A Poem About Perfectionism

Close-up photo of a spiky green plant with light pink flowers shot from the side with a field and cloudy blue sky visible behind it.

I don’t remember perfectionism as a child.
I think it began around twelve or thirteen.
I remember making lists. That got me young.
I remember trying to read every book in the YA section.
I was homeschooled, and I think I had something to prove.

I tried to grasp for control wherever I could.
It was with me before school, which became just another mechanism
For my perfectionism to latch onto.

I remember wanting to avoid their anger.
I remember her commenting on the trauma of perfect
As I swept a floor that would never get clean.

I remember being locked in a room until I finished every equation,
But did he actually lock the door? I can’t remember.
If I made a mistake, I would be told: You know this.
You can do better. You can always do more.

They had high expectations. They pushed me toward my potential.
I internalized those expectations, which turned into perfectionism.
I needed to people please, to be the person they saw.
Mistakes were allowed so long as I was giving it my all.

Today, I am often left with a lingering sense of,
I could have done more.

Published by Sage Pantony

Sage Pantony is a writer, poet, and zinester. They write about gender, sexuality, mental health, trauma, creativity, and the best ways to cook eggs. They are the author of several zines, including a trilogy about transitioning as a non-binary person. Sage’s work has appeared in publications such as Coven Poetry, Idle Ink, and The Varsity. They currently reside in Tiohtià:ke/Montréal with their pet dinosaur, Peter.

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