Perfectionism Nearly Killed Me
Perfectionism is a well done mask painted on by the minions of procrastination.
A couple fallacies arise with perfectionists.
One cannot try to do anything. You don’t try to be perfect. In doing so, you ensure you are not going to be.
Second, assuming perfection is attainable.
To me, perfectly imperfect is the beautiful part of life. Flowing from moment to moment regardless of circumstance. Weaving in and out of obstacles and bliss. Being pulled towards challenges and drawn to discover the mysteries within them.
All of these opportunities have no semblance of perfection. When we resign ourselves to this truth, we can be are ease. In this state, we are able to flow with the current rather than fighting against it, eventually drowning.
This was me most of my life.
From the time I was young I was hyper self-critical. It helped me in certain ways but ultimately pulled me into the depths of hell. It took away joy. It took away my enjoyment for sports. It took away spontaneity. It took away the gift of life.
I excelled in sports, albeit a small town. Through hard work I made something of myself. I was by no means gifted athletically but my wide range of sports including soccer, baseball, football, and basketball gave me many skills to draw from.
With my best sport being basketball, these sports filtered into my success. But it took some time.
I was chubby growing up. My IQ for the sports I played was high. I could think the game. I knew who needed to be where on the field. I remember in soccer designing the line-ups with the coach, my Mom. We developed a formation to help us succeed and placed weak players with stronger ones so one side of the field wasn’t liable to be exposed.
My mind for the game, in this example soccer, was there.
But soon the field got bigger as I got older. And I got fatter.
My position changed from the person scoring all the goals to defense and goalie.
In this transition, I excelled at this as well.
It was enjoyable to see the game from the back of the field.
I can also remember my first day in 4th grade entering the gym for practice. It was for 5th and 6th graders but a select few 4th graders were allowed to participate too.
I was one of them.
Terrified, my brother brought me with. This is a recurring event in my life with my brother.
I was terrified of not being good.
I was terrified of taking my shirt off.
I was simply terrified.
But I did it. And it became the sport I grew to love.
The next 4 years were difficult as I was in my chubbiest stage in life coupled with the socialization of peers through puberty. From girls, to fitting in, to disliking my body this time was challenging.
I remember looking in the mirror of my upstairs bedroom with the door closed wondering, “will I ever not be fat?”
This is stained in my memory.
I remember the sullen look and the reality that this may be who I am.
I remember not knowing what would become of me.
I didn’t like the body I looked at.
The last game of my 8th grade basketball year I remember being in the car with my head coach. He was a high school star. He routinely made half court shots like they were three pointers after practice. He inspired me and taught me a tremendous amount about basketball.
He told me and another kid that it was up to us. That we were what was going to make our team better. And I really took that to heart. Our 8th grade year was a like our 7th grade year, walloped by more skilled and more physical teams. It was difficult to stomach. I was used to winning in everything.
Growing up, all of my soccer and baseball teams were dominant.
Basketball, not so much.
What transpired over the summer going into my 9th grade year was hitting a growth spurt in combination with starting to lift weights.
Again, my brother brought me into the weight room and I was taught how to lift by the volunteer coach. I vividly remember the struggle with a light bar and training plates. Struggling, sweating, wondering how this was so hard with virtually no weight.
This started my journey.
Lifting weights became my outlet.
Our 9th grade year of basketball wasn’t great by any means.
We lost a lot of games. But then something happened. We started to beat teams that in the past, killed us.
We started to find the rhythm as a team. And I was the go to player.
It was different because in this sport, my experience was not being able to take over games because of my body. Now, my body was the thing taking me to the next level. I was stronger and more physical than anyone. Combined with my work ethic, I began to do well. I played up on the Junior Varsity team. They weren’t very good at all but it gave me confidence to play more.
The next year I shined. I hit my stride as my skills developed more. Now, all of the teams we lost to growing up were falling to us. It felt great.
And this continued to my Varsity days. But something happened along the way. I got in my own way.
My mind started to bring doubt into the forefront. It crushed me. I never had a good game. I always had something I could have done better and it tormented me. I couldn’t hear you played great from my parents. My Mom could hardly talk to me because I would explode and tell her a million different ways I could have done better.
My mind halted my growth. Only when I had the flu did I play my best. My mind was shut down when in this state and I scored 31 points and had 12 rebounds against a state-bound team. My junior year in the last game of the season, the winner claiming the title of conference champions, I also had the flu. I scored all the points in overtime to secure the victory.
The point isn’t to be braggadocios. It is to illustrate that even with the flu I performed well. But it was only because my mind was shut off from judgment. I was so attached to being great at basketball that it crushed my growth.
Many games I underperformed due to my mind. I became depressed playing the game I loved. I broke down in tears and coaches were wondering why I wasn’t playing well. They told me I think too much. But nobody offered coping strategies like deep breathing, writing, and walking. They just said I think too much and to stop.
This didn’t help. It made things worse.
I could have scored 1,000+ points in my two year career. I was 50 or so points short. Many games I could have easily scored 40–50 points but one missed shot and it derailed everything. I continued to shoot but the lack of confidence and critical self-judgment ruined each game.
It was almost a relief to be done with basketball because my mind could rest. I would have to deal with the failings I had but at least I could gain some reprieve from this depression.
But it never came.
This lingered and lingered under the surface.
The mask of perfectionism nearly killed me.
And the next 9 years would be the biggest challenge of my life.
I needed to develop coping strategies to exceed my depression. It took me 9 years of self-induced suffering to accomplish this task.
From depression, to suicidal thoughts, and everything in between I came out the other side.
And I am living, breathing reminder to everyone that it can be done.
People look at me now and think I have always been like this. It took 28 years to develop this discipline, this work ethic, this ability to flow with life, and give myself grace to fail. But it was worth it.
And now, my highest aim is positively impact billions of people in mind, body, and spirit.
Once we go into the darkness and come out with the treasure, it is our mission to bring it back to share with the world.
So here I am.