perfectionism,

  • Hello, My Name Is Valerie, and I Am a Recovering Perfectionist

    Yes, that is me. Perfectionist in recovery. I had to start working on it because it was ruining my life. Sometimes I have to say "good enough is good enough" and move on, no matter how much it pains me. So, I make the tough decisions when the dividend is not worth the incredible amount of angst and toil that I go through to get it. When I first returned to college after quite the hiatus, I would get upset over missing a question or two on a quiz. This perfectionist tendency makes the stress almost unbearable. However, I persisted in being upset if I didn't do a perfect job, which means 100% of the points. After my second term, I realized that a mid-A works as well as a high, or perfect, A. Did it still bother me when I did less than perfection? Yes, but the feeling was diminishing. For some courses, you know, the really hard ones, I felt great pleasure when I made an A. Then the summer semester started, and God decided that I needed to rid myself of this very unhealthy obsession with perfection.

    First, I discovered that I had atrial fibrillation, which was scary. I knew I felt bad, so I went out to look for a new doctor since it had been such a long time since I'd been to one. I was afraid that the doctor would think I was a hypochondriac. Well, not only was I not imagining that I was ill, I was ill. The rapidity that she removed me from the room into a cardiologist's room was frankly scary. Since that time, I discovered that my thyroid was out of whack, then that I had hypothyroidism, to having nodules on my thyroid, to finding out that I had Graves' Disease. This was the beginning of the summer semester where I had unwisely decided to take not two, but three courses at the same time. And not the normal intense 8-week courses, either. I thought it sounded great to take three over an expanse of 15 weeks so that they'd be less intense. Biology 101, Philosophy 201, and Math 201 (Statistics). Well, on a good semester, that's hard. Tie in the health issues, and we are talking major stress levels. I was in for a wild ride.

    Then there was the mold that we found in our daughters' room that had grown right up the inside of the wall due to the apartment complex not fixing the leak (read flooding) every time it rained hard. So, we made the decision to move, and as quickly as possible. So, in an already stressful place, and in less than two weeks, we found a new place to move, packed up our belongings, and moved. Due to my heavy workload in school and work, I could really only spare two weeks to do all this, and my husband and kids were left do the bulk of the packing, moving, unpacking, and getting things settled. That was in August. It is now October. The house is mostly settled. There are some odds and ends that I need to take care of. My family has done a wonderful job. Me, I've had to ignore the mess as much as I can. It adds more stress to my life.

    In the midst of all of that, my grades suffered a bit. I was able to secure extensions in two of the three courses, but when it was time to turn in everything, I had double the load. To say that I was drowning in schoolwork was an understatement. The last two weeks of class, I just ran out of time to write a paper for philosophy. I was away for a work retreat that Monday, and wouldn't get back home until Wednesday. I was already frazzled and exhausted. I tried to write the paper, but the end of the course was Friday, and I just didn't get it done. I had to make a decision. Do I stay up for two nights in a row to finish a paper that wouldn't be very good anyway, or do I just not turn one in, and make either a B or a C? It was an agonizing choice. My perfectionist side said, "NO! You can't NOT turn in an assignment!" but the I'm so tired, and my health is already in decline side of me said, "Is it worth it to make an A? How long would it take to recuperate from an all-nighter when working, and the new term starts the following Monday?" I have to say that I made the right choice. I decided to go for the health aspect of the decision, and I wrote an apology email to my professor. I made a B in the course. Does it still bother me? Absolutely! I'd be lying if it didn't. However, I am slowly coming to terms with it. It was a rough summer. Too much was going on. My last school break was in March. I just finished the first term of Fall last night. That has been 31 weeks straight of school with only two weekends between terms. That's a lot. That's too much, especially in regards to the Summer term that I am still trying to get over.

    So, my first term of Fall was less intense with two courses instead of three really long courses. It was easier to handle two courses, even though they were very hard. In one course, Introduction to Graphic Design, there was an extra credit project I could choose to do. I was pretty booked up with my programming class, so I decided that if I finished all my work in both classes, and I still had time, I'd do the extra credit project worth 50 points. I finally finished my programming assignment last night around 10 o'clock. Everything was done, and I had enough time to work on the extra credit project. Guess what I did? Did I do what I would have done in March to make sure I made the highest A? Or did I learn something through this summer's refining summer? As I said, I'm a recovering perfectionist. Let me know in the comments what your thoughts are....

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