to let that person truly know you.
This sentiment began to resonate with me over the past few months. I’m getting better at accepting support without feeling shameful or deficient. Even though I don’t always act accordingly, I’ve learned to understand that accomplishing something with help from somebody else does not make it any less legitimate.
Just because my roommate made the food I ate or my mom washed the kitchen towels I dried the dishes with, it doesn’t mean I failed at eating dinner. This shift in my mindset is an achievement made even sweeter by knowing I attained it all by myself—just kidding.
My perfectionist mind told me I had to keep my feelings to myself if I wasn’t comfortable sharing them all eloquently and in detail—why do something at all if not correctly? Eventually, though, I wanted to share the thoughts that were constantly on my mind. When you reach maximum capacity, they start to bubble out.
I lead with humour. The path to vulnerable communication isn’t paved with a trail of scattered, loaded jokes, but humour was my stepping stone to sprinkling seriousness into some of my friendships. A few weeks ago, I made a self-deprecating joke about a deep insecurity of mine, and my friend realized it reflected my real beliefs.
“Are you stupid?” he blurted.
Comforting, right? Exactly the show of empathy my inner child needed.
Truly, though, his response comforted me. He was clearly surprised to hear me speak so unfavourably of myself, which I found flattering enough to ignore him calling me stupid.
A very sincere conversation about my negative conceptions of myself followed and lasted a long time. Since then, that friend and I have had many more vulnerable conversations.
Another reason I’ve preferred not to divulge my insecurities is to avoid drawing attention to them. This interaction proved to me it’s worth allowing people the opportunity to consider and contest your faults, rather than presuming their agreement.
I try to routinely take steps to allow myself to be more vulnerable. Writing these thoughts down and sharing them didn’t come naturally to me, despite my occasional vagueness, but I’ve managed it, nonetheless. This is where I hold for applause.
I’m learning that offers of help, emotional or otherwise, are not attacks on my capability as I once thought. Rather, the representative people who care about me asking to exercise that care. Lovely friends and family continue trying to instill that idea in me—and to watch me make fried rice, because I still won’t always let them.
I’m working on being vulnerable. It won’t be a consistently linear progression, I’m sure. I’m not perfect, but that doesn’t mean I’m deficient.
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