mental health

Present tense

I had intended this week to focus on a social justice issue: the importance of credit unions. But the words weren’t flowing. And after writing about my hope to become less of a perfectionist, I’ve been struggling with perfectionism this week. I realised it would be more authentic (though requiring vulnerability) to focus on how I feel at present. The process of writing this reflection has actually been helpful in clarifying my thinking.

The Perfectionism Book says the opposite of perfectionism is not imperfection but flexibility. Flexibility isn’t a word which resonates with me. Words such as control, routine, predictability, plan, task, structure and organise suit me better.


My self-esteem is rooted in my achievements. I wish it wasn’t but there’s no point in pretending otherwise. My accomplishments don’t have to be spectacular or noteworthy; I love setting myself tasks and then completing them. At the beginning of this week, I was on edge, downhearted and short-tempered as it seemed that the goals I had set would not be achieved. Remember the definition of perfectionism from The Perfectionism Book?

  1. Setting impossibly tough goals or high standards that can never practically be achieved.
  2. Continuing to pursue these goals despite evidence of harm, usually to our own emotional health.
  3. Basing our self-esteem partly or completely on whether we have met these goals.

This has been me over the last few days. To make it worse, I also set goals for family members and then feel frustrated when they don’t do what I want them to do when I want them to do it! Thankfully Mr Pilgrim is an exceptionally patient and kind man.


Writing about the present is harder than writing about the past. It’s easier to tell my stories of mistakes, triumphs and growth from the vantage point of the conclusion, when the problem or difficult situation is over. In the midst of a storm (when I’m feeling anxious, fearful or panicky, my thinking is negative, my self-esteem is low or there’s a dark cloud over me), I hide away and isolate myself. I’m too raw, messy and embarrassed to tell people what’s really going on. I don’t want to be defined or stereotyped by my struggles and I don’t want to hurt or burden people.

Yet, I am beginning to see there is such power in being honest about my present circumstances. The process of being authentic and vulnerable helps me to find healing and hope.

So this year hasn’t started as I would have wanted but hopefully I have made a little bit of progress in being less of a perfectionist.

One thought on “Present tense

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