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Perfectionism Gone Awry

During insomnia-fueled finals in law school, I hallucinated while writing a paper. I was three days into almost no sleep. At 2:00 or 3:00 am, I thought I was on a porch, talking to my boyfriend. My hands were still on the keyboard, writing my paper.

I did fine in the class (miraculously), but my professor said something to the effect of, “Your argument was going strong, then unexpectedly fizzled toward the end—like you gave up on it.” This was true because I was effectively sleep-typing.

How did I get myself into this predicament?

In the middle of finals, my mom had surgery for colon cancer. I went to visit her for a few days, traveling from Boston to New York City. I stayed at the hospital for hours, went home to sleep and came back. When she was released, I went home to Boston to complete my last semester of finals.

I did not ask my professors for an extension. I did not prioritize sleeping or eating. I did not adjust my effort to account for my lack of time. Why? Because perfectionism dominated my life. Asking for an extension or getting a low grade meant that I was a failure. This would trigger weeks of self-criticism. I would compromise my health and almost anything else to avoid that.

Sound familiar? It doesn’t have to be this way. You can shift the cycle of perfectionism-anxiety-procrastination. I had to learn how to have self-compassion, to understand that I don’t start with a zero balance each day on the achievement scale, and that I am a full, worthy human irrespective of my achievements.

I’ve helped a number of clients break this cycle, and you can, too. Book a complimentary call here.

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