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Why I'm a Perfectionist as Someone on the Autism Spectrum


When I was a kid, I would spend hours on my homework. I wanted everything to be right. I wanted it to be my best work. After all, people always told me to do my best. Basically, I wanted it to be perfect. But it wasn’t just about my homework. My parents would tell me to look both ways before crossing the street. I remember standing at the side of the road one day, looking one way, then the other. Then I looked again. How many times was enough? What if a car came after I had stopped looking?

This may seem like perfectionism. And perhaps it started out that way. But as I grew older, I still found myself putting all of my time and energy into doing things well. And I didn’t want it to be perfect anymore. I just wanted it to be done well enough.

As someone on the autism spectrum, I can have very “black and white” thinking. I have a difficult time seeing the “gray” area. So most of the time, all I know how to do things is either “perfect” or “fail.” Until someone else says to me, “That’s good enough,” I’m stuck. I personally try to do these things so I am not failing. (Although, there have been times when I get so overwhelmed, I freeze up and don’t even try or don’t know where to start.) But I don’t see the middle ground.

I want to do well. But I’m tired of being a perfectionist. However, it’s really hard for me not to be one. I need limits. I need a task with a clear beginning and end. I need specific instructions on what to do and what not to do. Otherwise, I’m going to struggle. Not because I want to do things perfectly, but because I don’t know how to see that gray area.

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