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Anxiety, Stress & Coping
August 18, 2023
An Open Letter to My Perfectionism

Kendra Casey

woman in a blue sweater sitting at the computer, looking hopeful with a yellow coffee mug beside her

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It’s Time we Talk About our Flaws: Dear Perfectionism

Hey, old frienemy,

I hope this letter finds you well, although I suspect you might not feel particularly welcome right now. I’m writing you this letter of gratitude, hurt, and, most importantly, refining my boundaries with you. First, I want to say I appreciated your initial thoughts about this letter – however, I want to disagree as I think open letters are still fun and not “soo 2016” as you suggested.

The gratitude I want to express runs deeply. You were there for me many times. My faithful companion. We earned a lot of praise for catching mistakes, paying attention to the details, and impressing others with our work ethic. It was worth the long nights and stress then. You did get me to many finish lines – exhausted, malnourished, and hyper-focused on everything that could have been better. However, like all relationships, ours has shifted and created an imbalance. You have your flaws, and perhaps I’m ready to confront mine.

While you taught me about dedication and demanding the best for myself, the standard you preach is unobtainable for a regular human like me. I’ve come to question the origin of this standard. Was it inherited? Did it come from a magazine or a movie? Or did it form to shield me from the terrifying possibility of making a mistake and being a failure? You tell me. I know you have protected our insecurities, but maybe it is time to own them. Everyone has them, you know – we won’t be the first to admit that. We may not be the smartest, prettiest, playing in the WHL, or can pick up any instrument and play beautifully, but I try to relish what we have. You sometimes forget to do that.

If I can be frank, sometimes you hurt me with your words. We lose time and opportunities by worrying about the details or not being good enough. In fact, you delayed me writing this blog for weeks because you wanted it to be – big surprise – perfect. You always seem to do that. We have a task, and you make it 100 tasks just so we can “do it right.” But I’ve learned that doing it “right” isn’t always worth it. No one notices if I mess up on a chord or if my windows aren’t sparkling clean. It is more worth my time enjoying the capricious music I make or being mindful with loved ones sitting across from dirty windows. It is time for you to look at the bigger picture here – not the mistakes in the brushstrokes.

I now ask you to respect these new boundaries I am putting in place for us. I don’t need to finish all my notes and emails the day of. I am staying off my computer for a few hours a day to take in the atmosphere around me. I am not going to the gym every single day. Sometimes my body needs rest or laughter with friends. When I make a mistake during my day, I’m going to respond with self-compassion instead of your preferred criticisms. I am holding myself accountable for these boundaries because they are severely needed. As you may have caught on, we make more mistakes when we are worrying about another task, and we burn ourselves out doing everything perfectly– making the world we love grey and hopeless. So, let’s work together to find a balance for you and I.

A compromise from you would be replacing self-improvement with self-growth. I know the growth sounds messy and unsure to you, but we can welcome it one small step at a time. They say it is the journey, not the destination, and I think that would do well for us.

Thank you again for everything you’ve done for me so far. This is not goodbye but a reset. I hope you can meet me where I have grown, for you still teach me valuable lessons in vulnerability, limits and curiosity.


Your imperfect Kendra.


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