Feather & Flint

On Wishing I Were Someone Else: My Struggle with Toxic Perfectionism & Self-Acceptance

October 1, 2017 31 Comments 7 Photos

Who else has been swimming in a sea of nostalgia this week thanks to your Spotify Time Capsule playlist? In case you hadn’t heard: Spotify now has the ability to predict the songs that you listened to in high school–with breathtaking accuracy.


As soon as I hit ‘play’ on my personalized playlist, I was hit with a wave of bittersweet nostalgia for my teenage years. Each song was tied to memories that hadn’t surfaced in years; some brought a smile to my face, while others reminded me just how difficult growing up truly was. Here are a few snapshots from my senior year that came to mind:

  • “1234” by Feist: It was September of 2007. I was 17, and I was falling head over heels in the golden light of early fall for a friend who I suspected felt the same way for me. This song brings me back to the sweet agony of falling in love in the way you only can as a seventeen-year-old, turning our interactions over and over in my mind, searching intently for signs of what our future might hold.
  • “Strawberry Swing” by Coldplay: It was June of 2008. I was in the car with the two best friends I’d had since kindergarten, driving over the cribstone bridge between Bailey Island and Orr’s Island under an impossibly blue sky. We had taken a road trip up to Maine after graduation, eating blueberry pancakes and lobsters in a tiny red cabin on the coast for a week and a half. We were two months away from setting off for college and leaving our hometown behind, and the infinite and uncertain future had us feeling giddy and free.
  • “Wheel” by John Mayer: It was August of 2008. I was sitting in a parking lot that overlooked the highway, thinking about how strangers’ lives speed past each other like cars, occupying the same space for a moment but rarely intersecting. My first real relationship had ended a year after it began as I packed my childhood away and prepared to move to Boston, and I was terrified that I would never connect with anyone like that again. I let the lyrics wash over me again and again like a mantra until I was convinced that all of the love that I had poured out into the world would come back to me one day.

Toxic Perfectionism: My Struggle with Anxiety | Feather & Flint

A lot of the memories that came up for me were dark around the edges, like singed photographs held over a flame. My teenage years were a time when I was struggling with toxic perfectionism and intense melancholy over which I had little control–so all-consuming that I often had trouble focusing on the world outside of my mind. As an adult looking back on that time, I wish I could have protected that beautiful, deeply sensitive, dangerously intelligent girl from the crippling depression and anxiety that I didn’t then have a name for.

When I was twenty-two and in graduate school, I stumbled upon research that tentatively established a connection between obsessive-compulsive disorder and body dysmorphic disorder. I dove headfirst into every existing study on the subject and emerged with an understanding of exactly what I had experienced as a teenager. I then sat down with a stack of my high school journals on one side and a laptop on the other, and with this newfound understanding of my own mind, I wrote the following essay.

On Wishing I Were Someone Else:

My Struggle with Toxic Perfectionism & Self-Acceptance

By the time that I turned fourteen, I had grown accustomed to being anxious.

I had been too high-strung, too sensitive, too perfectionistic for as long as anyone could remember. Depression and anxiety disorders had quietly plagued my mother’s side of the family for generations, while an earthy stoicism ran in my father’s.

These traits co-mingled to create me: a bright, creative, highly sensitive girl with a strong independent streak; an equal blend of Matilda, Pocahontas, and Harriet the Spy. From an early age, I was penning fantastical stories; deceiving librarians about my age to gain access to every book that the library had to offer; or slipping through the tall fence around our yard to explore the curious forest beyond. I taught myself to read in preschool, so I spent kindergarten reading picture books to the class while my teacher took the opportunity to get some work done at her desk, or would be permitted to voraciously devour chapter books on my own. My first-grade teacher discretely slipped notes into my cubby, inviting me over to her house for tea, addressed to “Little Miss Perfect.”

Toxic Perfectionism: My Struggle with Anxiety | Feather & Flint

Anxiety had seemed to find a home in my mind when I was very young, manifesting itself in different ways as I grew up. It diminished somewhat when things were calm, and then would inevitably reappear in cryptic, paralyzing forms every few years.

