Friday, 30 June 2017

For Better, For Me (A): A Life of Perfectionism, Procrastination, People & Progress.

I haven't posted in over a year yet it feels like it has only been a moment. A long moment, sure, but a moment in time - flashing before my eyes with no real control or sense of thought - nonetheless. I've been feeling stuck, stuck in life, stuck with socialising, stuck with my career...just stuck in general. Yet, throughout this past year I've continued on, working, trying to make my relationships with other people work, trying to make life feel like it's on track again whilst almost losing myself in the process. It's not so simple when you've lost track of who you are and where you're going as a person as that alone is enough to cause confusion, destruction and change within all aspects of your life, especially when it comes to your connections with people, places and objects of your life. If you're unsure of yourself how can you be sure of what binds you to everything around you? It had been a slow downward spiral and at points I had noticed it I guess, but it wasn't until, with hindsight, I could fully come to terms with the situation and the specific details which got me to my current position. 


I don't know when my vying for perfection began. When I was young I needed to be the best, I wanted to win the 'awards' and gain the recognition and at times I did. It wasn't necessarily a competition thing, it was more an 'I have to achieve the best or I'm a failure' thing. Throughout my life, however, it started becoming more and more difficult for me to achieve what I wanted. Not because I wasn't capable of achieving them, because like anyone else I definitely was. My problem was my determination to be in control of every situation I came across, and if I wasn't it brought on anxiety and with anxiety came a cloud in my judgement and a fog in my brain. I essentially blocked myself from succeeding in the way in which many people in my life thought I would. I had people believing in me and ensuring me I was heading in the best direction possible, but until I believed that myself, I was going nowhere fast.  So, I subconsciously and unfortunately in some measure detrimentally, did whatever possible to stick to my comfort zone. It was 'secure' after all. I didn't push myself to do anything that I feared. I became the walking definition, in my eyes, of all talk and no action. As long as I said what I wanted out loud, that meant that it would happen...someday, but not today. I can't even say that I was fine with that, because I know I certainly wasn't. I guess I just hadn't come to that point of my life yet where I was able to tell myself enough is enough. With that, I wasn't able to tell others enough was enough either and so became that recurring theme of everything was fine because I had a 'routine' whereby I was managed by others, I feared to voice my sincere opinion and I coaxed myself into moving forward with what can only be described as a stream of continuously doomed new years' resolutions.

'Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it's the thing that's really preventing us from taking flight' - Brene Brown.

Suddenly, all that I was passionate about and had been working towards for years crumbled before my eyes. I had lost all control in a way I could never have comprehended before. It wasn't visible but its impact was monumental. It affected my reading abilities, it affected my social abilities, it affected my workplace capabilities but most importantly and most devastatingly it affected my everyday life. I was no longer the person I thought I was. I was doubting every aspect, every element, every person, every situation...of my life. It was as much exhausting as it was soul destroying. I can't say I didn't see it coming as tiny details of my life were changing at too swift a pace for me not to take notice. I suppose I just didn't want to acknowledge it. Denial kicked in. My ocean of life was going smoothly, but without proper notice, the waves were coming. Some of them were only encouraged by myself, hey, I stopped drinking for a year...what was only a major element of my life was stripped away at what can only be seen as a moments flippant notice. Yet, at the time it was planned and looked at in such a positive light. How was I to know that it would end up having such a huge impact on my life and myself. It allowed me to gain the perspective required in all parts of my life and what I was seeing was a tremendous wake up call. Stripped to the core I could finally see what I'd become, what I was hiding behind and the trepidation I had when it came to my life and those around me.

'Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralising' - Harriet Braiker.

If I was in a group of people I felt the need to prove myself to those around me so much so that I'd build up an even bigger cloud of anxiety that followed me around until I exhausted myself to a point where I'd end up showing up late or not showing up at all to certain situations until those connected became annoyed at my actions. This allowed me to give myself the excuse of, well I wasn't going to succeed in winning them over anyway, right? That's where my younger self was wrong. It wasn't about winning the people over, it was about giving myself the boost of knowing I was doing things right (or in other words, 'perfectly'), I was impressing others and I wasn't making a fool of myself. What I failed to see that the only person I should have been trying to prove anything to was myself and myself alone. My faults were mine to bear, and were mine to solve, and were already being viewed by myself as disappointing, stressful and maddening so why wasn't I doing anything to change them? What perfect moment was I waiting on because surely I could see that there was never going to be the 'perfect' moment at all, just the current one I was living.


