Human v. Heroine: On Perfectionism


Perfectionism is the bane of my existence.

Or one of them. Others include $5 cappuccinos here v. 2 euros ones in Italy, and calculating tips for servers and baristas. I stopped taking math at 18 so it’s been a while.

When I was younger, I always feared failing. I was a timid follower, a shy friend, a diligent student. I plugged into student organizations and sought leadership roles (despite my meekness) because I wanted a well-rounded resume and to get into a good school.

I got into a good school: Baylor. And it was there my perfectionism continued: obtaining officer positions in multiple organizations, graduating Magna Cum Laude, befriending professors and peers and everyone in between.

Then I was diagnosed with bipolar, my reputation imploded along with my life.

Bipolar was an imperfection, a flaw, a fluke.

It was a chip in the porcelain doll image I maintained for 21 years. It was a crack in the windshield that only worsened in time.

The name I built for myself — and not for Christ — was tainted: people saw me as the woman with a mental illness, not the woman I strived to build. My name was known and respected, it was revered and honored. But not anymore. Not like this.

It was in out-patient therapy at Meier Clinic I truly learned what perfectionism was and looked like. It’s a perceived obligation to constantly please others and win over peers. It’s a desire to come across flaw-free and picture perfect. It’s a sickness to never let others down, to only achieve and to gain for one’s own reward.

For me, it’s a pride problem.

At Meier Clinic, they taught us three stages: subhuman, human and superhuman.

When I’m subhuman, I am pathetic and hard of myself. I can’t amount to anything. I can’t succeed. I felt subhuman when first diagnosed.

When I’m human, I allow myself to make mistakes and to learn from them. I practice humility but with drive to succeed in a healthy way.

When I’m superhuman — or as I like to call it, hero — I condemn myself to always needing to succeed, I feed my pride. I try to be every person’s hero, including my own.

I want to be a heroine, but in the end, I’m human.

I want to be everybody’s go-to-gal. I want to be the person you call in the middle of the night when you’re feeling down, I want to be the friend who shows up at your door with homemade brownies.

I want to be my own go-to-gal. I want to lean on myself for strength and endurance and life. I want to take care of myself to the point where others don’t worry about me or concern themselves over my needs.

But I’m a human. And a human is all I can be.

I can make mistakes, take notes and try again. I can call friends when I weep, I can jump for joy when I’m ecstatic. I can be a friend, but be my own best friend as well. I can take care of others and I can practice self-care, too.

I can be bipolar and a person. I can be up and down and in between. I can be known, be loved, know others and love others in return. I can be human, I don’t have to be a heroine.

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