Perfect Girl Syndrome and How to Overcome It

Dawn Bevier

When will we realize we’re amazing just the way we are?

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Let me make you tired.

Every day at four a.m. I wake up. I work on my writing until seven-thirty when it’s time to get dressed for teaching. I deny myself anything but black coffee, unsweetened tea, or water until I get home at four. Then it’s another coffee to energize me, and shortly after, a drink to loosen me up. Then, and only then, do I eat.

A meal fit for a queen, right? I mean, I’ve saved up those calories all day to enjoy my dinner. Guess what’s on the menu? It’s a frozen Atkins meal that I’ve carefully selected because it has only 300 calories, a lot of protein, and very few carbs.

I’ve spent so much money on skincare and makeup that I won’t tell you because I’m embarrassed.

Work?

I try to fit more when I get home (that’s what the coffee is for). If I’m ever going to be successful, I can’t be lazy, right?

And I certainly won’t use my fatigue as an excuse not to help my daughter with her homework. She’s been learning all year virtually, and for a fourteen-year-old who uses words like misogynistic and has the reading level of a high school senior, she’s making F’s.

So I make a to-do list. Call the teacher the next day. Make my daughter show me every assignment she’s lied to me about for the last two weeks — every assignment that I’ve sat up watching her do until midnight.

I finally allow myself one episode of Criminal Minds, which I never end up finishing because I’m on zero.

But I have to keep pushing, right? I have to keep doing these things so I can accomplish everything I want to. Be a successful writer. Be a fantastic teacher. Be a wife that my husband will be proud of.

And I refuse to blame the society I live in for my problems. I have created this poison, and I drink it every single day.

My husband would love me just the same if I gained a hundred pounds. I could stop the lesson planning right now, and I would still be one of the most respected teachers at school.

But it’s never enough. And if you’re reading this, all your success and well-earned attention are not enough either.

It’s hard to admit, isn’t it?

Because trying to be perfect means you’re not perfect. It’s embarrassing to confess the amount of work you put in to be so completely and utterly unsatisfied with yourself.

I’m self-diagnosing. Perfect girl syndrome. And maybe you share it.

Psychology says that a lot of women struggle with the goal of perfection. An article in Psychology Today entitled "3 Big Perfectionism Struggles for Women" cites three main areas in which we exhaust ourselves trying to obtain unrealistic perfection: body image, caregiving, and motherhood.

And it’s killing us, metaphorically and quite possibly physically.

For example, an article published in the National Library of Medicine states that "perfectionism is related to multiple disorders such as depression, suicide, nutritional problems, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, social phobia, [and] insomnia."

That’s why we have to stop trying to be that perfect woman who does it all.

And let me tell you, I don’t have all the answers. However, there are some things I’m going to try to remember and you need to remember them as well.

I need to remember I am enough.

One of my best friends is extremely overweight. And I envy her. She has the piece of chocolate. She jokes and says her husband loves her, and she’s going to enjoy life to the fullest, even if it means wearing muumuus.

She accepts herself. She embraces all the joys life has to offer. She realizes she is enough. She is kind, a good mother, and a well-respected professional. And that’s all that matters.

I want to be her, and maybe I can’t reach the level of self-acceptance she has, but I can work harder to remind myself of all the good things about me rather than focusing only on my flaws.

My husband loves me. My children love me. I don’t need someone else to convince me I am enough. I don’t need validation. If I look around me, that validation is already there.

A few weeks ago, I went to my mother’s to get some things from her attic. I left my phone in the car. When I was leaving to go home, my son called me. My daughter was worried sick that something had happened to me when I didn’t pick up the phone.

I left for home, and when I got there, I could see the shiny tracks of tears and the eyes swollen from crying.

In that one moment, I had an epiphany. I meant that much to someone else. To someone else, I was everything, And I’m betting my last dollar, you’re someone’s everything too. Just the way you are. No improvements needed.

And I’m going to remember those precious tears every time I look in the mirror and start to think I’m unworthy. And I want you to find those moments too. I want you to remember them and hold them tight. Repeat after me. I am enough. And so are you.

I need to enjoy my blessings.

I know what you’re going to say. That I’m missing out on so much when I put this pressure on myself to be perfect.

I’m missing the energy that a good meal would give me so I could stay up and watch that movie my daughter is begging me to watch with her.

I’m missing out on long talks with my husband, who’s silently begging me to reconnect — missing out all because I’m trying to reach some level of success that won’t matter when I’m six feet under.

I’m missing out on the simple joys life can bring. A visit with my father, who’s getting older every day. A night next to my lonely firepit that’s begging to melt smores I could be eating with my family.

I’m missing out on the best moments of my life as a mother — a mother with children who will soon be lost to college and to a world that’s calling them to places that don’t include me.

So, I’m trying to realize the utterly imperfect perfection in my life. And cherish it before it’s gone.

Life is too short, and honestly, I’ve got it all. So I need to revel in the grace I’ve been given and thank the universe that I have blessings beyond measure.

And I’m pretty sure if you look around you, you’ll see all the marvelous gifts you’ve been given, so try to honor them by allowing yourself to enjoy all they have to offer.

I need to let go.

The best lives are lived with moments of abandon. The nights you have one drink too many that leave you giddy and filled with desire. The nights you ride the roller coaster even though it’s filled with screaming teens. The nights you eat the chocolate and savor every single bite.

And believing you need to control every move, every calorie, every moment that screams at you to do more? Stop it. You may have one day, one hour, one minute more on this planet, and that’s something completely out of your hands.

So breathe.

Life is begging you to stop pushing and let the joy in. A joy that won’t come from a size six or a workplace promotion or a comment that your skin is flawless and your stomach is perfectly flat.

Life is begging you to exhale. To let go. It’s begging me too.

So let’s do it and see what happens.

I had to finish writing this tonight because I know I’ll need to re-read this in the morning — before I choose to make black coffee my breakfast.

Before I try to pick up the perfect girl weight that has been on my shoulders for as long as I can remember. Before I come home and plant myself in front of a computer that couldn’t give a damn about me and my happiness. Before I forget that the world is imperfectly perfect, just like me. Before I lose the opportunity to exhale and remember I’m alive and I’m special just the way I am.

And you?

You need to remember this too.

The bottom line:

Let’s make a pledge. No more perfect girl syndrome. No more holding our breaths waiting for a sign we’re finally worthy of happiness. No more time spent wishing we were someone else.

We’re okay just the way we are. We’re more than okay. We’re perfectly imperfect, and that’s all that life gives anyone.

So let’s eat the doughnut. I’ll go first. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll have another one and know that life is beautiful, and so are we.

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Sanford, NC
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