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The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

A picture worth a thousand words: Still Not Perfect

Still Not Perfect: my perfectionist mindset was never sustainable long term

My mom would pick me up early from school four days a week for gymnastics.

She would have a bottle for me filled with ice water, a grilled cheese, and a bottle of ibuprofen to combat any lingering ailments or nagging pains. 

I would arrive at practice 30 minutes early, changing into my leotard quickly with the fear of being a moment late. Being late for anything was never good, but being late for gymnastics practice always meant a rope climb.

In gymnastics, perfection technically existed. You received a 10 on a routine; the judges couldn’t find any blaring errors.

No legs. Up and down. Pointed toes and straight legs because if it was anything short of that, it would mean another. If I descended too fast or slid down, it would mean a nasty rope burn rash coupled with bits of tough fibers digging into my legs.

After that, it was a four-hour practice. Usually, it meant a fun time with my friends, chatting about books and school and life over the chalk buckets in between bar routines or distracting each other with funny stories during toe holds. 

It would always get too hard in the end to talk, so we would just hang there with our toes pointed against the bar, eyes closed and lungs burning, until the coach called time and we could finally breathe again.

And if the coach turned her back, everyone, without failure, would hook their feet on the bar to ease the compounding pain in our stomachs for just a second. 

It just made things easier in the long run.

I participated in gymnastics up until eighth grade when COVID-19 hit, and everything had to close down temporarily. Never having the opportunity to quit before, I seized the break and made my mom send an email to the owner telling her I was done. For good.

I never had such freedom before. 

It was strange in the beginning, not having that home-away-from-home to attend at the end of the day. The community of girls my age and supportive coaches exited my life overnight.

Being in the sport competitively for years made my perspective narrowed on very limited thoughts: meet weeks, summer practices, shredded hands, and a throbbing back from the time I over-rotated on a backflip. When I quit, I realized how much gymnastics bled into other areas of my life without me even realizing it.

It was so consuming that everything I did was done with a perfectionist mindset. At practice, I would train with the goal of starting and ending with a perfect 10; I never achieved it and hardly got close, but everything that wasn’t “perfect” in other areas of my life meant I could only train harder and strive to reach perfection.

In gymnastics, perfection technically existed. You received a 10 on a routine; the judges couldn’t find any blaring errors. I thought the same to be true about life, and that mindset shadowed me as I started high school and when grades started to really matter.

It wasn’t always negative. Gymnastics established a consistent work ethic that wouldn’t have been present without years of establishing those habits. Always viewing my life through a critical lens—watching back videos of my gymnastics routines, for example—taught me how to improve and to always look vitally at anything of importance.

I learned to tough things out until the job was done. We were never offered the option of giving up at gymnastics practices: if I dropped during a set of pull-ups, I would shake my arms out and start again until I could do it without cramping up and slipping.

My friend’s mom snapped a picture of me during my vault at a fly meet in Nashville one year. I remember my coach ramping the vault setting up moments before I took off down the runway to make sure I didn’t fly over it. She captured the exact moment I was suspended in the air, legs straight, toes pointed, and gazing slightly back at my hands just as I was taught.

I got a 9.6.

My mom made a joke about how that vault wasn’t a ten. A perfect ten. She zoomed in on the picture and analyzed my body from every angle, unable to find errors.

I told her the judges probably took away tenths for a wobble on my landing. Maybe my chest was too far forward on the springboard, or maybe it was because of the arch in my back. Little errors always add up in a simple event like that.

At that point, it was the highest score I had ever received in any event. 

I took that as its own kind of perfection: not to their standards, but my own.

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About the Contributor
Lucy Yoder
Lucy Yoder, Staff Writer
Lucy is a senior entering her first year writing for The Central Trend. She has been entertained and positively in love with writing and reading for as long as she can remember and cannot wait to expand and improve her writing further. Lucy runs varsity track for her school and has been involved with club track over the years as well. As senior year starts and concludes all too quickly, Lucy strives to create millions of memories, all comprised of her favorite things: friends, sunshine, running, and her adorable puppy, Jackie. Favorite artist: Taylor Swift, without a doubt Favorite soccer team: FC Barcelona Car: 2005 Lexus GX470 named Lucifer Favorite place she's been: Galápagos Islands

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