Perfectionism and me

Posted 29/01/2018

I want to start this post by taking you back two years. It’s the summer of 2015 and I’m about to start my first year of sixth form. I can’t say I was particularly excited by the prospect, as like many decisions I have made in my life it wasn’t actually something I really wanted to do. Months before I had auditioned and been offered a place at a music college studying a diploma in guitar. The day I received my offer will forever be one of my favourite memories, the sense of achievement and pride I experienced that day are emotions I have yet to regain.

You’re probably wondering why someone would go through such an intense process to just throw it all away. Well, let me introduce you to my first unwanted friend – Fear. Even then my brain managed to concoct an extensive list of reasons why I shouldn’t go and of course, I listened. Who wouldn’t? And so there I was, making my way through the school gates once again. However, this time, everything felt different. I distinctly recall the clothes I was wearing that day: a red polo neck with a chequered shirt over the top. I remember it so clearly because I never, ever wore that outfit again. I made a deal with myself that day that this year things would be different. I would be more outgoing; I would have more friends and be the cleverest, most popular girl in my year. Surely that would be enough?

My first year of sixth form felt like a complete blur. I went to parties, I got a weekend job, I studied hard for tests, I aimed to wear a new outfit every single day, but I wasn’t happy, despite what my thinning face would tell others. I can’t really pinpoint when anorexia first began to creep up on me. It wasn’t like one day I woke up and made some kind of conscious decision that I would now begin to starve myself to the point of total self-destruct. The whole process was gradual; it started with small things like skipping snacks and preparing family meals to cater to my new ‘healthy lifestyle’, and I did not think I was doing anything wrong, or at least that’s what anorexia had managed to convince me. This continued for months and probably reached its worst as I began to sit my AS levels in April 2016. By this point, food was the only thing I could think about. I swapped playing my guitar for a half-hour walk each day, and everything I had once loved perished into thin air.

What I’m trying to say is that, ultimately, all I wanted was to be the best. Perfectionism is a trait often associated with anorexia sufferers, and is something that I continue to find hard to believe could be linked to myself. In my eyes, nothing I do will ever be good enough, so how could I possibly be called a perfectionist when I never actually reach both my own and society’s standards of perfection? Throughout my entire time at school, I never got full marks on a test, I never had the most friends, I wasn’t the teacher’s first choice when giving examples of an A* student, but actually, pre-2015 I don’t think I cared. It seems to me the moment I walked into sixth form something in my brain decided that I had to be nothing but ‘the best’.

I really would love somebody to tell me exactly what ‘the best’ looks like. My mum and dad have always told me that ‘my best’ was always good enough, but during that time I didn’t know who I was anymore, I still don’t. And so, in time, ‘my’ inevitably changed to ‘the’, and it was no longer ‘my world’ I had to impress, but ‘the world’, a big scary place ruled by nothing but anorexia.

Luckily, as time goes on I am becoming increasingly positive that one day that thick fog of misery that once covered all of my hopes and dreams will pass, never to return. My self-confidence and faith in my ability will return and anorexia will no longer be able to convince me that ‘my best’ can never be good enough. Right now, my anorexic mind is laughing at that thought: ‘Pfft, free of me? Have a laugh!’ But let me tell you, one day I will be sat here reading this with a giant smirk on my face, fully confident that your words will never, ever affect me again. 

Contributed by Chrissie