The Perfectionism Trap

“Oh my gaw, she’s PERFECT. Just look at her.”

I still remember my friend saying this about the most popular girl in our middle school. For any pubescent, acne-ridden, Avril Lavigne-loving teen, you were eager to find an idol to model after so that you too, could be loved.

This girl was tall, skinny, blonde hair, already had a woooooman’s body (dizzzzang) and was “dating” (aka holding hands and not talking on the weekends to) the cutest guy in school.


I remember everyone saying,

  • “She is on the honor roll with me. She’s too pretty to stand next to!”
  • “Ugh, I really need to lose weight.”
  • “Oh, you won’t believe it. She talked to me in choir and said I had a PRETTY voice. I could just die now a happy human.”

It was so weird to me that we were idolizing someone we barely even knew and that we felt a pressure that we needed to measure up to her in order to be worth something in this world.

Now don’t get me wrong. My pubescent, acne-ridden nose wasn’t stuck up in the air and better than all this middle school worshipping. I was sucked into it as well, so much so that I created a thick mask called “perfection” and would not let ANYONE see what was underneath.

A Culture Problem

In society, we are so pressured to look a certain way, to act a certain way, to have certain political beliefs, to accomplish something huge, to wear certain things, to feel certain things and what not to feel, taught what it means to be “feminine” and “masculine”, to have the “perfect aesthetic” on our instagram (which by the way, I didn’t even know what that meant until my 17 year-old sister explained it to me for a half hour and why it was important) and so much more.

I have realized that the more I gave into these pressures all while growing up, the more I devalued the identity of the girl underneath the mask. I almost completely forgot what she was like, her interests, her emotions, her value and what she was capable of.

The more I cultivated that mask of perfection, the more terrified I became of people uncovering the “real” me and being rejected and ostracized for not fitting the mold that society was thrusting upon me:

  • I never showed my feelings to anyone because I was scared that I would look pathetic and that they would leave me because of how un-lovable truly was.
  • I never showed people my grades, sometimes even lying about them just so I could fit in and be one of the smart kids.
  • I quit competitive soccer and competitive swim because I lost. I took it internally each time I lost and attached winning or losing to my self-worth.
  • I lied about my ACT score for years and years because I didn’t want to look absolutely stupid in front of everyone.
  • I’d run for the un-opposed positions in student council because I couldn’t bear the thought of being a failure and not winning the election because a) I thought no one would vote for me and b) I was fearful of failure.

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My perfectionism made me distort my body to look a certain way and distorted my mind to think a certain, negative way about myself and how I needed to be to be worthy of love.

The Path Through Perfectionism

Perfectionism breeds a fear of failure.

Fear of failure breeds the incessant, overwhelming anxiety of not being enough and trying everything you can to “be enough”.

Believing we are not enough breeds the belief that vulnerability will “kill” your perfection mask and expose to everyone the horribly imperfect person that you are.

Perfectionism is a lie.

And this is something I learned slowly but surely over years of learning about myself and the culture around me.

Little by little, I have begun to take off pieces of my perfectionistic mask by being open and vulnerable with the healthy relationships around me of what is really going on underneath.

As I have done this, I have begun to discover who I truly am and am constantly being taught how to cultivate a love for self (something that I am still striving to do every single day).

I have realized that the more that I let go of my perfectionism, the more authentic I become and the more I begin to love myself.

The fear of not being enough for those I surround myself with is slowly but surely going away.Are there people that I meet and want to be “perfect” for?

Um, no, I am perfect now. Amen.

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Of course there are! But the more I remind myself of how vulnerability and authenticity bring true love and belonging in my life, the more capable and able I am to keep taking that mask off and allowing myself to be shown and known.

Perfection is a lie.

Vulnerability is a truth.

Authenticity is a given.



– This article was written by Emily Stolworthy, Author of Babblings by Anxiety’s Elite. She has a wonderful grasp on multiple issues including Eating Disorders, Relationship Issues, and Perfectionism. Take the time to read more from her blog.

Featured Image by Davenport Media

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