So, because everything just had to be perfect, I allowed myself to gradually start to put things off. Until even the most menial of tasks were being shoved to the side to be dealt with at a later date for no real reason whatsoever...tell my mind that, please. When it came to my writing, I continued throughout, but I never finished anything because I'd get to a point where I'd doubt what I'm writing and then think it wasn't good enough (what I couldn't quite figure out, however, was whether it wasn't good enough for myself or those who would be reading it later). Therefore, like everything else, it was put towards the writing pile of things I'd written but hadn't finished and therefore couldn't publish. It was either this excuse or the its too personal excuse, which has a lot more weight than the former. When do words become too personal? Or too much? Or not something that should be posted online? Upon writing, I'm still unsure. I know I'm adept enough to write in a way in which, as much as it delves deeper into my own thought process, it doesn't necessarily give much away at the same time. Yet, again, it's all well in good me saying that now, but tell that to the version of me that I was becoming over the past year and she'd have a plethora of excuses ready to tell you as to why she couldn't. I've learned I can talk the talk. I've drained all of my talking resources at this point. It was time for action, surely? 

'Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder' - Mason Cooley.

I now realise, I was missing structure. Which, again, tell one year ago version of me this, and she'd laugh and say 'well, how can that be possible? I have a job that puts money into my bank account each month. I have a social life, in which I go out and drink with friends each weekend...' - in fact, before I continue, I'll correct myself and say this wouldn't be a year ago me as, as previously mentioned, she wasn't drinking for a year (which is an entire story in itself, has had many an impact on my life and is so long it will be saved for a book but will be touched upon at a later date) so let's go with two years ago me, for now - '...and I have goals in place for the future', but I can't help myself now but wanting to shake her and ask her the following: [1] Career - 'you're in a job you hate, sure you're earning money that's fine, but you're trying to put your all in to something that is giving you almost nothing back. For what reason? What are you alone gaining?' [2] Social Life - 'sure, you might be going out and having nights out, but are you really being your true self here? Are you getting too drunk to rid yourself of that socially anxious feeling you get the moment you walk into a bar or club? Are you using certain aspects of life as barriers to telling the people closest to you how you really feel and how you're really living? What are you missing out on by choosing to be like that?' [3] Goals - 'everyone has goals, it's a part of life, but when exactly will your goals be achieved? What's your ultimate plan? Do you expect everything to just fall into place or fall at your feet? We may believe in fate, or in our eyes Kismet, but even fate needs you to provide a companion guide, no?'. Without these major questions being asked, past me was allowed to continue on for a while thinking all was fine with her comfort bubble uninterrupted. 

'You don't have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step' - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Consequently, time went on, she continued to do her thing, exceed 'targets', gain warranted recognition but no real satisfaction. What was she waiting on exactly? Her own passions were left at the wayside, her surroundings were messy and she wasn't taking the time to clean her act up enough to be able to push forward, to be able to eventually clear her mind and start anew. The menial chores built up and took over anything superior. It brought anything worthwhile pursuing to a halt as that cloud in my judgement and fog in my brain grew increasingly stronger and overbearing. How can you move forward, to fully participate in life when your surrounded by chaos of your own creation. You know in yourself where the focus should be, you need to remain concentrated specifically on that element of your life first before you can move on to anything valuable yet somehow your brain remains on a constant battle loop of wanting more time but thinking there's not enough what with the current routine of life already in motion leaving no room for anything else. Why do we feel like there's no time in the day, no time to fully commit to change and make the most out of this life we're living? Why do we allow ourselves to repeat the same mistakes and expect different results? Trying to come to terms with how strange this situation seems is impossible alone without having to explain it to those closest to you.


A year may feel like it's going by in the blink of an eye but boy does it bring and take away a lot with it as it goes. Constant change. Constant adapting. Heartbreak, sadness, fear to happiness, surprise or even elation. In the space of six months, I'd lost most of the people I'd considered my close friends. One by one they dropped out of my life like they were never a part of it to begin with. I played my part, of course, it takes two to tango in these situations. Yet, I somehow never seen it coming. It killed a part of me. The people I confided in the most, they didn't try to save our relationship. That in itself, is acceptable, it has to be. Every person is different, so their wants/needs are different and if they don't see something as a priority in their life no matter if another person or thing, then they have every right to remove it from their existence. Therefore, that in itself wasn't what scared me. What scared me was how simple it was. How 'simple' it is to 'delete someone from life', I mean we have social media nowadays to do it for us, right? We have Facebook, WhatsApp group chats, or Snapchat...erm, streaks? This is where I'm somewhat drawing the line, but you get the idea and I'm sure at this stage, you get my point? There can be no face to face interaction, if you so wish, and that's rather sad, don't you think? Why do we find it so difficult to be honest nowadays and tell the people around us how we're feeling - face to face. Why do we let social media do the talking for us? I guess, to a point, I'm doing the same thing now as some of this will be unknown to those closest to me. Hypocritical, maybe...but I get why it becomes the trouble-free release. It's definitely an 'I feel like I don't have any other options' resource, for sure.

'Cutting people out of your life is easy, keeping them in is hard' - Walter Dean Myers.