One morning before kindergarten, as my mother called me down to breakfast, I found myself consumed with the task of folding my tiny pastel sweaters in their dresser drawer so that there wouldn’t be a single wrinkle, growing increasingly anxious with every failed attempt.

Earlier still, I have a memory of a placid weekend morning spent sitting in a pale blue cloth chair in my childhood bedroom, sunlight streaming through the window. On either side of me, my mother and father tried in vain to calm the intense frustration that blossomed inside of me when I found that I was unable to sweep aside the millions of dust particles swirling furiously in the air.

In third grade, I had a strong need to perform behaviors in sets of four; I silently, frantically quantified every step that I took and every movement that I made, the calculations filling the empty spaces between every thought.

I grew up valuing the fact that I was subtly different from everyone else, perpetually looking for ways to express my individuality and make my unique insights known. But from the time that I was very young, I seemed to feel things more intensely than anyone else did. Early on, I decided that my emotions were my own responsibility and that I shouldn’t burden other people with them when they most certainly had issues of their own to deal with.

I had always been highly attuned to the reactions of other people, but this became my Achilles’ heel once I crossed the threshold of adolescence. I had developed a close band of friends, each one eccentric in her own way, bursting at the seams with precocious creativity. I never deluded myself into thinking that I was cool; this wasn’t a fact that I readily accepted, but in elementary school, the matter was largely irrelevant. I much preferred fabricating fanciful ghost stories and leading my ragtag group of friends on a wild goose chase through the woods to whatever the prettier girls were doing. I was unrefined and thoroughly uncoordinated, but I had no doubt that I was smart, and I had assembled a collection of kindred spirits who valued my endless imagination; and frankly, competing for others’ approval cut into my reading time.

However, a subtle but unmistakable shift began to occur in middle school. The previously contested line between “cool” and “not cool” became much more rigid, as well as more salient. The most coveted possession among twelve-year-old girls one year was an opulent silver heart pendant from Tiffany’s. I impatiently awaited my June birthday, which would finally allow me to wear the look-alike that I had happened upon in a tiny gift shop that winter. The day after I turned twelve, as I dressed for school, I was bursting with excitement; and in class that morning, one girl noticed the necklace almost immediately. She wordlessly approached me, touching the pendant with her fingertips and then dropping it in surprise, remarking, “Is this plastic? It looked so real from far away.”

By the next year, my defiance and independence were back in full force. I threw a coordinating necktie over my outfits every day for the entirety of seventh grade. The cacophonous public response was simultaneously humiliating and exactly what I wanted. That one provocative change in my appearance was my way of giving myself permission to transform from a girl who was constantly apologizing for her failure to live up to the standards of the girls who she would never be, to a girl who gave the middle finger to anyone who questioned her right to be whoever the hell she felt like being that day.

Toxic Perfectionism: My Struggle with Anxiety | Feather & Flint

I still wasn’t cool, and I wasn’t necessarily happy; but in my thirteen-year-old mind, it was more acceptable to be rejected for being myself than to be miserable in imitating someone else. My teachers, who noticed that I was having a rough time, each pulled me aside throughout the year to tell me that what I was doing was brave, and they made sure to look out for me from the sidelines where they could.

And then, in the last week of middle school, I made my debut as a singer and guitarist at the school talent show. The resounding praise that I received from the entire community—notably including the same people who I had failed so spectacularly at impressing in the past—made it clear that I wouldn’t have to worry about being cool anymore, because I was respected.

It was during the summer between middle school and high school, however, that my mind manufactured an entirely novel phenomenon: a prickling sensation of discomfort within my own skin. I had never truly taken note of my body before—it had always seemed unremarkable in every way. But this seemed to change in an instant: I became aware of my clothes fitting just a little more snugly, and the onslaught of negative emotions that would come to dominate my mind over the next few years began.

