The Dangers of Perfection

When I was growing up, failure wasn’t an option.  I was miles ahead of my peers in school, so my parents, especially my dad, wouldn’t take mediocre for an answer, even if I had done the best I could.  And if I did fail, whether or not it was through my own conscious doing, there would be hell to pay.  And so I went through my early years requiring perfection in everything I did – I was a star pupil, kept my nose out of trouble, never spoke out of turn, never took any risk too large.  Because any stress it caused me at the time would pale in comparison to the anger of my father.

I’m beginning to see how much this level of thinking has ingrained itself in me.  Some of the traits I’ve picked up are innocuous or even beneficial, like my general work ethic and my completionism.  But it’s also created a lot of the awful situations I’ve been in for most of my life.  I didn’t stand up for myself when I was being bullied because a trip to the principal’s office would result in untold amounts of yelling, beating, and loss of privileges at home.  I didn’t have a job in high school because I needed to be able to devote all my time to studies and extra-curriculars at the drop of a hat. My first girlfriend asked me out because I was too scared of rejection.  I’ve lived with the pain of depression for so long because telling someone about it acknowledged that I had a problem.

I began to burn out from all the pain and stress in high school.  I started taking some more risks and caring a little less.  But when I did, it all just blew up in my face.  The times I finally broke and let it all out at my dad, he would get even madder, threaten physical punishment, threaten forced withdrawal from activities, threaten removed academic funding, and even kick me out.  I actually walked out a few times, my mom always came after me once I did, and my dad would usually calm down and ignore it ever happened.  Hell, I even tried to be open about my depression in order to get some help, and all he told me was that I was wrong.  The combination of all this just made me want to internalize the issues even more.  I’d basically learned that no matter what the world threw at me, trying to combat it in any way was going to cause my dad to do something as bad or worse than what I was putting up with at the time.

And so now I’m stuck living with this constant fear of fucking up.  I live in constant depression and anxiety because I don’t want to fail.  I’m working a job where I’m underpaid and constantly stressed out because  I’m too afraid to stand up for myself and hypercritical about my own work.  Coming out to my family is literally the scariest thing I can think of right now out of fear of rejection.  I’m constantly angry because I learned from emulation that that’s the only way to deal with issues that may or may not be beyond your control.  I can’t even get away from it all and enjoy my favorite pastimes because any time I lose I take it as a personal failure.

I don’t know how to deal with all this.  I’m not perfect.  I have a ton of problems that I can’t fix myself.  I can’t take it anymore and I just want it all to end.  But I can’t tell the people I need to tell the most because their reactions are the ones that got me into this problem in the first place.  And I can’t just kill myself because that would be admitting defeat, and failure isn’t an option.  So what do I do?  At this point the only thing I can see is to just keep going as I am, perpetually living a failing life of mediocrity until I’m dead or committed.


For a while now, I’ve been noticing a trend amongst my Facebook friends.   As my friends are getting older, as is normal, most tend to follow a certain progression through their lives, starting with high school, then college, entering the work environment, getting married, and starting a family.  By now most of my friends from high school and college have moved into the last three stages, and as such most of their posts are in the form of “Spending the day with the SO”, “Look what my kid did”, or “Rough day at work.  Relaxing at home.”

But as I comb through the posts about kids, family, and average adult life, there are a few that tend to stick out.  These people seem to have lost track of the typical track of life, seemingly out of place when up against these other posts.  They talk of sex, drugs, and rock and roll mixed with philosophy and optimistic political thinking.  Ideas of revolution, thoughts on society, utopia projects, and sometimes a little emotional baring.  The kind of stuff that naive dreamers and adolescents tend to spout.  The stuff that all my friends talked about back in high school and college but has generally been replaced with the other stuff.

It’s almost like these people have been left behind, stuck in their high school and college days, unable to move any further in the normal progression of life.  They’ve somehow become fixated on the lifestyles, philosophies, or emotions of those times they’re stuck in, and they just can’t get past it, even as those around them move on.  With some of them it’s obvious what’s keeping them from this progression, be it mental illness, drug addiction, or isolation.  Others are not quite so obvious.

And the worst part about seeing it in others is that I’m seeing it in myself.  I’m still largely stuck in my college days; my life is still focused mainly on video games, much like it was when I was still in the fraternity house.  The people I talked to then are basically the only people I talk to now.  I haven’t been able to make that move from single college undergrad to graduate with a committed relationship like so many others have.  And really, I don’t see that changing any time in the future.

Fortunately, I’m realizing more and more that the reason I haven’t been able to make that jump.  In order to get anywhere, I’m going to need to take care of my depression and anxiety issues first.  They’re the main reasons I can’t seem to find any friends outside of those I’ve already made, and hopefully therapy and maybe some medication will help that out immensely.  The next step is to further along my transition.  Since I’m not happy with myself at all, it’s impossible for me to be happy with someone else.  Finally, I need to get away from where I currently am.  I can’t find friends where I’m at because there’s so few people in my area that I can actually connect with.  The environment is so different that it’s completely inhibiting my ability to interact with anyone outside of work, which isn’t much better either.

The sad part, though, is that I’m not entirely sure that these changes are really going to make things any better.  I’ll still be different, I’ll probably still be fairly far removed.  Making the changes to make progression possible still doesn’t mean it will be probable, especially since I won’t fit in with my peers much at all by the time I’m through with the changes and those who I will fit in with will probably be too young if they exist at all.  Of course, there’s also the chance that this progression isn’t what I want, which could mean I’ll be unhappier than I was in the first place.

I guess until then I’ll just have to continue to be stuck, a naive dreamer in a sea of marriages and baby bumps, forgotten but not gone.