Perfectionism and exhaustion
After I recovered from my eating disorder (I will tell you more about this topic in another blog) when I was fifteen, I probably wasn’t ready to let the feeling of being in control go. So I moved my feeling of being in control from eating, not eating and controlling my weight to getting the most ‘perfect’ grades in school. During the first few years it was pretty easy to handle, but when I started to study for my Bachelor of Laws at an University of applied sciences, the feeling and pressure to get perfect grades got worse. At the beginning of the first year I heard about the possibility to get your ‘propedeuse’ (first year certificate of a bachelor degree programme) cum laude. This meant I needed to get an average score of at least an eight and that I couldn’t get any grade lower than a six.
During the first period of school, getting my ‘propedeuse’ cum laude wasn’t my goal yet. During this period I studied because it was fun and I was very interested in the subjects. After that first period, I got my grades back and those were pretty good. That was when I got the idea that getting my ‘propedeuse’ cum laude could be an option. So from the beginning of the second period that was my new goal. So I started to learn more. At one point I was so concerned about reaching my goal that I couldn’t skip one lesson or one page of a book because I was scared that if I would do that, I couldn’t reach my goal and in my eyes that would mean I would fail. I thought knowing seventy of eighty percent wasn’t good enough. I wanted and needed to know every detail and do everything to learn the most about the subject. During the rest of the year the subjects became harder and the books got more and more pages. Because of this it took even more time to know everything and during the second half year I certainty spend eighty to ninety percent of my ‘free time’ on school. I didn’t make much time for fun things and I felt guilty when I did. I felt this guilt because I told myself that I could’ve spend my time better or smarter.
After I finished my first year I wanted to go and study law at an university. But at the end of the year I decided to stay at my current university of applied sciences, because I made friends, I felt like this was the place where I needed to be and I thought I could learn more social skills here. Besides those points I wanted to give myself more space and I wanted to reduce my perfectionism. At the end of the year I reached my goal: I got my ‘propedeuse’ cum laude. Because it took so much of my time during my first year I wasn’t planning on trying to finish my whole bachelor cum laude as well. Because of this I wanted to learn myself to be happy with a six as grade. So that was the plan for the second year, but that was not how it actually went.
I didn’t know a road between doing everything you can and doing nothing. I didn’t know how much work I needed to do to get that six and not a five. So at the beginning of the second year I started to work very hard (again). This took a lot of time, even more than the first year. And the first half year went pretty well, I got good grades and I was able to keep everything up. But I still didn’t make time for myself and fun activities. So at the beginning of 2019 I started to get really impatient and irritated with school and the way I treated myself. During this time my concentration also decreased. Despite those signs I kept going because I didn’t know how and maybe didn’t want to perform less at school.
Don’t get me wrong, I love law and I love my study but it’s not that much fun anymore when the only thing you focus on are the grades and you’re not learning because you want to but just because you think you need to.
Starting the last period of the second year, I started to get more emotional and I was not only irritated by myself but also by everyone who distracted me or got in my way. Starting this period my concentration got even worse and I constantly wanted to scream to anyone or anything that made noise. Sometimes I couldn’t even read one page without getting distracted. Because of this it took me even more time to do all my schoolwork and do all the learning for my exams. During this time I started to realize I needed to take a step or a few steps back. But even then I couldn’t or didn’t want to flip the switch. I kept telling myself that it was only a few more weeks and then I would have vacation and then I could relax. During this period I started to feel really tired and I started to cry more about nothing in particular. I also started to get more forgetful and during this period I forgot my first meeting in a really long time. This meeting was at school with a few teachers and other students. And even when a fellow student asked me where I was I didn’t remember the meeting. I think me forgetting about this meeting was like a sign to me that I was not doing well, because after realizing I forgot it, I broke down in tears.
I wouldn’t even call it crying, it was more like screaming in combination with tears. This lasted for like an hour combined with hyperventilation and sweating. After this moment I think I sort of accepted that I was not doing well, because my whole body started to hurt and I was constantly feeling sad during this week. It may sound like overreacting, but during this week my legs already hurt when I walked one pair of stairs and my arm already hurt from only brushing my teeth.
Because of these signs I think I ‘finally’ realized that I really needed to change something and I needed to make that change fast if I didn’t want to get to the point where I would get a burn-out in any kind of form.
So after this week full of emotions and realizations I finally cut the rope and I decided I was and am going to change things. I am going to try to find balance between receiving energy and giving energy. I’m also going to try to find out what I really like, what makes me happy and what’s really important to me. I need to find out what I like, because for the past two years I simply didn’t plan many activities outside of school. In this process I want to start with trying things I liked when I was younger, such as dancing and photography.
Are you a perfectionist? And is perfectionism a good or a bad quality for you? Let me know in the comments!
I will tell you more about me trying to find out what I like and me trying to find balance in another blog!