I am writing this blogpost on my iPhone with 7% battery, as I squint away the sunlight beaming down on my screen outside.
This is one of the blogposts where I need to write, I need to get my feelings and thoughts out into words – otherwise they’re just swirling around in my brain.
I sailed through most of my time in education with flying colours. I sat at the top table in the top class for many academic subjects, and I frequently received praise from enthusiastic English teachers for my impressive reading and writing skills.
Truth be told, I had no idea what I was doing and I didn’t really understand the concept of being clever. I thought that praise and congratulations was more on the sympathetic scale – as in my head I seemed to be doing quite badly, so I only assumed that teachers tried to elevate my confidence to make me feel better.
I got through most of primary and secondary education with admirable predicted and achieved grades, and didn’t really have to tap into focused parts of my brain to fulfil the criteria of assessment. Revision and extra learning seemed like a waste of time, as I was “A clever girl” and I would probably do fine anyway.
It was only after my GCSE years that I realised my natural common sense and knowledge had managed to be get me through most of my life without really thinking. And as life started to get a bit harder, I struggled with the idea that I would no longer be one of the best.
Before going on further, I must add that I never had arrogance or a sense of inflated self about my intelligence. I didn’t really think about how clever I was, I didn’t really consider that intelligence and performance would ever be associated with pride or status. I just thought that being clever was a thing like having brown hair or liking football.
In my teenage years I worried a lot about myself in terms of how I looked, or how my family life compared to other children my age. I felt a deep sense of lacking, and my perfectionism manifested in how I could make myself look better or fit in with everyone else.
I later started to develop this perfectionism into all aspects of my life, including my productivity and education.
Whilst before I had successfully got through my education without really second guessing my work style or method, I now started to doubt my ability in education, and assumed that I would fail because I wasn’t perfect.
Perfectionism is often associated with people who do very well and focus a lot of effort into a particular skill or area of life.
However it can often breed quite the opposite. Perfectionism can be deliberating and make everything harder and more difficult. The more effort and energy I put into things that I assumed I was bad at, the worse I felt like I did.
I struggled with the first half of my A levels and the first attempt at university because I compared myself so negatively to my peers. I didn’t have the same work approach as absolutely everyone (which is obviously impossible to do anyway), so I assumed that I was the one doing badly – and they were the ones succeeding.
Despite receiving grades and feedback on the positive side of average, I interpreted this as failure because it didn’t sit nicely in the top percentage of fantastic. Anything below top tier made me feel inferior, and demotivated me more.
Perfectionism spread beyond my work style, and into how I looked and how I felt. I think social media played a big part in this – as there are millions of different people to compare yourself to and assume they’re better than you.
I think at the moment, my struggle with perfectionism lies in me accepting that I am average in many aspects, but also learning that I am actually on the higher scale of that average. As a young woman from a disadvantaged background, it’s impossible to expect myself to achieve the same feats and successes as more privileged and opposite gender peers.
In this day and age, I need to accept where I am and allow myself to develop to hit my own personal successes, but not to negatively compare this to every single person who does a tiny bit better.