Last night, I had a bit of a perfectionism crisis. I was trying to record singing and playing a song on my ukulele, a song I had already recorded dozens of times the day before and settled on a take. But I didn’t think it was good enough, and I wanted to re-redo the recording. So, I spent countless more takes trying to get it “just right” and “perfect,” only to end up still frustrated. Then, I couldn’t decide whether to use the best take from the previous day or the best take from that night. Honestly, I began to hate both of them, and I began to hate myself.
I knew this was perfectionism rearing it’s ugly head. I knew I was being too hard on myself. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I am not talented, at least not until I realized that being untalented was not my true fear. My true fear was being imperfect. I was tying my worth to being perfect, and being perfect is impossible. That makes feeling like I have worth seem impossible too.
This is something I have done for years, along with tying my worth to other uncontrollable or unobtainable goals like being liked, always being productive, and being in a smaller body. Wanting to be productive contributed to why I studied so much in school. I felt like spending time with friends or even sleeping were a waste of time. Wanting to be liked contributed to why I practiced my trumpet for so many hours, not because I was really enjoying the experience of making music and working on a craft but because I wanted to impress those around me. I don’t want singing and playing the ukulele to be like this. I don’t want anything in my life to be like that again, only done out of an impossible desire to be perfect. I know I am not perfect, and that is okay. And I know I still have worth. It’s just all too easy for the old, sticky parts of our brain to come back out.
The truth is what actually determines my worth and your worth is quite simple: existing. That’s it. By existing we have worth and value and a place on this Earth as human beings. Of course, it’s easier to say that than to always believe it’s true, but it’s a work in progress.
I also want to define my worth in a slightly different way than just existing. I want to better align it with my values. For example, it’s important to me to be a good friend and to love others unconditionally. Taking steps towards towards those values give me a sense of worth. It’s also important to me to accept myself as I am AND continually strive to improve. Both can be held as dialectics together; it doesn’t have to be one or the other.
At the end of the day, through years of therapy, I’ve gotten a lot better at seeing my worth in these healthier ways. I have a much healthier approach to school going into grad school then when I went into undergraduate. And I’m working on dismantling the others, like tying my worth to being in a small body. That doesn’t mean I don’t still struggle sometimes. Again, it’s easier said than done. It takes a lot of hard work. But I think it’s worth it. You are worth it, and being able to see your own unconditional worth is worth the work.