Being a self-proclaimed perfectionist, I had no qualms over the effort I would put into conquering high school. Whether the matter at hand was of greater or lesser importance, I would place everything I had on the table in order to fulfill my own perfection-based expectations. Previously, this mindset met little resistance. I was able to excel academically and maintain healthy friendships with those around me without any noticeable exhaustion. However, this ideology of mine was short lived as the reality of my physical and mental limitations shattered my former beliefs.My freshman year, I made the decision to join the school’s cross country team as a way of sharpening my soccer skills for the spring season. Excited by the prospect of meeting new people and excelling in the unfamiliar territory of running, I jumped straight into training.From here, came a downward spiral of chain reactions. Driven to compete at the varsity level, I would force myself to keep up with girls who had years of training versus my one week of workouts. I continued to put my own physical health at risk to go faster. I saw my inability to be one of the fastest runners as an inexcusable weakness instead of a lack of prior training. It was nothing a little tape couldn’t fix, or so I thought. What I didn’t realize was that the issue was rooted deeper than just the aches in my bones. This cycle of personal exhaustion in exchange for the perfect results I so desperately wanted continued past sports and spilled out into my academic life. It wasn’t until all-nighters became a normal occurrence and deep-seated, contemptuous disappointment followed, that I began to acknowledge the misconception which had become my reality. It was not all of my hard work failing my expectations; it was my expectations failing me. I was so caught up in being perfect that the need to be so had virtually overrun almost every crevice of my mind; perfection became the sole concept that my life seemed to revolve around.
My perspective only began to change with the realization that exceeding expectations was not worth the expense of destroying myself.Through this experience, I learned an invaluable lesson: it is the pace at which I go to achieve success that is instrumental in maintaining a balance between a healthy mindset and a person driven to achieve more than the standard. That is not to say that I don’t feel disappointment today if a goal of mine doesn’t come to fruition. I am still the same wide-eyed girl that approached freshman year with excitement and high hopes; however, it is the way in which I handle failure and the pace at which I strive to achieve my standards that is the ultimate difference between who I am now and who I was three years ago. Rather than jumping straight into training for cross country, I now slowly ease into longer distances and faster paces. Rather than laboring without break over an essay or sketch, I now prioritize distributing the workload over multiple days to allow my mind time to recuperate. Rather than working myself to exhaustion and tears over a temporary setback, I have learned to turn my mistakes into opportunities.Overcoming these struggles has helped me change my perspective on success. I now understand that no fortress, even my own, can be built in one day and failures are only stepping stones to greater success. The power to choose and the power to change were always inside me. It only took digging a little deeper into who I actually wanted to be for that change to be made.