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8 Not-So-Great Things I Deal With Because I See Myself As A Perfectionist

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People constantly say that I’m a perfectionist; but whenever they say it, they make it sound like I have an enviable, positive trait. And after months of introspection, I began to understand that I am a perfectionist. But it’s not the beautiful, glamorous personality trait, it’s meant to seem like. It’s difficult to live with, difficult to handle, and even more difficult to overcome.

I recently came across a post titled: 11 Signs That You Are a Perfectionist. In this article, I’ve examined five of the most prominent signs, while adding a personal twist of my own.

perfect1. There is no room for mistakes: This point is incredibly true and it doesn’t only apply to school work. It also applies to the painstaking way I make my bed, to the way I don’t allow any of my essays to have a single grammatical error, and to the careful way I communicate with strangers. Some would say that that’s a nice way to live. But it’s anything but nice; it’s painful, verging on devastating — because everything has to have a mistake or two embedded in it.

2. You have a very specific manner in which things should be done: I remember my evening schedule at boarding school. After school ended, I’d go straight to the library to do a bit of homework. After which I’d go back to the dorm, freshen up, wear more comfortable clothes, and head to the tuck shop. What I bought never deviated: it always had to be one grilled sandwich and two bottles of water (one chilled and one room temperature). And so on. Anything that would distract me from my schedule had to be ignored — whether it was a sudden bake sale, or a conversation with a few friends. I certainly got a lot of work done that way but it was still awfully monotonous and lonely.

3. You have an all-or-nothing approach: There’s either success or failure, excellence or mediocrity. When I started Class 11, that approach seemed to have intensified itself into a rage: to always get a perfect score in exams or tests, to play a piano piece to absolute perfection, to not have a single error in any assignment I’d work on. Not getting a perfect score would be upsetting, making a mistake in a piano piece would be humiliating and making a mistake in a paper would seem irredeemable. It’s either day or night — with no afternoon, no evening, no dawn. There would be black or white, with no greys and no colours. This led me to avoid doing many activities, or trying something from scratch. It was either perfection, or doing nothing at all.

4. Success is never enough: When I was in Class 10, I started submitting my poetry to different literary magazines. On the fourth day of submitting, my poem was accepted into one—my first ever. I was elated… for about five minutes. After that, I continued writing new poems, continued submitting, continued getting accepted or rejected (although it was mostly the latter). I could never be satisfied with what I had accomplished. It was almost as if the bar I’d set for myself would keep rising stealthily, never giving me the satisfaction and pleasure of reaching it. I was, and still am, entrenched in a petty game.

5. It’s all about the end result: So much for the phrase, “The joy is in the journey.” Even though I’ve come to focus more on the journey, rather than on the destination, I remember the times I’d only focus on the end of the road — rather than on the road itself. If I was in the process of writing a poem for my blog, I wouldn’t even acknowledge the process — it was only the ‘poem’ that mattered; the process including: finding inspiration, delving deeper into my individual thoughts, learning of and using new words, finding an appropriate structure and rhyme scheme, and ultimately writing it. I grow every time I write a poem or personal reflection—but my perfectionist tendencies would make me consciously ignore the way I’d have matured as a person.

6. You are extremely hard on yourself: Yes, I was extremely hard on myself. I wouldn’t let myself have fun, stop for chats, or indulge in a few movies every now and then. It was like the perfectionist side of my personality was constantly suppressing and disciplining the side of me that craved enjoyment and frivolity. And if something did go wrong in my daily routine, I would be completely thrown off course; it was almost incapacitating. So, I’d have to change my experiment topic, even though the deadline was nowhere near that day. I had other tasks to complete – but somehow, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to concentrate until I solved the other issue. And in retrospect, it doesn’t even seem like a big deal! But it had seemed like a massive issue then, which I’d ruminate over for a long, long time.

7. You constantly spot mistakes when others don’t see any: It is a lovely painting, but there is a smudge at the upper right corner. While people gape at the beauty of the canvas, I can only look at that smudge of blue and green paint which was certainly not meant to be there. When I listen to spoken word poetry, all I can notice are stutters, tiny errors in diction, or slightly prolonged pauses. While this tendency of mine is useful when it comes to my schoolwork, I’ve realised that it takes away most of the beauty of life.

8. You often spend copious amounts of time just to perfect something: In 2015, I had an oral presentation due in over two months. Most people hadn’t given it a thought. However, I had already finished scripting it, and had even started committing it to memory. I had initially thought that it was because I hate to procrastinate (although I do so most of the time). But now I know that it’s because I didn’t want there to be any room for error. Every aspect of the presentation had to be immaculate, smooth, absolutely flawless. I didn’t want to give anyone any room to criticise my efforts.

In conclusion, perfectionism isn’t glamorous. It’s an obstacle to happiness — which I now know is the reason we all live. So next time, don’t look at the one mark you lost; rather, look at the nine marks you gained. Don’t look at the time your finger slipped when playing the piano; look at the time your fingers danced in a show of harmony. Life is beautiful, and we just have to appreciate that.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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