We can’t always be perfect

Trying to be perfect can do some serious damage, so taking breaks can be a good way to start taking care of yourself.


In case you’re wondering why my posting schedule is so messy lately, that’s why. I’m not perfect. And it’s getting on my nerves. Badly.

For a lot of us (I think?), having ADHD comes with this strange dilemma: Our brains are often incredibly perfectionist, while also keeping us from being anything even resembling perfection. And I mean, yes, true, nobody’s perfect. Yada yada. Obviously, I’m not trying to be Wonderwoman perfect. But I’d like to be the best version of myself, nonetheless.

So, I guess my problem is the fact that I want something that’s simply imossible to achieve. I still try, and it takes a ton of energy. Which leads to times like the ones right now, where I just kind of crash, and don’t manage to keep up with anything. Because honestly, for the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to run the blog, keep the house clean (maybe not perfectly, but close), do my job, and spend quality time with the boyfriend. Also cook, on six days a week. And eat healthy. Do laundry. Make appointments. Spend time with my friends…

See my problem? It’s the fact that I only get 24 hours in a day, out of which I try to get eight hours of sleep. Plus, I have a spoon budget that I’m constantly trying to ignore, which is never a good idea. I’m still trying to find some way to balance all this stuff, but I’m guessing I’ll just have to accept that if I want to be perfect for a while, that will mean I’ll eventually crash and drop the ball completely. I don’t like it, but that’s the way it is.

Can I acccept the fact that I’m not perfect, and that I can’t be? Hardly. But I’m working on ways to mitigate my brain’s perfectionism and the reality I live in. This week, I’m trying to take breaks more regularly. It’s quite helpful that I seriously started watching “black-ish” over the weekend (had only seen two episodes before that… am loving it!), and my brain is low-key hyperfocussing on it. This means it’s pretty easy to get myself to take fairly regular 20 minute breaks, but it’s not impossible for me to stop watching and go do something else (like it is with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or Brooklyn Nine Nine). Taking breaks is important, and I hope that by taking that more seriously, I’ll be able to start earlier (because I’ll have the first break to look forward to), and get more stuff done by doing less stuff at once. Plus, I’d like to keep my spoons from running out too soon. I know that according to the spoon theory, this shouldn’t work, but it’s just a fact that trying to vaccuum and wipe all floors in the house in a row in one day, will drain my spoons much faster than splitting the tasks up and taking breaks in between.

Anyway, that’s one way I’ll try to reconciliate my perfectionism with my lack of spoons (and brain cooperation). Another thing I’m going to try is taking a short nap around noon. I’m not a huge fan of naps, because I usually wake up from them feeling miserable. But, I’ve been working a lot of kindergarten lately, and it made me realize something: Usually, the younger kids, under four years of age, take a rather long nap after lunch. (And honestly, for some of them, waking up doesn’t seem very enjoyable either.) The older kids (4+ years) don’t nap, unless they want to or just fall asleep. They do, however, have to take some downtime, where we read them stories, or play some music, while they lie down and rest.

Why is this not something we do as adults? Or at least as ADHD adults? Maybe I’m the only one who gets seriously tired after lunch, but I don’t think so. So I’ll start trying to take a nap or just rest for a bit after lunch, on the days when I work from home. Obviously, this might not be feasible for other people, depending on their jobs (and honestly, the resting period with the kids at work also isn’t all that energizing for me). But I think it might still be worth a try. Just imagine if you could spend the afternoon being (more or less) energized and productive, instead of feeling like you can hardly keep your eyes open! I know I’d love that!

You know, looking at what I wrote so far, I think I can see the biggest part of my problem: I’m trying to be perfect at the expense of self-care. It goes without saying that this is a bad idea.

I don’t know about you, of course, but I tend to overstep my personal boundries a lot, while trying to be as perfect as I can. Often, this means I spend more spoons than I get, push my body further than I should, and try to force attention when my brain is actually done for the day. This sounds seriously unhealthy, because it is. I know that. And still, I do it.

I can’t always be perfect. Or, actually, let me rephrase that. I can be perfect, but that can never be sustainable. Because I don’t have the resources. And that’s okay.

I’m not sure why perfectionism is such a common trait in ADHD adults. Maybe it’s somehow genetic. Personally, I consider it more likely to be learned. We are expected to live up to neurotypical standards from a young age, and when we do, it’s often not acknowledged, because we don’t live up to all the standards at once. I can definitely see how this would turn into deeply ingrained perfectionism.

In my experience, it can be incredibly hard to get past that. Sometimes it works out for me, other times not at all. But I think I can get behind the idea of replacing perfection with self-care.

And I hope you’ll join me. Us ADHD brains do not need to be perfect, especially not all the time. We can’t be, really, because nobody can, ADHD brain or not. I would honestly rather know that I’m doing the best I can, without spending all of my spoons on trying to be perfect, than feel like I’m constantly running an uphill race to perfection, where I can never actually get to the top, and that leaves me exhausted.

Yes, productivity is important. But you’ll be a lot more productive, if you can fit in some proper self-care. So start by taking reagular breaks. And see where else you can go from there.

Is there anything you do to take care of yourself and avoid the perfectionism trap? Tell me about it in the comments!

Image by Engin_Akyurt