This Is Nothing

Insane Graduate School Edition

11/18/2008

Self-realization x 1-kajillion

Itís another one of those ďcrunch timesĒ folks. I donít know, sometimes I feel like in my life there are only ďcrunch timesĒ and ďrecovery timesĒ and what Iíd love to have is mostly ďhumminí along timesĒ with an interspersing of crunch and recovery.

But then I find that I slide always into one extreme or the other. Canít get any work done unless itís ALL work and itís ALL on a too-looming deadline. And everything takes so long to do right. Which makes ever looming project seem impossible.

Well, lately itís all come to head, because:
1. Now itís the holidays too.
2. Itís looking like Andy will graduate soonish, and I *maybe* I have an end in sight.
3. There are so many good things in my life, like dance and Andy, and Iím not enjoying them because Iím always guilty I should be working.

So in addition to reading journal articles and drafts of my paper, Iím also chipping away at two self-help books: one on anxiety, and one on perfectionism. Itís a recent realization on my part that Iím a perfectionist. Itís a concept Iíve found laughable, because my gut response is ďIím SO not even close to being perfect.Ē

If I was a perfectionist, wouldnít everything be perfect, neat, and in control and Iíd be mostly driving OTHER people crazy with it all? Wouldnít I be inhumanly on top of it all?

Oooh, the evil reality of it all: I place myself so far away from perfect BECAUSE Iím a perfectionist. I will always consider my life, apartment, and appearance shamefully un-perfect because I am a perfectionist.

Every page I read from this darn book. . . itís like a boot to the head coupled with the thought ďGood lord, thatís ME.Ē The constant need to avoid making ANY mistake. The need to always be right, or even feeling Iím right by not being correct somehow. Never wanting to start a project, practice an instrument, try anything new because if I canít do it perfectly right away, itís too distressing.

But then I thought: ďOk, well, Iím a perfectionist in all these academic/learning pursuits, but thatís it right? Iím a nice person, and amongst my peers relatively well-adjusted!Ē

And then I got to the chapter on relationships. See, the author argues that behind the need for perfectionism is the belief that by being perfect, one can be in control and guarantee success and love. Itís all about control. If Iím cool enough and amazing enough, my friends wonít leave me. My love interests wonít leave me. . . it shot me right back into college when my boyfriend cheated on me. I remember being upset, sure, but primary amongst all my thoughts was that I was so much better than the other woman, how could he cheat on me with HER? Coupled with the notion that I had done everything to be the ideal girlfriend, but I must have failed. If I had been the perfect girlfriend, this would somehow assure me love. I look back and go ďman, sometimes sh** happens, and thereís nothing you can do about it.Ē Oh, the whole mess hurt for lots of reasons. But looking back on it, it called into question the very core of my belief in perfectionism. And on some level that was good for me.

Oh man, where was I?

Thereís just been a lot of moments of realization. Lots of bells going off, and clouds parting with rays oí sunshine coming down. So much of my own strife stems from feeling that if Iím not my ideal, then Iím a failure. As a straight-A student, Iíve never been too comfortable with Bís. And up until grad school, Iíve been able to get by with my level of perfectionism. But here in grad school, everyone is brilliant and all my perfectionism does is keep me from completing deadlines, from getting my work done. And I know I need to stop avoiding things I canít do perfectly right away, because at this point thatís where the learning is.

Ok, this entry was more for me than for anyone else to read . . . but I did see a lot of myself AND other people I know in that book. I think a lot of folks have brilliant, active minds and parents that assure them that if they get enough Aís theyíre guaranteed a good life. And I think weíre all overthinking things just a bit.

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