Updated: Nov 12, 2020
Hi, my name is Megan and I’m a recovering perfectionist.
If you grew up in a black household, you were taught at a very young age that no one owes you anything, no one is going to praise you for doing what you’re supposed to do, and education is the number one priority. So, as you can imagine, getting good grades was NOT praised in my household.
I didn’t get money for every ‘A’ like some of my friends did. As a matter of fact, anything below a 'B' was considered failing. My dad made me bring home progress reports every Friday… signed by every teacher, with my current grade. I genuinely believe that those early years are the cause of my anxiety today. Education was the only space that I could control. I obsessed over conquering every subject and seeking validation from my teachers. “Good” was not good enough and “great” was expected. I can remember very few times in my life when my parents told me they were proud of me. Most of those instances were as an adult.
And while those things are true, I know that it came from a place of love. My parents wanted to raise me to be independent and strong and successful. Their parenting style came from an upbringing that instilled fear in them. Fear of the world, fear of failure, fear of being the black stereotype. They couldn’t help it. They feared for me the same way that they feared for themselves. Lenience bred laziness. And so their uncertainty about the world that I was going into, created fear and uncertainty in me.
Now don’t get me wrong, that kind of upbringing is probably why I am where I am today. I’m persistent and tenacious and driven and I laugh at the word ‘no’. I operate in a constant pursuit of perfection. I want to be the best at everything I do. And sometimes I am. But the satisfaction wanes quickly and I’m back to square one: looking for the next thing to be the best at. I rarely pause to rest and look at my success in admiration. What’s worse, I often question whether I did well at all. You see, I don’t need to be in the spotlight. Much of what I’m good at is done in the background, piecing stories and ideas together to create something seamless and tangible. I chose a profession that often comes without much praise. So I rely on the beliefs I have about myself to sustain optimism. Those beliefs often let me down.
BUT… in these last few months, I’ve been spending time journaling, going to therapy, and reflecting on all that I've done and overcome so that I can really see myself. It’s challenging to not nitpick at all the negative things (no one’s better at recognizing them than me), but I’ve been striving to see both. To see that even the not-so-good things about me don’t erase the good. More importantly, they don’t diminish my value. Nothing in this world will make my creator stop loving me or stop seeing me as someone with true purpose, worthy of being His daughter.
And while people don’t quite have that same capacity when it comes to love (other than most parents for their children), I know that the people who truly see me and love me anyway, will love me even when I fail. Listen to this though: I’m learning to be okay without that validation. It would break my heart if all of those people walked out of my life. What I’m learning is that when I’m able to look at myself and revel in my goodness and my purpose and willing to work through the pain and darkness, God will give me the things I’m yearning for.
Hear me out. This isn’t one of those prosperity sermons. I don’t mean wealth or the husband you prayed for or a new job or any of those things… although I do believe God CAN give you those things. What I mean is, He will provide the breadcrumbs you need to believe in yourself, to take the next step, to advocate for yourself, to recognize answers to prayer, to get you to the thing you’ve been yearning for… through the things you’ve LONGED for.
Let me explain. I hate hate HATE networking. It’s legit a lesson in bragging about yourself. It makes me sick. I hate bragging AND people who brag. So networking is typically not my jam. However, when I found myself on the market for a new position, I had to swallow that hate (self-hate :ugh: because sometimes I don’t believe in my abilities, so how could I brag about them??). I had to reach out to people who I didn’t know to ask for help. I had to rely on someone other than myself (cue horror music) to get where I needed to go. The first breadcrumb was the need, the next was humility, the next was belief in myself, the next was preparation (I live in a constant state of procrastination), etc. I had to be willing to pick up each crumb to move forward.
Those breadcrumbs have led me to so many amazing conversations. Conversations about life, about hope, about the future, about business, and about so many things that I never would’ve discovered if I’d continued to rely on myself to get where I want to go. AND (this is important) three black men in the last 3 months, have told me he’s proud of me. None of whom were my family, two of whom I’ve never met in my life. Each time, I silently cried to myself. Because out of everything you just read, out of everything I’ve accomplished, out of every trial and error, I LONGED for someone to see me pursuing excellence and acknowledge the pursuit, if not the destination. And maybe that sounds like validation to you. But honestly, I received it as encouragement because I’m not there yet. And sometimes we need people who really get it to tell us that we’re on the right track.
I’m a perfectionist. What sucks about that is, I’m not perfect. The pursuit of perfection hasn’t served me well. But I can pursue excellence. The difference? To be perfect means having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be or free from any flaw or defect in condition or quality; faultless. To be excellent means being extremely good; outstanding. I will never have ALL of the required/desirable elements or be faultless, but I can be outstanding in some areas of my life. And honestly, that’s enough for me.