As high school commenced, my anxiety took on yet another fascinating, infuriating form. I was suddenly having difficulty reading–my most treasured pastime from the age of three–because without asking my permission, words had begun to morph into groupings of meaningless characters that I was compelled to arrange in seemingly endless permutations. Helpless, I found myself unable to digest the majority of the course material, whether written or spoken out loud; the words would echo over and over in my head as I continued to take them apart and put them back together again, letter by letter, until my brain had completed its calculations.

I had never been formally diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, as I had seemed to manage without any sort of intervention growing up. I readily accepted that if I could just concentrate hard enough, I should be able to ignore it. For what was neither the first nor the last time in my life, rather than assuming that the solution might have to come from outside of myself, I concluded that if I was continuing to struggle, I simply wasn’t trying hard enough.

Toxic Perfectionism: My Struggle with Anxiety | Feather & Flint

I kept diligent journals throughout the majority of high school and college, and the first mention of my body came three months into my freshman year of high school. However, from my wording, it was evident that the topic had been on my mind for some time:

“Been in a bad mood since I got home from school—as usual. It’s bugging me so much how I can only wear certain shirts or my stomach flab is too obvious. It makes me SO FRUSTRATED, almost more than anything else. I’m so self-conscious—when I bend over or sit down, even in my room, I’ll put one arm over my stomach to attempt to cover it. I wish I was thin. I hate my body.”

Over the next two months, I wrote the following entries:

“There are so many things that I dislike about myself, and I feel helpless to change them. Usually I just wish I was skinny, or sometimes smart, pretty, nice, whatever. Everyone but me seems, overall, to be somewhat satisfied with themselves. The majority of the time, I find myself wishing I was someone else entirely.”

“I decided that I really need to take action to put an end to all my insecurities. It’s getting to the point where it controls me. Sometimes I will honestly just break down and hate myself so much for just like, half an hour. Just because I feel so ugly, so fat, and… ugh. I’m such a teenager. So I cover myself up as much as possible. I’ve never told anyone about it. That makes it even worse. I don’t know why I’m so ashamed of it… I guess I put up this image that’s like ‘I don’t care what I look like, people’s opinions of me don’t matter’ but in fact, it’s the complete opposite. And I need to work on that so much, it’s keeping me from living life. I keep thinking that all of my problems would be SOLVED if I was skinny. And I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I do know that I care too much about what other people think of me. I hate this.”

“The most frustrating thing in my life right now is how I’ve been doing exercises that are supposed to help me slim down around my stomach at least once or twice a day, if not more, and I haven’t seen any improvement whatsoever. It’s so hard, because frankly, I don’t like myself just because of this one stupid thing. I guess it comes from comparing myself to others so much… My friends are skinny, people in magazines are skinny… I’ve grown up in a place where right and wrong and good and bad are black and white, and often I come out on the bottom.”

From these entries, it’s clear to me that there was something more going on here than the normal increase in social comparison and drop in self-esteem that happens in early adolescence; I suspected it then, and it’s unmistakable to me now. Rapidly, over the course of my freshman year of high school, my feelings became increasingly dysfunctional and paralyzing; and it was all reflected in my journals, which are still difficult for me to read because of the depth of my self-loathing.

Toxic Perfectionism: My Struggle with Anxiety | Feather & Flint

I began to take great care to camouflage my perceived defects, wearing dark, loose-fitting clothing and never appearing in public without makeup. I cried for hours every time one of the few pieces of clothing I had deemed acceptable shrank in the dryer. After school, I would spend the majority of my time in my bedroom with the door closed, dissecting my appearance in the dreaded full-length mirror or trying desperately to avoid doing so. I was consumed with the mental task of perpetually measuring my appearance and my talents against those of everyone around me, and then ruminating over the poisonous feelings of jealousy that always rose to the surface. I desperately wanted something that I could incontrovertibly be the best at—and I hated myself for needing this affirmation from other people so badly.

