Challenges and setbacks may appear to be disastrous in the moment, but they are the greatest learning opportunities to build resilience. They help us manage similar situations with ease in the future.
A major setback of mine has helped me manage the COVID-19 crisis and stay positive.
We often take a mental time machine back to our childhood and evaluate how it impacted who we are today. On one of my trips, I noticed that since about the age of five, I have strived for perfection.
In school I wanted a 100% on EVERYTHING. I wanted to be the prettiest, the smartest, the kindest, and the teacher’s favorite. I worked hard to be “perfect,” and I succeeded in almost all cases.
Success sounds like a good thing, but obsession with having constant success can be disastrous to our mental health. Perfectionism leading to success became a habit for me. I didn’t know anything else. I didn’t know what setbacks were or how to handle them, and I was absolutely terrified of ever having to confront them.
I ran from setbacks, identified as failures in my mind, as if they were the bubonic plague. I pushed myself to endlessly to excel at every task, activity, sport, and subject.
The negative impact of perfectionism became evident when I enrolled myself in an AP chemistry class as a junior in high school. It was the first time I genuinely struggled to succeed. The concepts of chemistry simply didn’t click with me. My brain failed to process and understand the information being taught. I vividly remember taking the first exam and crying at the desk in front of the whole class.
Occurrences like this didn’t stop when AP chemistry came to an end. I cried almost daily since then. The crying, along with the associated stress and anxiety, got progressively worse when I began my college career. The classes were not only harder, but they had about 5X the amount of material compared to my high school classes. I was a massive balloon filled with stress, ready to explode in my attempt to appear flawless.
One day, after about 21 years, my mind flipped a switch. I realized that while I was avoiding to appear as a failure to the external world, I was failing myself internally. I was LIVING in constant setback by enduring crippling stress and anxiety.
I decided I couldn’t do it anymore. I decided I needed to change my life. I realized I needed to thrive because I only live one life and could die tomorrow.
I buried my head in self-help books and put them under my pillow hoping the information would seep into my brain throughout the night (not really, but who knows, maybe that would’ve worked). I watched hundreds of inspirational ted talks on how to eliminate perfectionism and reduce stress.
I acted on the advice by implementing it into my life. I removed bad habits and replaced them with strong habits. I created a morning routine with yoga, meditation, journaling, and jam sessions. With these activities, I start my day off on the right foot. I trained my brain to think positively and to understand that I do not need to be perfect. Perfection does not allow us to to learn and grow as individuals, setbacks do.
After six months, a completely new person blossomed. I think positively; I live in the moment; I am happy; I focus on things I enjoy and don’t let the things I don’t enjoy bother me.
My morning routine has helped me to stay positive during the COVID-19 epidemic. My habits of yoga, meditation, and journaling about 5 things I am grateful for have kept me centered with a positive mindset. This too shall pass.
My setback with crippling stress and anxiety pushed me to be resilient and not give up on living a wonderful life. I now am able to push through the COVID-19 epidemic on a high note.