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I Am A Perfectionist: I Did Everything to Excess

I always prided myself on giving everything 110%. I was an athlete, a great student and involved in countless activities over the years. Unfortunately, that “giving it 110%” attitude also spilled into my substance abuse. I loved when I could out-drink/drug my guy friends, like somehow it made me worthy. I felt at home in our society of “more, more, more.” I would drink until I passed out or the alcohol was gone. Then I would start over the next day. I would shop until my bank account was empty or my credit limit was reached. I did everything to excess because I didn’t know there was another way.

There is a saying that fits many of us with a substance use disorder: “One is too many and a thousand is never enough.”

The first time I heard that was at an AA meeting when I was seventeen years old. It was true then and it is true now. I haven’t had a drink in four and a half years, but all it takes is one.

A large part of our culture of excess is the 24/7 access to social media. In a time where social media is everywhere, it is so common to compare ourselves to others. Celebrities fill our feeds with multimillion-dollar homes, outrageous vacations and perfectly-toned bodies. Even looking at feeds of “regular” people can cause envy. Maybe you see photos of friends with their significant others, but you’re single. Or you see photos of children, but you’re struggling with infertility. Or all your friends have “perfect” bodies, but you’ve gained weight.

What these have in common is we are comparing how we feel on the inside to what someone’s life looks like on the outside. A social media post is a perfectly-curated snapshot of a moment in time. It is not “real life” and it is not what that person’s life is like all the time. Some photos may be exactly what they appear to be, but so many others are not.

The mom that posts a beautiful beach photo of her family may have taken hundreds of others to get that one. The friend that always posts photos of new, expensive purses may be drowning in credit card debt. The wife that posts a picture bragging about her amazing husband may be getting over his affair.

The truth is we don’t know the whole story.

We never can from one picture. All we see is what that person wants us to see. We don’t see the struggles, pain or sadness behind the perfect photos. It is so easy to compare ourselves to others, but it is draining on our mental health. Social media isn’t going anywhere, so the only way we can change this is to change how we react. Rather than aspiring to the unattainable goal of perfection, we can focus on making the best of what we have. The goal of outdoing others is exhausting. We need to remind ourselves that social media is not real life, and focus on accepting and enjoying what we already have.

I used to be all about giving it 110%, but I’ve realized that isn’t a healthy way for me to live. Having and doing more isn’t going to fulfill me. I am happiest living a balanced life. Comparing my life to someone else’s life is only going to make me miss out on all the wonderful things I do have. Rather than living a life of excess, I now focus on finding balance and contentment in my life.

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