I was constantly fishing for compliments, hoping that someone else’s words held the key to releasing me from the intense self-consciousness that I was steeped in at all times, but it was an impossible task. By the time that I began to verbalize what I was going through to my closest friends, both to gauge whether they were experiencing similar things and to get the social support that I so desperately needed, the obsessive nature of my thoughts had long surpassed the issues that anyone else was grappling with. Whenever someone responded that they had never noticed the issues that I was talking about, I was shocked—but never to the point where I would finally realize the significant disparity that existed between my perceptions and reality.

The ineffable frustration and hatred that I felt for my appearance spread to every other aspect of my life, resulting in a crushing, inescapable sense of inadequacy that distorted every thought that I had. Although I was never religious outside of this period of my life, I readily credit my involvement with a youth group with keeping me sane throughout those years. I constantly questioned the existential meaning of everything that I was going through, and religion provided a script of comforting answers, as well as a community of kindhearted people that I depended on immensely. I had a place to go where my insight and talent were valued, and I rose to the occasion, taking on as many leadership roles as I could.

However, inevitably, all of these affirmations fed my deep-seated conviction that I was nothing more than an impostor. I had inherited my father’s stoicism; and so while I despised myself with a strength that’s impossible to convey, I simultaneously thrived on others’ perceptions of my competence, even if I was convinced that I was simply fooling them all.

In my journal, I wrote:

“I hate myself. I’m selfish, I’m jealous, I’m hypocritical, I want what others have that I don’t. I am ugly, both inside and out. Are they seeing something that I’m not, or are they not seeing all of me?”

Somehow, though, I made it through my freshman year. As had always been the pattern with my OCD, the cycle continued, with my symptoms lessening once my circumstances were calmer. For years, I still carried a quieter, yet just as deeply held conviction that I looked a little different than everyone else; but the acuteness of my obsession with the imaginary disproportionateness of my figure had dissipated. By my last year of high school, I still had a long way to go; but if you had asked me, I would have told you that I was happy.

Toxic Perfectionism: My Struggle with Anxiety | Feather & Flint

Several years later, in the course of completing a graduate degree in psychology, I made a startling discovery: The anxious and obsessive-compulsive symptoms that I had been manifesting, off and on, for the majority of my life were very much connected to my intense self-deprecation as a teenager. At the time, I suspected that I had obsessive-compulsive disorder, and I was certain that I was very depressed; but I had no idea that what I then described as “the mindset of someone with an eating disorder” was body dysmorphic disorder, recently purported to be highly related to OCD.

At different points in my life, in various forms, I had been consumed by a subconscious insistence on symmetry, order, and above all, perfection. I had no idea how common this particular manifestation of obsessive-compulsive disorder was, or that it could all be traced back to a propensity toward negative affect and toxic perfectionism that had likely been present in the inner workings of my mind since birth.

Today, these dark sentiments linger at a fraction of their original strength, making an appearance only in moments of intense anxiety. What it ultimately took to distance myself from the thoughts that I had accepted as reality for so long was for the connection between my anxiety and self-hatred to be revealed; as with so many fearful things, once they’re brought out into the light, they quickly lose their potency. Above all else, I am now grounded in the conviction that I am resilient; I am strong; and I am exactly who I was meant to be.

Toxic Perfectionism: What I’ve Learned

If I could tell other women one thing on the subject of self-acceptance, body image, and toxic perfectionism, it would be this: What would you say if you knew that the most amazing woman you know was holding herself back from accomplishing what she was capable of because she didn’t look perfect? What would you say if that woman was you?

No one is expecting you to look–or to be–perfect. In fact, they’re probably not thinking about you at all–they’re too consumed by their own inner struggles and insecurities. Every day, for the sake of the world and ourselves, we have to push past our incessant insecurities in order to accomplish what we were put on this earth to do. We have to remind ourselves and one another of this as often as necessary. Otherwise, the world misses out on the unique contributions that only we can make–all because we were waiting to be perfect.

