By: Alyson Peabody,
Welcome, USM community, to a new year and a new semester! Now is the perfect time to set intentions for yourself, whether academic or personal, to uphold during the coming months.
This semester I am committing myself to two things: setting healthy boundaries and striving for improvement, not perfection.
Setting healthy boundaries- I am guilty of saying ‘yes’ or ‘I can do that’ to almost everything. Why? I am a people pleaser. If this sounds like you, you may resonate with feeling satisfaction when you make other people happy. For people like us, the ‘people-pleasers,’ we put our needs second and others first in an unhealthy way.
For me, this unsustainable practice started in highschool. I was part of many clubs, volunteer opportunities, AP classes, theater productions, and was avidly involved in choir and band. My parents can attest to the toll this behavior took on my mental health. What I saw as pushing myself to be the best version of myself was actually fueled by my inability to advocate for my personal needs. I didn’t want to say no out of fear that I would upset someone else.
Is saying ‘yes’ worth sleepless nights, constant anxiety, panic attacks, and crippling overwhelm? No!
My mom has said to me a number of times, “You can only do one thing at a time.” She’s right. It’s important to be involved, but being involved doesn’t mean being a part of everything.
My goal for this semester is to prioritize my needs to avoid creating undue stress. To accomplish this I will say ‘no’ to commitments that do not fulfill my educational, personal, or work-related goals.
Striving for improvement, not perfection- I’ve found that being a people pleaser is often rooted in being a perfectionist. Perfectionism means different things to different people. For me, perfectionism is a construct I have built around my ideas for what personal success means. When something doesn’t go as I envision it I feel less gratification in the end.
I have found that gauging my progress by the quality of the end product isn’t a sustainable mindset. Building skills is a trial and error process.
When I find myself focusing too much on perfection, I think back to the way my highschool Latin teacher, Mr. Doran, broke down the word ‘perfect.’ He would say, “The word perfect is made up of two parts: per and fect. Per means ‘through.’ Fect means ‘to make.’ As a whole it means ‘to make through.’ A cake that is cooked all the way through is perfect. It can taste horrible, but it would still be perfect because it is done.”
For us perfectionists, Mr. Doran’s cake analogy is comforting. As long as something is done all the way through, it is perfect.
My goal to focus on process over product will help me become a better student, writer and artist.
The new year brings about phrases like ‘it’s time to reinvent yourself.’ Rather than trying to undo who I am, I’m going to use where I’m at as a foundation for growth. I encourage everyone to set an intention for themselves this semester. Think of something that you can work on little by little every day to become the best version of yourself.
I wish you all a successful spring semester! I will see you around campus.