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How I Learned to Let Go of My Obsession with Perfection

Author, Carla Bianca Ravanes Higham



I was thirteen years old when I first declared in my journal that I would do everything that I absolutely can to be perfect. I recall that day vividly. It was the summer of 2002 and I was spending yet another summer in my Aunt’s (I fondly call her Ninang) place in Santa Barbara, CA. As a middle child, I’d like to think that my young mind thought that if I were to be perfect, I would finally get the validation and attention I have always wanted. This coming from a child who has been doted on by her parents from the moment she was born. My parents were extremely hands-on and yet, I let my own cognitive distortions take over.

Growing up, I was obsessed with television and books. My head was constantly filled with the modern fairytales of Dawson, Pacey, and Joey, Kristy and her gang of sitters, and of course, the Wakefield twins. There was nothing more I wanted than to be one of those girls who was chosen, not just by boys, but by those around her. I wanted to be the pretty one, the smart one, and the perfect one. This thinking governed my thoughts and eventually who I was in high school, college, and even the first ten years of my career. However, perfection did not make me happy nor did it make me a better person. It made me anxious, constantly looking over my shoulder and in all honesty, not entirely kind. It also did not make me joyful, heck, it even did not make me happy. It made me focus so much on the next step that I failed to enjoy the step I was currently in and celebrate what it took for me to get there. I have always thought the next accomplishment would make me happy or finally allow myself to love myself but it was a cycle that I was never going to win.

Perfectionism demands more and more without any consideration. It was a fight nobody is going to win.

Soon the accolades and the many hearts on my social media pages were not enough but I was getting by until I wasn’t. My life soon turned around and just like with any change, it became a mess. And for the first time since I declared wanting perfection, my life was nowhere near it and I felt ashamed. I relied so much of my worth on the things that I have achieved without realizing that they were not permanent. That life, no matter how much you control it, can turn upside down in an instant. However, I would not change it for anything in the world. During that period that I lost everything, yes including my carefully curated life, was when I appreciated today for what it was. In losing everything I have worked so hard for since I was 13, I have learned humility and the power of authenticity. It was as if a heavy burden was lifted and I finally had the courage to be whoever I wanted to be without the fear of what other people would say or think.

Moving away and restarting my life has given me the wonderful opportunity to fall in love with my life for what it is now. It has made me accept ‘the story of my recent life’ as just that – the story of my recent life. It can change in an instant and I have the power to change but only if I am willing to let life be messy for awhile as I learn my way through new seasons. Perfectionists always crave to be right – but those who let go of its trappings can have a life that they are proud of. One that is beautiful amidst all of its imperfection and these days, I couldn’t be prouder of my imperfect yet beautiful life.

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