An Anonymous Story, written by Rosie Major
Efficiency really drives me. It is essentially perfectionism to me.
Perfectionism is not how can I do every single thing as perfectly as possible, but rather how can I be as efficient as possible and get the most out of it. Not that I don’t like to do things perfectly. I go insane knowing that my GPA, which is considered very good and hard to achieve at Davidson, is only in the 50th percentile range. I know this is just me being a Davison student, but honestly it is hard to distinguish perfectionism from that classifier. Everyone here is so driven, focused, and obsessed with being the best that it almost puts a damper on the identifier “perfectionist.” Efficiency is what I choose to label all of these tendencies. At least I feel like I am accomplishing something if I do this. Although, to be honest, it is an obsession that is not always healthy.
I can barely stand having free time. Even my so-called “free time” is essentially me going to meetings for my continued sobriety or talking to friends who need my help. This is not necessarily the worst thing, but sitting still and even watching TV for a few minutes is maddening. It seems, to me, a waste of time if I could be helping people, even myself, and don’t. And I am pretty self centered, if I do say so myself. It is nice to feel needed, and that is definitely a motivation for me in these actions. By being efficient, I definitely use my accomplishments as validation. It validates that everything I am driving myself to do is worth it. It helps me prove that I am great. This is typical of Davidson students: to be involved as much as possible while still working hard. They need validation that they aren’t making mistakes that will affect their futures. They need validation that they will help make good grad school applicants or job candidates. That is something everyone worries about in college. I try to streamline everything while still doing this. I know that if I work out, it will then help me focus and have energy throughout the day, meaning that I will be in a better mood and more productive.
I guess a real driver for me in terms of perfectionism, efficiency, or whatever you want to call it is that I am selfish. And as long as I am helping people, I can counter that part of my personality. I am lucky that I have been able to cut out of my life the things that make this selfishness come out of me. I take care of myself by going to meetings, exercising, or eating right. I only really adopted the latter two because I saw someone else (who was extremely efficient) practicing these faithfully. All I could think was “wow I wanna be like this guy,” and so I got to know him and began following his steps. It made me more efficient, which helped everything else I obsess over being efficient about fall into place.
I don’t think people necessarily understand how much this really plays into my everyday life. I recently spent a decent amount of time talking to my ex-girlfriend, who I broke up with. One of the reasons I broke up with her, which at the time seemed like the main problem, was that the 20 to 30 minute-long phone calls was hurting my efficiency. Looking back now, this was just a bullshit excuse. I mean it’s really not that big of a time commitment, and I dedicate at least 4 times this amount of time a day to meetings and talking to people. But I really do value it above most things, and it’s scary. Priorities are more important, which I know. Like making sure that I treat the people I care about properly. But still, efficiency finds its way to sneak itself ahead of those things occasionally.
I think it’s mainly that I am terrified of what would happen if I have nothing to do. With nothing to do, all I can think is what the heck am I meant to do? Breaks from school kill me if I have more than three days off and nothing to do. I recently spent a month in Africa over a summer break, but the two months before this trip was when I got sober. That was all I was focused on. Besides working on that, I had nothing to do. I nearly went insane. I am scared of losing momentum because it’s so much harder to get back on track.
In the end, efficiency is still key to me. I can’t seem to shake it, but I don’t necessarily think that I need to. Many people make it through life efficiently obsessed with things, and there are a lot of worse things I could be obsessed with. I know my limits as well. If I start to lose the seven to eight hours of sleep I need, I will make sure to scale back. But until then, I continue on with my efficient routine.
This story originally appeared in Facing Perfectionism, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina.