In the beginning of September, I started my journey to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and started grad school. I was both excited and terrified—excited because I felt like I was finally able to delve into a career about which I was passionate, but terrified because I have been out of the academic saddle for many years and I was afraid of what awaited me. Would I be able to adjust to the academic rigor? Would I be able to hack it? Would I fail?

Well, I’m halfway through my first semester of social work school and I can confidently say that I still have zero answers to any of those questions.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. Deep in my heart and soul I know that I won’t fail and that I can handle it. It’s an adjustment, for sure, but I know that I am inherently a good student who will get all of her reading done and finish all of her assignments well before the due date and spend hours and hours doing asynchronous work in the hope of being the “perfect” student.

And THAT is part of the problem. I’m seeking perfectionism in a place where it simply doesn’t exist. And it’s causing me so much stress. My current life is just a constant oscillation of different levels of panic and it’s taking a toll.

I’ve done this in every aspect of my life. It’s like I have FOMO all of the time, except rather than the Fear of Missing Out, it’s the Fear of Missing Something. The Fear of Messing Up. The Fear of Failing.

But life is about messing up. Life is about failing every once in a while. And success in grad school is not measured in the number of pages read but in a thorough understanding of concepts. One of the main tenets of being a clinical social worker (as a student and professionally) is making sure you engage in self-care, and my need to be the perfect student is seriously impeding my ability to do so. I am notorious for not taking my own self-care advice, but maybe (read: definitely) it’s time to practice what I preach and slow down.

Because life won’t end if I don’t watch that video. I’m not going to fail a course if I don’t finish reading an article on time. But I am going to fail if I burn out before I get to the finish line.

Time to take a breath and let go of the reins a little bit, I think. Well, not a full letting go, but maybe a slight slackening. Baby steps, right?

Kristy Cloetingh is a Philadelphia native who is currently trying to figure out her place in the world. Her passions include reading, singing, dancing, nature, yoga, chicken fingers, and puppies. An anorexia survivor and mental health warrior, Kristy has made it her life’s mission to remind every single person that their bodies and minds are worthy of unconditional love and respect, regardless of size, shape, or whatever “normal” is.

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