Struggling through the myth of needing to be “PERFECT”.
I don’t feel that I am good enough. I don’t believe that I am good enough and that is the struggle I want to write about today.
I find it difficult to write about this topic because I am about to talk about things that don’t necessarily put me into a good light. Isn’t it the problem? Wanting to be in a good light? Wanting to be ‘perfect’? Trust me, I didn’t want to be perfect. I wanted to be normal but the world has a problem with it but I will get to it in a bit.
Let me begin with my story and my struggle.
So, I am a single child of my parents. I grew up around love, barbie dolls, games, food, complicated boundaries, difficulty with understanding emotions and with people who didn’t understand the true value of their words. My experiences with schools were also similar- where one didn’t know where one belonged and one got beaten many-a-times for having forgotten the line of a poem.
Since my childhood I had little sense of stability, I found that in books, in stories. That was my coping mechanism- getting lost in stories, creating castles that would help me stay afloat and away from reality. When I was 13, that was the time I came to know about the only thing people told I was good. I was able to write in comparatively good English. I felt validated. It felt good to be validated, to be seen. So I tried harder in wanting to be seen where I knew I could be seen. Organically I read the English stories in the textbooks over and over. All else, I would avoid.
Going through various stages of my life in the last 30 years I can say is that I kept adding my value in being seen through English writing. It became something, that I was told I was good at, people appreciated me for, something other people around me were not that adept at, I was the one reading a 300 page Sydney Sheldon in 2 days, I was the one who had something different than the other people in my life.
The value kept growing like the price of gold in our country. The value kept growing for me. Going back I can see that the signs were clear, I had put too much stake on it to be anything about writing anymore. I had made it about me. So during the English Honors exams, I would fall ill. I would grow so fidgety that I couldn’t concentrate on actually studying during the exams. The fear of failure would grip me bad and I would be at its mercy completely.
Have you seen a goat that is about to go down the knife and it knows? How does it react? I would react like that then. For that matter, I react like that now. I react like my world is going to end if I don’t get this right. Everything will be destroyed.
What would the goat do if one gave it a chance and let it loose? My guess is, it would run, run as far away as it can from that knife. It will run for its life. I do the same. I run for my dear life even before starting a project. I run and try to avoid it, because if I go under the knife that will definitely hurt. I will have to accept that I will be hurt, there could be a possibility that I could be told- that I am not good enough.
Remember, I told you that the world has a part in telling me I need to be perfect? Here it comes. In my school, college, work experience the messaging that I have received post an honest attempt is in 99.9% of the cases is I AM NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Not my work needs improvement, not how these are the areas where I may need to work on and develop, not looking at things that have worked for me, not how I could reach out to different people to learn the necessary skills- but that I AM NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
“Surely”, you may say, “ nobody must have actually told you this?” Not really. Not in the exact words. I can give you plenty of examples where I felt seen and where I didn’t. For example, the first time I went for an interview post my masters degree in an advertising agency. I was asked if I will be able to work in the given circumstances and my honest reply was — ‘I think I will be able too’. The person told me that thinking wasn’t enough, I believe in it. I wonder even after 7 years post that interview if I was wrong in saying I think I can because I had never before that actually done any work in an advertising agency. That person was not going to pay a dime and yet he wanted an expert who would be confident, amazing, won’t cry if cuss words were spoken, this person needed an intern to do that!
Over and over, I have had my honest opinions and feelings to be trashed like that. I know what I know. I know I can write, do some editing, do this, do that but I don’t know if I can do more if I don’t do it. If I am not allowed to even say that I may not completely know and ask for help. If I am not allowed to make mistakes and learn from them.
I was doing a content work for an organization where one of the sponsors said to the team that ‘it would be okay to fail, make mistakes, not know and learn on the road while doing the project.’ For me that was huge. Even though, I did the same thing again. I took one whole month more than the timeline assigned to me, which I had agreed upon, to do the project because I spent my time running. The project is closer to the finish line, I will be editing and reworking on some parts of it and hopefully before the new year I will deliver.
The point is, I am suffering. I am suffering because I really want to believe that I am okay, that is okay for me to make mistakes and be open to working on them. I am also suffering because I can’t see the reflection of my need in the world outside.
I don’t need an employer, a client or anyone I am working with to be my babysitter. But I absolutely want and I am in dire need of a culture where I can actually walk up to someone and say, ‘You know what, I know I can do this but I am anxious I may fail’ and the person can listen to me and say ‘Can we look at what makes you think so’? Or I may have a skill level difficulty and instead of hiding it from my boss/superior/client I can say, ‘I don’t have this capacity- is there a way I can learn it or is there an alternative way of doing this?’
I am tired of believing in the lie that the world told me, which I believed in and am on holding on to it as my truth. I am tired to see that I am unable to change my ways and the world insists on propagating this myth that we have to be perfect in our first trials, that we have to say we feel confident when we really may not, that we cannot be our selves at home and the world.
This idea of “perfectionism” and tagging the whole person to be bad because they did something different, not of top-notch quality of some imaginary standard of achievement has to stop. It has to stop or many people like me will keep suffering the woes “believing that THEY are not good enough.”
[p.s- even as I write this article, all I could think about how I should not write because I may not have expressed myself ‘well-enough’ and may be people will make fun of my English. Now you know what I mean!]