I'd somehow noticed I was no longer a priority, either by being told (as close to) or through subtle hints. People are important, but I'd allowed myself to neglect that. I'd focused on opinions over facts and fear over connection. That comfort bubble was firmly sealed and I was giving it permission to envelop me to a point of suffocation. It could be associated with that moment in the morning when you're under your duvet and groan that you have to get up and start the day, head off to work and do the same thing all over again...but, you almost always choose to get up and do it all anyway because what would be the point of just staying in bed all day. Nothing would be achieved. In this case, you choose to stay securely underneath, if you don't have to face the day then nothing can go wrong. However, that's the worst choice of all, as that's when you're giving life and your connections consent to continue on without you. You've allowed yourself to be swallowed up by fear to the point when everything changes without you having had any input at all. The viewpoints of others become almost more important than that of your own simply because you've decided to opt out of interaction.

'Live your life for you not for anyone else. Don't let the fear of being judged, rejected or disliked stop you from being yourself' - Sonya Parker.

I didn't always care what people though of me, or at least when I was younger I was able to push past it and still do the things I wanted to do or the things that scared me most. Like be one of the leads of my school play at 10 years old. I'd recite Robert Burns' poems in front of every member of my school upon a tiny stage. That girl I still remember, I still envy her confidence (albeit somewhat sarky with a bit of a madam type nature), she still had the same approach to life whereby any ideas or questions that popped into her head she voiced and acted upon but she grew and with time she took a fair few knocks, felt like she didn't belong at times and now me, here, being her nearly 26 year old counterpart I can see I've almost come full circle. That confident little sarky girl was still there in part throughout my life until now. Some people got to see her almost fully, others, glimpses of her, the rest got to see the mask of what she could have been or in their eyes what she'd become. It's strange really, because some of the people I remember contributing to how low I was feeling were also some of the people I managed to scrape beyond the surface with. That could be contributed to the fact that I'm either good at making friends or I'm good at listening and getting to the core of who a person truly is (at the point in which I make contact). I suppose, looking back now, there's no one in my life that I couldn't see myself contacting for one reason or another. I know the reasons as to why I stopped speaking to certain people but I also know myself and know how I interact and see that if I contacted anyone I ever had contact with I would still have that optimism that they'd respond in a positive manner. The only hesitation I would have would be with those people I'd only recently had contact with and they'd chosen to cut contact. Who knows I could totally be destroying myself by admitting how often people decide to 'block' or in modern times 'ghost' me here but I'm going on the assumption that I'm not alone. The hesitation would simply come from how current or raw the situation was, but if my judge of character is correct then I can see those people who have within the most recent few months decided to cut contact, for whatever reason, decide to make contact again. I say this, as I can say I'm not a horrible person. I have flaws like anyone else, I may voice my opinion at times when I should remain quiet and I also may remain quiet when I should be letting people in...but, I still have many a great quality that makes me who I am and I know that they know that too. Life just makes it difficult to fully connect or carry on with previous connections sometimes...the right people need time, the rest need distance. I just needed a little reminding of that.


So, we're here. A required spiel to rid my mind of past mistakes, turn a new page and begin a new chapter...time to get to the good stuff. Trying to rid myself of perfectionism, procrastination and blog post anxiety. Trying to stop myself from caring what others think, or at least go back to not allowing it to change my mindset, my life choices and my decision to write what comes to mind. Missing some people but making changes for me and hoping that somewhere down the line specific people will filter back into my life through time. 

'The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new' - Socrates.

I had finally come to the realisation, perhaps with a little shove in the right direction from the universe, that what I had been focusing on I was doing so for all the wrong reasons. My strive to achieve the best did not have the most important person's intentions at heart...myself. I wasn't fully committed to creating the best me that I know I can become and it wasn't until I'd seen how low I had fallen and how disappointing my everyday routine had become that I'd noticed the goals I was achieving were not of my own creation at all. I had to start focusing on me, making changes, however small to the different elements of my life everyday in order to maintain a better understanding of who and what I wanted to become. I needed to stop putting myself under far too much pressure to succeed that the movements I made were not movements at all but merely a hesitant anxious swaying motion with no improvement and no results. I had to focus on my own opinions over others, and figure out the fact from the fiction, making the right changes to suit. I had to do it now or face further drastic consequences in the future. Most importantly, I had to realise that even the most simple of baby steps was enough of an advancement and something upon which I could build on. Slow but steady wins the race, right? With a starting straightforward goal of becoming a better me than the day before.

'You'll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine' - John C. Maxwell.

I suppose you could say I've cancelled what can only be seen as the 'normal' routine for a while to figure things out, figure myself out, giving myself the time to make the necessary adjustments and move forward. It's my life to live after all. I may still have a lot more to alter and there is still going to be plenty of mistakes along the way...but I'm positively progressing.

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