Toxic Perfectionism: My Struggle with Anxiety | Feather & Flint

Photo by The More We See

I’ll leave you with this brilliant quote from Elizabeth Gilbert:

“Perfectionism is a particularly evil lure for women, who, I believe, hold themselves to an even higher standard of performance than do men. There are many reasons why women’s voices and visions are not more widely represented today in creative fields. Some of that exclusion is due to regular old misogyny, but it’s also true that—all too often—women are the ones holding themselves back from participating in the first place. Holding back their ideas, holding back their contributions, holding back their leadership and their talents. Too many women still seem to believe that they are not allowed to put themselves forward at all, until both they and their work are perfect and beyond criticism. Meanwhile, putting forth work that is far from perfect rarely stops men from participating in the global cultural conversation. Just sayin’. And I don’t say this as a criticism of men, by the way. I like that feature in men—their absurd overconfidence, the way they will casually decide, ‘Well, I’m 41 percent qualified for this task, so give me the job!’ Yes, sometimes the results are ridiculous and disastrous, but sometimes, strangely enough, it works—a man who seems not ready for the task, not good enough for the task, somehow grows immediately into his potential through the wild leap of faith itself. I only wish more women would risk these same kinds of wild leaps. But I’ve watched too many women do the opposite. I’ve watched far too many brilliant and gifted female creators say, ‘I am 99.8 percent qualified for this task, but until I master that last smidgen of ability, I will hold myself back, just to be on the safe side.’ Now, I cannot imagine where women ever got the idea that they must be perfect in order to be loved or successful. (Ha ha ha! Just kidding! I can totally imagine: We got it from every single message society has ever sent us! Thanks, all of human history!) But we women must break this habit in ourselves—and we are the only ones who can break it. We must understand that the drive for perfectionism is a corrosive waste of time, because nothing is ever beyond criticism. No matter how many hours you spend attempting to render something flawless, somebody will always be able to find fault with it. (There are people out there who still consider Beethoven’s symphonies a little bit too, you know, loud.) At some point, you really just have to finish your work and release it as is—if only so that you can go on to make other things with a glad and determined heart. Which is the entire point. Or should be.” (Elizabeth Gilbert)

Have you ever struggled with anxiety, depression, or toxic perfectionism? I would absolutely love to hear your stories in the comments.

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31 Comments

  1. Reply

    Erica Delp

    October 1, 2017

    Hey Robin,

    I am sure it’s no secret that I’ve struggled with perfectionism most of my life. Learning and growing every day! I can only speak for my own thoughts and opinions, which I know don’t really always make an impact on someone who struggles with self doubt. But, I can honestly say my opinion of you was and still is that you are one of the most strikingly beautiful and genuinely talented young women that I have ever had the privilege of knowing. There are no buts in that statement. As far I can tell none of that has changed over the years 😊 no one is perfect, but flaws don’t change or detract from the truth of those other positive things that make who you are. You’re a really special one if a kind person. Here’s to hoping that we’ll both continue to grow into our own skin!

    • Reply

      Robin

      October 1, 2017

      Thank you SO much, Erica–your comment absolutely made my day. That is so incredibly sweet of you to say, and it truly means a lot to me. You were such a kindred spirit for me in high school, and I was so lucky to have known you at that time–you and others at Wayne are 100% of the reason I made it through some tough years, and I will always be immensely grateful for that! I hope you’re doing wonderfully these days–thank you again for taking the time to reach out, I genuinely appreciate it. <3

  2. Reply

    candy

    October 2, 2017

    Most young people at sometime in their life struggles with this acceptance of yourself. Hopefully with age and wisdom a person comes to realize the are great and to stop comparing.

    • Reply

      Robin

      October 2, 2017

      It’s true, getting some perspective with the passing of time was so helpful – although it’s not too comforting when you’re actually in the thick of things, which is tough!

  3. Reply

    Crystal

    October 2, 2017

    My oldest daughter is a perfectionist and I worry about her alot. After knee surgery, I had to help her in the bathroom and discovered that if the toilet paper is left jagged by someone else, she rips off the piece and throws it away and uses exactly six perfect squares to wipe and folds them neatly!

