By: Ali Sakr
I spent two hours thinking of the perfect way to start this article. (Ok, not really, but I decided my usual fourth-wall-breaking overly self-aware intro would do the trick.) I wanted it to be different. (Starting here I’m not lying for dramatic effect I promise.) I didn’t want this article to just be another piece on perfectionism and how it ruins your life, or how much of your life you’ll waste trying to be perfect instead of actually living. To some extent, I’d consider myself a perfectionist and trust me, it’s much better than it seems.
If you ask me, the first step to perfection is finding the perfect competition, and winning at it. You can call it a waste of energy, but I prefer “over-healthy-competitive.” Dumb name, yes, but hopefully not as dumb an idea. Now hear me out: starting now, your life is a competition. A friendly competition, but a competition nonetheless. All your friends (or at least the ones that agree to this madness) are friends, yes, but also other competitors. At the end of the day, your goal is to win – and that right there, the very fact that for anything you ever do, you’ll have a goal – that’s where it all begins. The only problem is what you define as winning.
Humans are naturally drawn to games. We want to challenge each other all the time, because to us, it’s amusing to say the least. That rush of blood when you finally succeed. That feeling you get when at last you get the recognition you deserve and beat everyone else. This isn’t what it’s about. Not even in the slightest. Using this intrinsic desire to compete as a motivator can be incredibly slippery, hence why included “healthy” in my so brilliantly thought out term “over-healthy-competitive.” The competition absolutely has to be healthy, and here’s how you make sure it is.
First and foremost, the reason. You need to establish why you’re competing and to understand that it’s not to make others fail. It’s also not the recognition or attention which might be a secondary result of winning. You need to compete for yourself and only yourself. The desire to win cannot be fueled by self-doubt and insecurities; there’s plenty of success and attention out there for everyone, so there’s no need to act like you have to have it all. You win the competition when you’ve fulfilled something new – something different. You don’t win you’re better than everyone else – you win when you grow. And if you ever find yourself fretting too much about something, delaying everything else just to make it perfect, remember that you want to make everything else perfect too, so you shouldn’t spend too much time on just one task. Paradoxical as it is, I think that’s how you do perfectionism right.
Once you’ve got that covered, there’s nothing left to do but your best. Forget Jack of all trades, forget being a master of one too; you want to be master of them all. It’s quite useless, impossible, and attempting to be the best at everything is honestly just insane. But come on, I mean, it’s so fun. You will fail. That’s a 100% guarantee. You won’t be able to be the best at school/college, sports, instruments, and all those other hobbies and skills at the same time. But you don’t have to be – you just have to try. Besides, when you find that one interest, that perfect passion, you’ll decide to be a master of it for sure. The only reason you try everything is to keep the fire burning. To have that urge to be the best at the back of your head all the time. I promise you won’t be, but if you ever feel like you’re finally satisfied with what you’ve reached in life, know that you need to relight that fire.
The point isn’t winning or reaching some end goal, because simply enough, you never will. You can always do better and there’s no exception to that. The reason you become a perfectionist is to keep going, to have a goal in sight that moves at the same rate you do. To have a goal that doesn’t act as a limit. Be grounded. Be realistic and easy-going, but never stop trying to get better. Never settle for where you are now because it’s just not enough. And honestly, even if it is, I just won’t have it.