9 February 2015

I'm living the perfectionist's nightmare


Before I start, I apologise if I sound like a spoilt brat in this post...

I've always been a perfectionist. I've always wanted to be the best at colouring in, at spelling, at memorising my lines, at skipping... You name it, I wanted to ace it.

But a perfectionist isn't just born. A perfectionist is made by circumstance.

My circumstance is that I grew up with my Mum, and she raised me pretty much by herself for the first four years of my life. She dedicated her life to me, and she was (is) my world.

This devotion, and love, and nurturing, on some psychological level to 4 year old me, made me feel like I owed a heck of a lot in return to my Mum. She never asked for it and she never expected it, but there's always been that unspoken desire of wanting to make my Mum proud of me in everything I do. I guess you could say it's silly, but it's just the way it is and always has been.

But let's fast-forward to present day. The nightmare, fellow perfectionists, is real. And unlike most nightmares, this isn't one I can wake up from. 

Gone are the days I can work hard and get the best marks. I'm crap at highlighting, gave up performing a long time ago, but I guess if I was handed a skipping rope, I wouldn't be too bad. And yeah, I'm a huge stickler for spelling. Some things never change.

Life wasn't meant to be like this. This isn't what I worked so hard for. This isn't the life 16 year old Sofie who worked at weekends to pay for driving lessons, prioritising coursework over social gatherings because "I needed to", because "it would pay off in the end", had bargained for.

In fact, if you'd told 16 year old me that in 7 years time I'd be struggling to make ends meet in London by temping as a receptionist, I would have said you were lying. Because by this point, obviously, I would have been one-to-watch in the PR world, rising up the ranks and probably an Account Exec (pushing for SAE) by now in some glitzy, minimalist firm.

If you had told me that I'd made a (now, not-so-secret) promise to myself that if I wasn't employed by *x date*, I was going to give my month's notice on my housing contract and travel for a month to clear my head before starting afresh... I would have laughed.

And if you'd have said that, after numerous interviews and numerous rejections, I felt like crowning myself the (unofficial) Most Unemployable Female Graduate Residing in London (in the under-25's category, obviously), I would have told you that you're insane.

Of course, this isn't to say I haven't had some amazing experiences that a lot of people have envied. Equally, if you had told me at 16 that by 23 I'd worked at The Body Shop, sat on the front row at Fashion Week, and interned at blow LTD, Marie Claire and Grazia, I wouldn't have believed that, either. I mean, that sounds pretty cool written out like that, doesn't it?

As a perfectionist, however, I would have expected, and still do expect, more from myself. Even people who don't consider themselves perfectionists would struggle with a lack of employment and financial security. It's something I'm having to live with everyday.

And when these rejections come through, thick and fast, the reasoning is so vague and cliched that the perfectionist in me wants to scream. How can I improve myself, make myself better, if all you're telling me is that other candidates "closer match the job profile", or their work is "more outstanding"? What can I do to better match the profile, be more outstanding? Because I'm working with nothing, here. And that candidate you want to employ? I want that to be me.

Being a perfectionist used to mean putting everything into each piece of work to ensure it was the best it could be. And in response, I'd get the grades. I'd get that gold star, that "Oustanding", that entry into a fantastic university with an excellent course. It was enough. But now I don't have that. Now all I have is monotonous job applications and no matter how much effort I put into them, the result is never certain.

The result is that I feel like such a failure. I don't know what else I can offer or put out into the world for good things to come back to me. I'm a good person. I'll hold doors open for people, smile at strangers, tell people if their label is sticking out or if their hair has gone static or whatever. I don't swear (as much as other people), commit crimes (unless stalking numerous cat instagrams is a crime) or enjoy watching people fall over (much). I should have stored up a lot of good karma by now, right?

Not only do I feel like I've failed myself - I also feel like I've failed others. I never wanted to be *that person* who just kind of floats around and isn't particularly significant in the grand scheme of things. I wanted to be *that person* who makes important decisions and contributes to something really exciting. It all just feels like a massive anti-climax, and the embarrassment of admitting I've been rejected yet again to my Mum doesn't ever lessen.

Maybe it's not my fault. Maybe it's the government's fault for encouraging so many people into university and not creating enough graduate jobs. But as much as I try to blame my lack of success on nameless, invisible people, there's a part of me that knows you have to accept that you make your own life, and it's up to you whether that life is one you're proud of or ashamed of.

So I'm trying to live a life I'm proud of. I'm trying. I just don't want to be the girl "that tried". I want to be the heroine of my novel, who tries and struggles (a lot) but ultimately succeeds. I'm trying to see the glass as half-full. But as a perfectionist, it's never enough. I want my glass to be at least three quarters full, and I want it full of wine because, duh.

And yes, this post is a huge rant, and terribly self-indulgent and woe is me, but it's just what's been on my mind for a while, now, and I always feel better sharing (forcing?) my feelings on other people. So here they are. And I hope I'm not alone... although I definitely don't hope you're feeling as rubbish as I am right now.

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5 comments

  1. I can understand exactly where you're coming from. Although I wouldn't exactly call myself a perfectionist and I am a few years back in the story, I'm someone who's always found life quite easy, but recently I've been struggling a bit. You WILL be the heroine of the story and get your happy ending :) Penny xxx

    Polka Dot Penny

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  2. Sofie-Eliza Price9 February 2015 at 20:22

    Thank you Penny! I hope things get better of you, too :)

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  3. Venting out is soooo important. I can totally understand you: while I don't find my life a disaster, there are many things that I wish I would've done better. Sometimes I feel like I've wasted away most of my life. But I think a lot of people pass bad times on their lives. Stay strong, keep searching. If necessary, think about looking for jobs out of your area, in other cities; while moving away can be scary, it's a very enriching experience.


    Over all, don't give up! Keep working and I'm sure at some point you'll become that heroine. You already are for going through this. :)

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  4. Sofie-Eliza Price11 February 2015 at 12:01

    Thanks Carla! I will keep searching but I'm worried I'm burnt out. I'll give it a month then take it from there. Not feeling too heroic having come from a sit in with no work, and now in bed. Ha. But I appreciate the pep talk and support :)

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  5. Sofie-Eliza Price12 February 2015 at 16:50

    I'm on 8 months, so surely I'll be birthing a role by next month too? Haha. So glad to hear you got an offer! Thank you for your kind words :)

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