Earlier last year I wrote a blog post about how tracking one’s numbers can be a double-edged sword. Using the personal example of grades during my academic career and earning money as an adult, I explained how sometimes I had the problem of over-identifying with “my numbers,” as if they defined me. I also thought in all-or-nothing, perfectionistic terms: so, in terms of grade, if I ever got less than an A (which represents “100%,” in theory a “perfect performance”), suddenly I was a failure.
Sadly, during my school years, there was really no in-between. Though I did genuinely enjoy learning and doing a good job, I was plagued by the need to be “perfect.”
Similarly, for a long time as an adult, I held impossible standards around earning money. If I didn’t meet my own financial expectations, my head administered harsh judgments upon me.
The silver lining here is that, tonight when I re-read that post, for perhaps the first time since it was written, I feel that my attitude about these things has shifted quite a lot. In fact, I no longer identify with being that type of perfectionist 🙂
Certainly, I remember what it was like to be that way. Yet I no longer relate to it as if that is me now. Instead, I see it as the unfortunate result of my conditional psychology: that is, in my own mind, I wasn’t unconditionally worthy! I was only worth if I accomplished that perfect grade… or if I achieved that financial result. I inhabited a world of continuous pressure, and the threat of harsh judgment being passed on myself if I didn’t perform to my head’s high expectations.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with having high expectations, but truly I was playing an unwinnable game. That’s the problem with perfectionism. It’s not really about having high expectations, it’s about having a mindset where your own brain is eager to pounce on you with anger and resentment for every perceived flaw and mistake.
Looking at last year’s post tonight, I feel changed. I have been working on unconditional love. I have been working on seeing that my worth is a constant, stable thing that exists regardless of circumstances. In fact, I guess I feel this is simply who I am now.
It’s nice to know progress like that. Nice to see evidence that, indeed, with enough love, imagination, and persistence, a mind can change 🙂