Achieving "Perfect"

I seem to possess the skill that everyone strives to achieve, longs for, and is jealous of: being perfect. However, while what they see on the outside is just a pretty facade hiding self-destruction beneath. The struggle of achieving this “perfection” is that people are not able to see the pain I go through each and every day, something that builds daily due to getting one minisqule inch closer to the praised “perfection”.

At the heart of my “perfect” lies Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), the frequently misunderstood mental illness. OCD is defined in two parts: obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are violent, unwanted, and disturbing thoughts that come to an individual (often called intrusive thoughts). Everyone has intrusive thoughts (what if I just decided to crash into someone while driving, I could cheat/steal right now and no one would notice, that item is extremely dirty and could get me deathly ill, etc.), but in someone with OCD the area in charge of thought dismissal is messed up. The panic response is triggered and the fear is so extreme and overwhelming that the sufferer will do anything to make it go away.

Now, OCD gets tricky, by offering up something that will “save” the person from the obsession, which is a compulsion. Compulsions are any action (mental or physical) that the person does in an attempt to get rid of the intrusive thought. In someone without OCD the compulsion will often be a normal behavior (washing hands if you got dog poop on them or studying for a really hard test). Since the ability to disregard thoughts is impaired in someone with OCD, the compulsion reinforces the belief that the obsession is something terrifying and to be avoided at all costs, which will induce more terror when the intrusive thought inevitably comes back.

I am good at being perfect because I fear not being good enough. If you asked me to make a web of all of my (many) fears and try to link them together to one main base, it would be the fear of failure. My brain’s wiring is done in such a way that literally makes me incredibly good at avoiding the thing I’m afraid of. Even if I’m not doing anything to take me off the path of achieving this so-called “perfect”, I get the terrifying thoughts that what I’m doing isn’t good enough. Take situations where the outcome is impossible to be perfect or where most people will not achieve perfection, and my brain becomes World War III.

The only indication that I’m any good at being “perfect” comes from others, often expressed in an offhand comment about wanting to be like me. In my own mind, I’m a complete failure at attempting to succeed. My brain only focuses on the mistakes, brushing any successes under the rug in the fear of becoming lax and overconfident, a sure way to crash and burn.

To take the “perfection” to the next level, I have an obsession where I think that if I mentally or physically express confidence in my performance/abilities, it will cause me to immediately fail. It doesn’t matter if the thing hasn’t even started or is finished and out of my hands until the results (like a test being graded). Beyond all reasonable logic, the fear remains and overpowers. The compulsion is to say over and over in my brain how badly I did, and lack and belief in my own ability to succeed. Naturally, while this compulsion temporarily eases the anxiety of that particular intrusive thought, it also strikes fear. I’m telling myself that I’m going to fail, and if I don’t believe the thought I’m telling myself then the intrusive thought about being optimistic and causing my own demise appears, and so the cycle continues.

While on the outside perfection appears great, internally the storm rages on that makes “perfect” seem like a curse. M experience goes to show that judgement based on appearances are extremely misleading. Perfection can be thought of as a rose: beautiful and widely sought after, but the deadly thorns will harm all who seek it.