Hopefully I’m not the only one who gets scared about the uncertainty of life sometimes, if I am then this will mostly be a self-help guide. However, my instinct tells me that actually a lot of us are scared a lot of the time.
As a (late) 20 something, these are just some of the fears I have floating about in my head on any given day…
- Fear that buying a house is FAR too grown up for me and I won’t be able to manage financially
- Fear that I’m not doing a good enough job at work
- Fear that people will make assumptions about me because of my illness (UC)
- Fear that my UC will continue to get worse and worse and ruin my life (a biggie)
- Fear that my boyfriend will eventually end up more as my carer than my lover and soul mate (also a biggie)
- Fear that I will alienate myself from my friends by being ill and unsociable
- Fear that I will avoid having adventures in life because I’m scared of flare ups
- Fear that I won’t ever get to let my hair down again without risking a flare
- Fear of wrinkles
- Fear of varicose veins (I’m sure I’m sprouting some)
- Fear that worrying will only make me worse…
So yes…I even worry about worrying! 🙂
I’m currently signed off work sick, which I’ve found to be really emotional. Usually my flare ups last a few days and then I’m ok again. Not this time. I’ve cried a LOT in the last 10 days, so this post is as a result of me spending time trying to work out why I’m so upset and how I can change that for the better.
I recently read about Atelophobia, which is a fear of imperfection – and the hallmark traits of someone with this phobia struck a chord with me. Here are some examples of behaviours people with this phobia demonstrate…
- A fear of flaws and making mistakes
- Avoidance of situations where you might make a mistake
- Setting impossibly high standards for yourself
- Finding ways to avoid doing the things that scare you
- Feeling that your fear is interfering with your life
How many of us can relate to this?
I’m sure most of us feel like this occasionally but for me at least, these symptoms struck a chord that’s close to home.
Time for a short story to explain (just one of the ways) why….
When I took my boyfriend to NYC for the BIG 30, I had been planning it in secret for the best part of 6 months before I finally told him. I went full guns blazing with the big reveal in January; giant box, balloons, fake plane tickets – the works. He was really blown away and I was sure we were going to have the trip of a lifetime.
Fast forward to March when we were due to go and circumstances had changed quite dramatically. I’d lost two grandparents in the space of two weeks and the BF had been the most ill he’s ever been in his life. He’d been undergoing MRI brain scans, blood tests and just about every other examination you can imagine, leaving me feeling so worried for him that I considered cancelling the trip altogether.
In my head it changed from being this perfect experience for him which I had all mapped out in my mind, to actually dreading it. Dreading us both being ill, dreading the flight making his symptoms worse, all kinds of fears that it wouldn’t be what I hoped or what I felt he deserved. It made me not want to go at all.
In the end it was a wonderful break and we made the most of every day there by walking everywhere, spending quality time together and having fun. We weren’t out until the early hours having lavish cocktails on rooftop bars or sitting in soulful jazz clubs (like the picture in my head when I booked it) but I loved it all the same. Exploring a new city with him was so special, despite the personal hardships we faced.
It wasn’t the ‘perfect’ trip I had in my mind six months before, but because of all the sh*t that came before it, it actually made me even more grateful for the relationship I have and the way we can both lean on each other in times of need (get the sick bags out hey).
Whether it’s avoiding someone because you don’t want to be viewed negatively by saying the wrong thing, or avoiding social situations because you feel you’ll be judged for being imperfect…it’s got a new label but it’s certainly not a new feeling.
I now know that this is exactly what I’m doing to myself now that I’m having a flare, I’m punishing myself for not being a perfect picture of health 24/7, for not being able to always cope enmtionally with having a chronic illness and for feeling like my UC will stop me from doing the things I want to in the future. SO…..
Here are my top tips for dealing with a fear of imperfection
- There is NO such thing as perfection so fearing a lack of something that doesn’t actually exist is a pretty big waste of your time (easier said than done maybe)
- The very fact that Atelophobia has a name, means that a LOT of people have it, which means you’re not alone and that always makes things easier
- Quite often when you avoid going somewhere or doing something that deep down you really wanted to do, it only leaves you feeling even more hollow and rubbish afterwards – so sometimes trying something and failing isn’t half as bad as never giving it a go in the first place
- In a world where we can filter our lives and portray a very different version of ourselves to our friends and family on-screen, it’s natural that keeping up the pretence of perfection will make us anxious sometimes, or that seeing that portrayal of perfection from someone else can make us feel inferior
- Just remember that no matter what your view of yourself may be at this current moment, you have people in your life who wouldn’t change you for the world and they like you – as the perfectly imperfect person you are
I’d love to know if anyone else out there has faced fears of being imperfect, it would be interesting to know how many secret Atelophobics there are amongst us…