How Perfectionism Can Ruin Your Self Esteem

I originally wrote this post for my tumblr blog, but after some time and thought I’ve decided to post it here after some tweaking as since then some things have changed for me. You can always find the original right here should you wish to read it, though.

It’s scary how little things you think don’t bother you actually really mess around with your way of thinking and living.

You probably don’t think that your significant other changing their behaviour slightly because of something that has happened in their life – no matter how big or small this event is – will gradually affect how you behave towards them. You never think that someone else’s lack of morals could affect you, even though it isn’t really to do with you. In fact most of the time you’ve just been dragged into it yet somehow you’re not expected to have an opinion. The thing that I almost found the most surprising was the fact that you never expect your work-life to hit you so hard that it wipes you out, leaving you feeling emotionally drained when it’s nothing more than a standard, minimum-wage job. I certainly never expected to walk home in the blistering heat of summer with anything on my mind other than enjoying my time after work, but I often did. I often spent both my walks home and my time after work worrying about my standard of progress instead of relaxing. I am so glad to say that after a few months I am finally rid of those situations that dragged me down at the time. Of course life has thrown more challenges at me, but I’m dealing with them better now because I’m in a better place.

Back to what I was saying. You never see it happening, but the constant feeling of not being good enough is capable of turning you into an obsessive perfectionist. I should know, that’s exactly where I ended up mentally.

When you’re alone – perhaps in the shower or in your bed – you truly catch a glimpse of yourself and something is different. It’s not necessarily the colour of your hair or a strange blemish on your cheek. You notice you’ve faded as a person, you’re no longer happy. You probably can’t even remember when you were genuinely happy. Your sense of self that can only be described as a flickering lamp light has been extinguished, and it’s in that moment of catching a glimpse of yourself that you realise you didn’t “just change” one day like some people say.

That lack of affection after a long day’s work will slowly wear you down. The fact that you kiss your partner goodnight but they shrug it off. At the end of the day, you’ve earned the affection too. You deserve to be loved and if your partner acts like this then that’s their problem – not yours. That is something that they need to look at. Many a time I have gone to bed with my boyfriend only to be treated like I’m not there and I’ve thought it’s been something I’ve done wrong that’s caused him to act this way. I can honestly say that since then my boyfriend has taken a long hard look at himself and he makes more of an effort to be a considerate, loving person. It’s been really tough and it is probably something I will write about in the future. Anyway! I’m getting distracted.. Let’s get back to the topic at hand.

Over the past few months I’ve realised that the lack of any appreciation when you helped someone will make you think it wasn’t good enough. When I originally wrote this article some months ago that’s how I’d been feeling for a while, but I didn’t realise how these things were slowly building up on top of me. I had not felt good enough for anyone or anything for a long time. It had been about nine months at this point. Nine months of constantly feeling like there is no approval, even if there had been. I had been too blind to see any of it. I suppose it’s sort of like (and you must pardon my choice of description) allowing a sword to become so blunt you cannot see how it was ever sharp and shining in the first place.

Something that I still struggle with today is my perfectionism in regards to my appearance. To me, it doesn’t matter what I wear or how I do my hair and makeup, I don’t look quite right. In the past there have been times where I didn’t want to leave the house, and after trying on outfit after outfit I’d get very frustrated with how I look, my weight in particular. It even got to a point where it was heavily affecting my personal relationships, mainly by causing unnecessary jealousy. The question I constantly asked myself is this: “If I’m never good enough, then surely the people I care about most will give up on me eventually?” I still often feel like I need to look a certain way or be a certain size in order to be good enough for the people around me. I have always suffered with intrusive thoughts (mainly as a side affect of OCD) and for me they are a daily occurrence. It is something that I deeply struggle with and for me it is a constant battle, especially where my weight is concerned. Again, this is something I will most likely write about in the future. Even if I’m in a better place with the other things I’ve written about there is always going to be something I’m not completely happy with. It’s human nature.

As for my working life, there have been many times where I have been literally torn down because something I did wasn’t perfect in the eyes of those above me. Even if there was nothing else I could do to make it better, there were times where I fell at fault regardless of trying my best. My job actually wore me down so much I ended up being signed off by my GP with depression and anxiety for seven weeks. In the end, I never returned to that place of work. I felt guilty for not returning and taking that amount of time off in the first place, but there comes a time when your mental health needs to come before anything else. That sometimes means you’re going to piss someone else off but guess what? You’re important too and sometimes you have to look after yourself. You are not selfish for doing so.

Looking back on the original article I wrote some time ago, it is liberating to understand the reasons why I crumbled. It’s made me realise you cannot blame yourself because of how other people act. If you try you’re best with someone – whether it’s your partner, your friends or even your teacher or boss – you can’t be blamed for doing everything you could, and that’s something to keep in mind always.

If you’re reading this and you relate to what I’ve said then I hope you can come away from it knowing that trying your best isn’t something that should be punished or critiqued. You are always going to be your own worst critic, so please don’t let other people affect how you do things, and never be too hard in yourself either.

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