Overcoming Perfectionism

Hiya,

Thanks for popping by to check out epistoleary!
You may know that this is a blog about figuring out who you are and how to embrace it. The empowerment that comes from being true to yourself is phenomenal and I want to help you get it.

But what makes me qualified to do this? Well, I’ve been there and done it!

Perfectionism isn't good for us. It's actually ruining any chance we have of happiness. My life changed when I decided to give up on perfectionism.

I have a Type A personality. For those unfamiliar with the term Type A, it refers to individuals who are hyper competitive, self-critical, high strung, afraid of wasting time, have a tendency to overreact and are easily angered.

This is a generalization of course but if you are very interested, a quick search of Friedman & Rosenman’s study will provide full explanations of the Type A – Type B personality spectrum.

Anyway, I am a Type A individual. I was also lucky enough to attend academically challenging schools for most of my education. Being in these schools meant that I was surrounded by other Type As and spent a lot of time feeling strung out.

 For instance, this was my middle school routine for a few months before my parents and I decided it was insane:
06:00 – 07:00 Swimming (Monday – Thursday)
08:00 – 15:00 School (Monday – Friday)
15:30 – 17:00 Softball (Monday – Friday)
19:00 – 20:00 Soccer (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday)

Yep…and I was 12! My poor Dad used to wake up with me at 05:30 and drive me to swimming. Then he would go home, get ready for work and make me a hot chocolate. At 7:30 he picked me up and I ate my breakfast in the car on the way to school. Then he would ferry me around all afternoon to my various sports.
And of course there was homework in there too! Can’t forget the homework.

It was CRAZY.

When I got to high school it just got worse. My mum tried to tell me, ‘an A is an A whether it’s a 100 or a 90’ but I just couldn’t see it. What was she talking about? Did she not understand how a cumulative GPA works? Needless to say, I kept aiming for the 95 – 100 range.

In the end, I graduated in the top 10% of my class. Do you know what my first reaction was? I wonder how close I was to the top 5%?

This is the story of my life. No matter how much I achieve, my first thought is about what I failed to achieve.

Because I graduated in the top 10% I was granted automatic admission to The University of Texas at Austin. Now, UT Austin is a good school but on my first day, I didn’t feel like I belonged there. I felt like a fraud. UT didn’t accept me, I forced them to let me in. They didn’t want me for me, they just had to take me.

I know! What was I thinking? I had managed to graduate in the top 10% while participating in extra-curricular activities and also having a life. I went to my fair share of parties just like everybody else. Why wouldn’t UT want me? But that’s what Type A does to a person.

When I got to UT it was all going pretty well. I joined the rowing team and seemed to be doing well in school. I almost had a heart attack when I got back my first graded assignment…a 73. But it got better on the school front.

About this time I also started getting severe shooting pains every time I ate. It didn’t matter whether it was three grapes or a five course meal, the pain was the same.

Over the next three years I went to every kind of doctor I could think of: gastroenterology, gynecologist, chiropractor, natural healing practitioner – nothing worked. Eventually my mum persuaded me to go to an acupuncturist who practiced Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Let’s call her Dr G.

Dr G told me that I was tired and stressed. Really, I thought, $150 and you’re telling me that I’m tired and stressed?

Dr G went on to explain that it wasn’t just any old fatigue. My body had been operating at fight or flight for three years and she was surprised my adrenal system hadn’t packed it in all together. As we walked out I apologized to my mum.

See, she had been telling me all along that it was stress. She kept saying that I didn’t understand how much damage stress could do to your body.

I vividly remember one particular day: we were in the car and mum started screaming at me out of frustration. She kept saying that I just didn’t understand. I was strung out, had no concept of how deal with stress and if I didn’t take action soon it was going to kill me.
Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but decades of accumulated stress was going to cripple my immune system.

As most mothers are, she was right.

So I agreed to start seeing Dr G on a regular basis. My amazing parents agreed to pay as long as I invested myself in the treatment and took it seriously. I will never be able to repay her for that generosity. I should also say that my whole family goes to Dr G now!

I was a very angry person when I first start seeing Dr G. I know people say that you don’t wake up angry but I did. I used to scream at my family A LOT and was generally a bitch.

I remember Dr G used to play ‘soothing’ instrumental music during my treatments…it was horrendous. Nothing could possibly be more annoying and it wound me up a treat. As I lay there with needles in my hands I would try to look at my watch to find out how much ‘resting’ time I had left – as little as possible I hoped.

Over the next couple of years my life changed completely. I have spent that time getting acupuncture, drinking some truly disgusting Chinese tea and investing a huge amount of time and effort in getting to know myself. It has been a very trying journey but totally worth it. I have managed to ‘find myself.’ I really don’t like that term but I don’t know how else to put it.

My family say they have me back now and that’s exactly how it feels. The angry, frustrated, highly strung person I was from the ages of 18 – 22 wasn’t me. Who I am now is the real me, I just lost track of myself for a few years.

Will Smith explains this best in The Legend of Bagger Vance:
Inside each and every one of us is one true authentic swing…somethin’ we was born with – somethin’ that’s ours and ours alone; somethin’ that can’t be taught to ya or learned; somethin’ thats got to be remembered. Over time the world can rob us of that swing, it gets buried inside us under all our wouldas and couldas and shouldas. Some folk even forget what their swing was like.

There is only one, true, authentic you. The you that you were born with. When I stopped trying to be perfect, when I stopped comparing myself to everybody else, when I learned what I really want from life and stopped pretending to be somebody I wasn’t – that’s when I made my way back and rediscovered my true self.

I used to be constantly stressed and wonder why everything always seemed to be going wrong. Now I smile and laugh every day and things are going really well.

I hope that you will join the newsletter and let me join your journey back to the real you.

Change is possible but nobody can do it all for you. If you commit to getting to know yourself and taking ownership of who you are then I will gladly share my experiences and the tips and tricks that helped me turn my life around, improve my relationships and become a genuinely happy person.

Don’t let the world rob you of your one, true, authentic self.

Until next time,
Aileen x


4 comments

  1. Anne Dalton says:

    This is the Aileen I knew and LOVE! I can’t even begin to tell you how proud I am. I hope to be more like you when I grow up.

    Adore you…

    Anne

  2. Christine Crowley says:

    Congratulations on so many things, lady 🙂 So excited for you and looking forward to following your continued journey!

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