For as long as I can remember, I have felt the need to be the best at everything that I do. I’ve been called an “over-achiever”, “suck up” and even a “brown-nose” back in my school days. I was the kid everyone hated for reminding the teacher that we had an assignment to turn in that day or telling the substitute that we were supposed to have a quiz. Oh yeah, I made a ton of friends that way, let me tell you! In college, I couldn’t wait for the first day of classes. The teacher was as organized as I was and getting that freshly printed syllabus with due dates and expectations for the semester brought me way more joy than it should have. I had a white, dry-erase board hung next to my bed, and I turned it into a calendar (all of the lines being perfectly straight and equally spaced of course). Each class was color-coded and there was a symbol for each type of assignment due that day (ex: *= reading, #=paper, **=quiz, ***=test, etc.). I made it a point to complete multiple assignments at once, you know, the get ahead of the curve. Each class had a different colored 3-ring binder, tabs included, and a matching folder for assignment. On my bookshelf, books were ordered by days of the week, time of the class, the corresponding 3-ring binder was sitting next to it.
I know what you’re thinking: that seems like a lot of pointless work. You’re absolutely right! There was no need to do all of that nonsense, and the average person would waste a lot time organizing which could be better spent, oh I don’t know, working on the actual class assignments! Was this necessary for the “normal” student? No. Was it necessary for me? Yes. In the collegiate world of taking multiple classes on unrelated topics, each with differing times and days, scattered across campus in multiple buildings, all requiring different amounts of time and focus, it’s easy to see how overwhelmed and defeated you can feel, and how quickly it can happen. Before even being diagnosed, my brain was trying to find a way to control the madness. I wanted, no NEEDED, to be the perfect student, I NEEDED to make people proud of me and I NEEDED to find the best way to do so. *HUMBLE BRAG: I DID GRADUATE MAGNA CUM LAUDE, SO I GUESS YOU CAN SAY THAT IT WORKED. *
WHY AM I TELLING YOU THIS STORY? WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH YOU?
The lingering need to be perfect, obsessive and in control is always present. We CAN use our evil for good, as shown in my previous example, but the good is overtaken by the evil the majority of the time. Prime example: this post I’m writing an entire 24 hours after it should have been posted.
Anxiety poisons more parts of us than we’d like to admit. It causes us to overthink and over-analyze every decision, situation and conversation, which can cause serious consequences in other areas of life. How do you explain to your manager that you’re late to work for the third day in a row because you spent an hour staring at the clothes hanging in your closet, unable to decide on what to wear? The weather app said it might rain, which means it could get windy so maybe you should wear long sleeves. But what if it doesn’t rain? You don’t want to be hot all day. You decided to wear a jacket, but you forgot to wash it the last time you wore it, so now, back to the drawing board. How do you explain to your teacher that your homework assignment is late, again, because you stayed up all night, trying to find the perfect font, only to have to change the size because it was too small to meet the minimum page requirement? That forced you to choose another font, but now your chart is off center, even though the assignment didn’t require a chart. How do you tell your family that you can’t make it to your grandmother’s birthday dinner because the last time that you ate at that restaurant, they gave you the wrong order, but you ate the disgusting food anyway because you couldn’t bring yourself to say something to the server?
Life with anxiety is exhausting, confusing, and embarrassing. Your brain has zero chill, constantly on overdrive, reminding you of that thing that you said to that person at that place two years ago and how stupid you must have sounded. You desperately search for the “off button”, but sadly, there isn’t one. You’re told to “just relax” or “try not to worry/think about it” as if you WANT to be like this. Who WANTS to stay away until 5 in the morning thinking about the email you sent before you left work but you can’t remember if you spell checked and proof read it before you clicked the send button (even though you know you did at least 10 times)? Who WANTS people to start at them while they have a panic attack in the middle of the grocery store because your perfectly organized grocery list you wrote with your favorite blue pen was carelessly forgotten on the kitchen counter? Not a single person I know WANTS to feel this way; we didn’t CHOOSE to be like this and we certainly don’t like the attention; trust me, that makes it worse!
The good news: you’re reading this article, so chances are you’ve already realized that something needs to change. You can and you will find something that helps you, as I lovingly call it, “calm the crazy”. Will you find that “something” on the first try? I truly hope you do, but realistically, you probably won’t, and that’s ok! Keep trying new things: research, write, sing, dance, paint, ride a horse. There is no wrong way to do this! As much as we’re wired to believe so, not everything in life is a test to pass or a competition to win. What I am still trying to learn, as evident in this article, is that sometimes, “good enough” IS good enough. Is this my best article? Probably not. Is it good enough for you to understand the reasoning behind my writing it? I certainly hope so.