    • Reply

      Robin

      October 2, 2017

      Wow, the things you learn about somebody when you have to help them through a rough, vulnerable time, right?! I can relate to being that precise about things – it can be a strength and a weakness in many ways.

  4. Reply

    Hailee

    October 2, 2017

    Robin, thanks for the amazing post! I really appreciate you putting yourself out there! I can totally relate to the struggles of perfectionism. I struggle with it everyday and man, can it be exhausting, draining, and anxiety inducing. It has gotten better since I had my little boy, I’ve learned to have lots of patience but my anxiety is now at an all time high. I’m figuring it out as I go but it’s definitely not easy.

    • Reply

      Robin

      October 2, 2017

      Hi Hailee, thank you so much for reading – I really appreciate it! I am definitely worried that my anxiety will make parenting rough, too – so many things that you can’t control, you just have to go with the flow and hope that things turn out for the best!

    • Reply

      Robin

      October 2, 2017

      That said, though – I like to think that anxiety over relationships is a sign that you care a whole lot. And it’s hard to do things wrong if you care that much, you know?

  5. Reply

    Marissa

    October 2, 2017

    I am also a crazy perfectionist, and I can be very hard on myself. Yes, it’s had its negative effects, but I choose to see the positive! We are unique and ambitious, always wanting the best for ourselves. It’s hard for young girls to see the positive all the time. If only I knew that I didn’t need to take high school so seriously while I was there, haha! I was a constant stress ball in high school.

    • Reply

      Robin

      October 2, 2017

      I can relate to that so much! When I was writing this post, I was talking to one of my best friends from high school about how we wish we could go back to our teenage selves and just say, “You have no idea how extraordinary you are, and that you will turn out ABSOLUTELY FINE and have a life that you love that you literally can’t imagine now.” But you’re right – while it makes things more stressful, being a perfectionist has brought me so much success, too. People know that anything I hand them will be incredibly high-quality, and that reputation has always helped me as much as it’s caused me stress. There’s probably an in-between somewhere that I’ll find as I get older and wiser!

  6. Reply

    Crystal Santoría

    October 3, 2017

    A lot of youth go through this phase and by 16 are very toxic to themselves. That’s when anorexia and bullimia come to play if that toxic mindset keeps growing. Soon we grow to realize that perfection is who we say we are and not the people around us. We have to learn to love us just the way we are.

    • Reply

      Robin

      October 4, 2017

      I took a course in Adolescent Psychology in college, and it answered so many questions for me! It turns out that it doesn’t occur to our brains to truly, deeply, constantly compare ourselves to other people until we hit puberty. When you’re already a sensitive, insecure, depressed or anxious person, this newfound capability can very quickly make your life a living hell – it’s so hard for everyone, but especially the most vulnerable teenagers!

  7. Reply

    Jamie L

    October 3, 2017

    Thank you so much for sharing such a vulnerable side of you. I can relate SO much! I have many of the same feelings about myself. It’s always hard to explain to others why I am the way I am.

    • Reply

      Robin

      October 4, 2017

      I’m so sorry that you’ve been through this too; but I like to think that having gone through something like this makes us better, more empathetic people in the end. It’s not something that I’ve talked about much either now that I’m an adult, but it’s an important part of who I am–and selfishly, I’m really glad to be finding out that other people can relate to what I went through, because it felt so lonely at the time!

  8. Reply

    Melissa Javan

    October 3, 2017

    Great questions to ask about the woman holding back, and what if it’s you. Your stories are taking me back to my childhood and relationships I had, and how things changed and how I coped through the hardship.

    • Reply

      Robin

      October 4, 2017

      Thank you, Melissa! It’s true – we all have stories from our past that made us who we are, but that we’re still working to understand as adults. What helped me was realizing that I wasn’t the only one with hardships – everyone has their own versions of the same difficult stories, and all that we can control is whether or not that makes us better or worse as we grow up.

