Mental Health Moments: The Birth of My Perfectionism

⌛ By Kaylin R. Staten

This first mental health post is dedicated to the lovely legend Carrie Fisher.

One of Hourglass Omnimedia’s most passionate causes is mental health. Mental health affects everyone, whether you personally have a mental health condition or help a loved one or co-worker through a particularly trying time. Some of us (myself included), have a chronic mental health issue. While my generalized anxiety disorder is relatively low on the spectrum, I have a distinct professional and personal mission to help everyone who deals with mental health on any type of basis. 

I can trace the genesis of my anxiety to when I was just a toddler. I fully realized this when I took an online Acumen+ course last year, and it changed the way I looked at my own mental health. I began to understand why I had an achievement addiction, why my attitude experienced sudden changes and how many times in my life I actually experienced a panic attack without realizing it. 

Every other Tuesday each month, we will focus on #MentalHealthMoments. We’ll explain what mental health means to us, ways to deal with certain types of anxieties and more. Keep in mind that what works for me and other contributors may not work for you. The wonderful thing about life is that we are all wonderfully unique. As a company, we are here to fight mental health stigma. As a person, I’m here to share my story to help others. As a “Recovering Perfectionist,” this is my story.

So, in this introductory post, here’s the story I wrote to introduce the Birth of My Perfectionism:

Short Personal Story:
“I look fat in this picture.” I thumb through glossy, newly developed print photos my mom picked up from a local store earlier in the day. The aroma of my Spaghetti-O lunch wafts through our little brick house as my bare legs caress the tan carpet of my bedroom. The cars on the busy road outside our front door zoom and whoosh by, and my thoughts are faster than the miles per hour they are driving. 
My freshly painted red fingernails land on one photo, and I scoff at it. It’s like a caricature of myself, complete with chubby cheeks and fade-washed Osh-Kosh bib overalls, holding a Fisher Price weedeater toy in my miniature hands. 
It’s 1991. I am THREE YEARS OLD. I don’t know about the world yet, but I have developed this sense of negative self talk, both learned and genetic. “You have the fattest cheeks in photos.” “No, you don’t. You’re perfect just the way you are.” “You say that, but look at those cheeks!” My anxious internal dialogue wells within me: the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other, always a war of positive versus negative. 
This is my first memory of perfectionism, the moment it takes root in my life. It begins among the pink elephants, stuffed Care Bears and vanilla Lip Smackers in my room. Anxiety begins before I know what it is, before I have any say in the matter. From here, my mind begins to intertwine itself with the notion that I need to be perfect all of the time — more for others than myself. 
The cogs of my brain never stop turning, which is good for productivity but bad in terms of getting a good night’s sleep. But, like an ocean’s current, I beat on. Anxiety is an everyday struggle, and mental health stigma prevails in many of our worlds. I have been silent for a long time. I didn’t want anyone to view me as less than perfect. Now, I’m speaking out — for myself and for others who deal with the same issues every day. We can realize our own triggers. We can cope. We can get the help we need. We can get through it. You are not alone. And no, your cheeks aren’t fat, either. 

Read my National Mental Health Awareness Month newspaper op-ed post here.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit a website like Mental Health America to learn more. 

Copyright © MMXVIII Hourglass Omnimedia, LLC

Kaylin R. Staten is an award-winning public relations practitioner and writer. She owns Hourglass Omnimedia, a consulting company based in Huntington, WV. 

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