L is for Letting Go of Perfectionism #AtoZChallenge

April 14, 2020

I hinted at this in my knowing my limits, flexibility, and even my Instagram posts for this challenge, so I’m just going to go ahead and admit it in full right here: I am a recovering perfectionist.

I know. It’s shocking.

But, really, it’s why I overcomplicate things most of the time. Because I don’t have to just know how to do things, I have to know how to do them right.

It has been easy to be flexible about this blogging challenge, about my teaching, about the 30-day yoga challenge I undertook, about how often I cook, and about how often I go for a walk. Do you know why? Because I have done blogging challenges before. I’ve had to change my teaching mid-semester before. I’ve tried cooking every day, and I know my exercise habits.

You know what I don’t know how to do? Live through a global pandemic.

And the thing about my perfectionism is that it’s worse when it’s a thing I haven’t done before. My default with a new anything is to think I have to do it perfectly. I have to do it the right way, and I can’t screw it up. Once I have done it (almost always imperfectly), I know what to expect and can therefore do it imperfectly going forward because I know it’ll be fine.

A lot of this is programming from my childhood where I was always admonished if I didn’t do things the right way the first time. I get that.

But that’s also what makes it so easy to fall back into that pattern.

perfect heart and brain

As always Brain gets me (source)

I was reminded of this last week when I ran out of bread. Now, running out of bread (or anything, really) in The Before was no big deal. I would just go to the store and get what I needed. But running out of bread in the times of COVID-19 felt like a massive failure. Never mind that the store had only limited all customers to two loaves of bread. Never mind that I can only eat one kind of bread and they only had one loaf of that type of bread. Never mind…a bunch of other factors.

What matters is that the day I ran out of bread is the day that the county health supervisor said for people to avoid going to the store if they could help it. And could I help it? Yes, if I hadn’t run out of bread. And also, couldn’t I find a way to get by WITHOUT bread until the following week when, hopefully, it would be safer to go back to the store.

Oh, and that was on top of the leader of a Caribbean country admonishing people for not stocking up on two weeks’ worth of grocery.


So, anyway, not going to the store couldn’t be avoided, which meant I had to go get the bread. I also made a list of other things I needed from the store, of course, so this wouldn’t be a one-item trip. Or even a two-item trip. I didn’t get a cart full of groceries, but I feel like I got one of those mini-carts full.

The whole thing was very stressful. In fact, I woke up early (without my alarm) after going to bed extremely late because of how stressed I was about it.

I got the bread (and other groceries) and it was fine.

So, then I had to spend some time figuring out why my reaction was so, I don’t know, over the top given the circumstances. And what I figured out is that I want to do this perfectly. I want to quarantine perfectly, I want to social distance perfectly, I want to go to the grocery store the perfect amount, and this is all because I am terrified of getting someone else sick or causing other people harm or getting in trouble with the county health supervisor who didn’t even say don’t go to the store at all but just said don’t go if you can avoid it.

I couldn’t avoid it, so I hadn’t done anything wrong. But I wanted to be the type of person who could avoid it.

I still wanted to be the person who did it absolutely right, which just served to stress me out beyond what the situation called for. So the truth is that I do follow the rules by maintaining physical distance, washing my hands, not touching my face until after I am home and have washed my hands twice, covering my face when I’m out, and going to the grocery store only when necessary. I am doing my best at keeping other safe, so I am doing a perfectly good job at that.

perfectionism scale

I just have to remember that this is all new, and if I try to avoid making a single solitary mistake, I will be frozen in fear in my house and not taking care of myself at all. And that just will not do.


For this year’s A to Z Challenge, I have decided that I’m going to focus on my survival/coping strategies while practicing social distancing. What are the things that make it bearable? What helps alleviate my stress and fear–or at least what distracts me from both? Tune in tomorrow to see what I choose for M!

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1 Comment

  1. patiencehcmason

    What a surprise! Perfectionism…
    i am recovering from it too. Enjoyed this post a lot.


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