  9. Reply

    Lisa Keifer

    October 3, 2017

    Thank you for sharing such a powerful, emotional story. I, too, struggle with depression, anxiety, and OCD. I have been diagnosed and am in treatment, but that doesn’t mean it magically goes away. I think it is so very brave of you to share your experiences and your truths. By the way, I never realized OCD and body dysmorphic disorder were related. It makes sense to me, though, since I have always had body issues as well. I hope you can find peace of mind through your struggles and that they lessen in time.

    • Reply

      Robin

      October 4, 2017

      Thank you so much for reading my story, Lisa – I hope it made you feel better, not worse! That’s such a difficult trifecta to deal with, but all we can do is try to figure out what combination of treatments works for us, and try to be the great people that we are in spite of our struggles. It was so cathartic for me to realize that BDD and OCD were connected – basically, psychologists started to realize in the last decade that a bunch of separate disorders seem to have similar patterns and motivations. They developed what’s called the “OC spectrum,” and it consists of other disorders with varying levels of obsessions and compulsions – including trichotillomania, Tourette’s, BDD, hoarding, eating disorders. It made so much sense to me and really changed my thinking for the better – once you realize that your actions are motivated by anxiety, you can focus on tackling the underlying anxiety rather than the behaviors.

  10. Reply

    Corey | The Nostalgia Diaries

    October 3, 2017

    Oh, how this hit home with me. I’m definitely a toxic perfectionist, and I have struggled with this my entire life. Early last year, after all of this culminated into an eating disorder, I finally realized that I needed to stop or my life would be at stake. It is so hard to shed yourself of all of those things you’ve believed for so long, and healing can be just as a painful as the process that got you there in the first place. But I’ve grown so much in the past year. Letting go finally feels good. Hugs to you, friend!

    • Reply

      Robin

      October 4, 2017

      Oh, Corey, I’m so sorry to hear that you went through that!! It’s true – sometimes, you need the stark contrast of having your quest for perfection held up against the value of your life to realize that the big picture is SO much more important than the details. But the hardest part is accepting that the reality you’ve been living in was actually created entirely by your own mind. It can take years for that to fully sink in, and for many people, I think it never truly does. It’s one of those processes that you get through moment by moment, shutting down your assumptions and replacing them with healthier thoughts, until it finally comes naturally to you. Thank you so much for sharing this with me – I’m so honored that my story has made other people safe enough to tell theirs, too. It’s why I wrote about this in the first place, after years of keeping quiet about it – and why I started my blog in the first place, honestly. <3

  11. Reply

    Ashley

    October 4, 2017

    Girl, this hit home for me. You are so STRONG and not to mention beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story. Women and young girls can definitely learn from you and your grace.

    • Reply

      Robin

      October 4, 2017

      Reading your comment made my morning!! Thank you so much for saying that, Ashley – that is so sweet of you, and I truly appreciate your kind words. Thank you so much for reading. <3

  12. Reply

    Heather

    October 4, 2017

    I think this is a struggle we all have. I was always told as a child that I was perfect. However, trying to live up to that for most of my life has robbed me of some really great experiences. Instead of trying new things, the fear of not being perfect kept me in my place. Instead of just relaxing and having fun with my kids, the fear of not looking perfect or of not being the perfect mom kept me on the sidelines, and hurrying them along.
    What I have finally decided is that I’m going to go out there and live life to the fullest. I’m done sitting on the sidelines, watching life go by. So what if I’m “not qualified” or “not thin”, if I continue to wait until I’m perfect, I won’t get to enjoy my life now.
    Thank you for writing about this!

    • Reply

      Robin

      October 4, 2017

      Exactly!! That image of sitting on the sidelines is so critical. So many people – but PARTICULARLY women – wait until they’re perfect to even try to achieve their goals or enjoy their lives. I have been operating under that assumption for my entire life. It’s so much easier for me to cheer other people on as they take risks than it is for me to step out of my comfort zone, not letting my fear of failure control my life. Whether it’s our appearance or our qualifications or our personal qualities or whatever other measures society uses to judge us, we have to figure out a way to demand the happiness that we deserve – because no one else is going to do it for us!
      Thanks so much for reading, Heather – I really appreciate your thoughtful comment, and I wish you the best of luck!!

