In my latest CBT session today I once again confronted the spectre of perfectionism that haunts my life and work.
It’s a difficult thing to discuss because most people would frame this as having ‘high standards’ of oneself. Perfectionism is different, though, and my therapist helpfully differentiated it for me by describing it as ‘not looking after yourself’.
There are so many facets to this in my life. Yes, I do regular exercise, but I’m competitive when doing so. I remember seeing a video once where the actor Will Smith said that if you got on a treadmill next to him at the gym he would die rather than getting off first. That’s me.
Even during lockdown when there’s no-one to compete against, I’ll compete against myself. It’s a losing battle as I approach 40, I literally can’t run as fast as I used to.
I compare myself against other people and against younger versions of myself all the time. I try and act in ways to control people’s impressions and opinions of me. To use the terms I use with my therapist, I ‘put on a mask’.
Admitting this to myself is actually more difficult than admitting it to others. So just to be clear, I am explicitly telling myself that it’s OK to be me, that I’m allowed to slow down and take a break, and that there’s no point in being in competition with anyone, let alone myself.