It’s easy for old souls to see the ways they don’t fit into modern cultural norms: they’re sensitive, intelligent, intuitive and giving. They are individual thinkers who see the way things like modern dating make people unhappy and they vow to hold themselves to a higher standard and not settle for doing what everyone else is doing. They are deep feelers who crave something more substantial than surface-level relationships. They also tend to be overthinkers who are incredibly hard on themselves when they don’t meet their own perfectionist expectations.
The funny thing is, a lot of old souls don’t even realize they are perfectionists.
Perfectionism doesn’t mean you get straight A’s and don’t leave the house without looking like you’re ready for a job interview. Especially for old souls, perfectionism is a persistent feeling of “never good enough” as it relates to the things you value most. You might come home to a messy kitchen, but that art project you’ve been working on is spotless. You might be late for work, but you show up to class fifteen minutes early because that’s what you are dedicated to. When you achieve something related to your core interests you feel happy — but that feeling quickly changes to what you can do bigger and better next time.
When you’re a perfectionist, your focus tends to shift from what you’ve done to what you can improve on. You push yourself more than you’d push another person in an identical situation. You have high standards and you’re hard on yourself when you don’t meet them. Too hard.
Old souls tend to punish themselves for simply being human enough to not be focused and disciplined 100% of the time. They see the ways they are different from other people and use it to fuel their believe that they should be accomplishing more than other people. They should be the most successful or the most loving or the most artistic person they know (though they’d never begrudge someone for not being the best, they lose this sense of empathy when they think bout themselves).
What people who identify with the idea of an old soul need to remember is that as intelligent as humans are, we are still humans. We are still animals. It’s easy to think that we should be able to discipline ourselves and have “mind over matter” but we’re combatting with our natural impulses, with thousands of years of evolutionary biology.
We can have high standards, and we can care so much about the things that are important to us, but we can also learn to remind ourselves that our efforts are good enough. We don’t have to move forward at 100 mph in order to move forward, we don’t have to be the best in order to be worthwhile. We can be the kind of cheerleaders we are when we talk to our best friends about what they are doing in their lives, we can have that same softness — that same genuine happiness — when we talk to ourselves.