  13. Reply

    Anonymous

    October 4, 2017

    I struggle with perfectionism too. It usually leaves me feeling defeated and “not good enough.” I usually just try to push harder – try harder. It has only been in recent months, while going through a bible study on God’s unconditional all-encompassing love that I’ve finally begun to break those walls down.

    • Reply

      Robin

      October 4, 2017

      It’s the same way for me – I’m always convinced that things are within my control, even if they’re not. It makes me blame myself for difficult circumstances and other people’s shortcomings, which is a difficult habit to break – but for your own health and sanity, you have to learn to let things go eventually.
      I’m really glad that you found something that’s working for you – that’s awesome! Thank you so much for reading 🙂

  14. Reply

    Bria | Tendril Wild Blog

    October 4, 2017

    Robin, I always come back to your blog as one of my favorites, if only for the fact that I can read it and go, “Oh, thank God. Someone else feels the same way. I’m not alone, and I’m not crazy.”

    While I won’t say that I’ve dealt with OCD and perfectionism and depression in the same manner that you have, they have all 3 been present in my life at some point. I remember when I was younger (really young, like 9), my mom took me shopping to a children’s clothing store where it seemed like a lot of popular girls shopped (9-year-old me thought this anyway, haha). I was so paralyzed with my own insecurities that I started crying in the dressing room to my mom because I felt so unlike the other girls there and so…inadequate. I begged my mom if we could just leave. I just felt different and ugly, and this was during a pudgy stage right before a growth spurt, so you can imagine that didn’t help matters. 🙂

    Anyway, I’ve always struggled with perfectionism as well, and for most of my life, if I couldn’t do something just right and be better than everyone else and absolutely perfect, then I might as well not do it at all. I’ve always been my harshest critic, only made worse by the fact that I’m an introvert, so I spend a lot of time being caught up in my own mind, beating myself up over minuscule details that ultimately don’t matter.
    It’s only been over the last few years that I’ve slowly started to break out of this and just do the damn thing without care about it being “just right.” It’s a long journey, but I’m glad we’re both coming out on the other side. I could say a lot more, but then you’d be reading a novel, so I’ll just end this comment with this: “1234” was the first song I ever heard by Feist, and I’ve been hooked ever since. 🙂

    • Reply

      Robin

      October 4, 2017

      Ohhhh, Bria. I am so sorry that you had to go through that – especially at such a young age. That breaks my heart. I remember hearing my little sister start to pick apart her appearance when she was in elementary school, and it struck panic into my heart – like, oh god, I don’t want anyone else to have to go through what I have been through in my own mind, but especially not when they’re still so little. It’s truly torturous. But sadly, so many women can relate on some level.
      But here’s the silver lining: You are absolutely not alone, no matter how lonely that felt at the time. I wish that I could tell 9-year-old Bria and 14-year-old Robin that they were going to be brilliant, beautiful, incredibly kind and talented women someday. Those rough years that we survived somehow are what made us the absurdly empathetic people that we are, and that’s such a gift – especially in 2017. And what’s also amazing is that by telling these stories on the platforms we’ve created (which is another awesome thing), we’re helping other people feel less alone, too.
      All the love to you. <3

    • Reply

      Robin

      October 4, 2017

      Oh, and P.S. – leave me novels to read any time. I love novels – especially when they’re other people’s brave stories 😉

      • Reply

        Bria | Tendril Wild Blog

        October 5, 2017

        Thank you so much for your kind words, Robin – brought tears to my eyes! 🙂
        That’s a positive outcome of all this, it’s true. I’m thankful that I’m able to relate to other stories like this since I lived it, even thought it’s really hard sometimes! Spaces like this that you’ve created are so healing for a lot of people…thank you!

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