June 18, 2015

Perfectionism is a Bully!




Perfectionism is a bully. I wouldn't play with him if I were you. 
- Anita Stout

The quote above is from an email response I sent to a friend, a brilliant attorney, who also hosts a radio show. I'd written to thank him for sending an archived file of an interview he'd done with my recently deceased mother in law about her involvement in British Intelligence during World War ll. 

The interview was fascinating and added greatly to the details I'd already known. Everything about the interview was top notch. Good music, great questions, a wealth of information - the works. The response I received to my thank you was as follows: 


"You are quite welcome. As with every show that I do, so with Dorothy...I realize afterwards how shallow I have dragged my net. So much more depth than I captured." 

AGH! Not him too! I thought, and shot back the above - and it's true! Perfectionism IS a bully and no one knows this better than I. (In second place is my husband who endures watching it in action.)


Perfectionism has been beating the fun out of my life for as long as I can remember. It's the reason that millions of other imperfect bodies can enjoy being at the pool in swimsuits and I missed out on those good times with my children. It's the reason I don't try many of the things I'd love to pursue. Perfectionism is also the reason my husband and I have had to walk around in white plastic booties for the past two days looking like overgrown snow elves - but I've gotten ahead of myself.


As I mentioned, we recently said goodbye to my mother in law. It hasn't been an easy thing - made worse by the appearance of the big bad bully! I wanted to make memorial posters to celebrate her life. I spent three straight days migraining over the possibility that they wouldn't be good enough. In the end, they were beautiful but it wasn't because of the relentless fiend beating me over the head. It was in spite of it.

Perfectionism keeps me from being able to accept a sincere complement. All I see is where I've failed or could have done a bit more - or better.

Perfectionism whispers "you're not good enough" at regular intervals throughout the day just so I don't forget and actually relax. It says "everyone is judging you" and "you can't possibly ___" (fill in the blank.) It's a relentless critic who is diligent and watchful.

I don't expect perfection from others. I have mercy and understanding to spare for the human part of human nature - except my own. In a way it's almost arrogant when I stop to think of how I believe I need to be better than I expect others to be. 

Back to the white booties and snow elves. I took one look at my carpet - the same carpet I'd never have even noticed anywhere else - and realized that it absolutely had to be cleaned before the family came for Mom's memorial service. Heaven forbid anyone visit our home and find out we actually live in it! So, after convincing my husband to abandon reason in favor of sanity, the appointment was made and the carpets were cleaned.

Then the air conditioner broke down. With 94% humidity, carpets aren't in a hurry to release moisture into already drenched air so needless to say the carpets are still wet - enter snow elf booties! I had plenty to do without elf booties being a part of the equation. In fact, the carpet cleaning debacle has added yet another item for the voice to whisper about and cite as further evidence of my not-good-enoughness.


Make no mistake friends, perfectionism is NOT something to brag about, be proud of, or strive to have as an associate. It's a merciless tyrant that I plead you won't entertain.


My life has been sending me lots of clues recently that say this has to stop. Three days of migraines was hard not to notice. White elf feet? Really! 


Knowing these things about myself doesn't seem to make it easier to let it go - and why should I need to do this on my own? There are pills for everything now! Big pharma can help manage everything from our sex lives to acne.  We can wake up or go to sleep by swallowing a pill and be pain free in the worst of circumstances. Where, I ask you, is the "get over yourself" pill - because that's what I need to do - just get over myself!
 
I'm sorry you're mad that you realize the world doesn't revolve around you. Let me pour you a tall glass of get over it. - Unknown


I know I'm not suffering alone. I see you every day - eyes glazed over - replaying what you could have done differently - better. I see your overly concerned smiles and "not quite as relaxed as you hope I think you are" demeanor - and I feel your pain.


We need to understand that despite what we believe, the universe does not rise or fall because of what we do or do not do. None of us are important enough to cause cataclysmic concern whether we fail or succeed. Even if we get this thing right - that thing will be lurking right around the corner presenting yet another opportunity to fail miserably.


You wouldn't care so much about what people think about you if you realized how seldom they do.  -Unknown


What if we all just decided that our best was good enough - regardless? What might happen if we turned our backs on the bully? Might he just go away?

What if we could find a morsel of mercy for ourselves and apply it liberally? Might we be - dare I say it - content? How could life be different if we could stop believing it's all about us and all up to us? It never has been you know.



Even more important, what if those around us could relax in our presence because we weren't uptight? What if they didn't feel inadequate because they wonder if they're being held to the same ridiculous standards we hold ourselves to? What if we just said "enough" to the bully?

These are some questions I'd love to find the answers to. How about you? If you've already slayed your perfectionism demon, please, I'm begging you, - share your secrets!

17 comments:

  1. Anita – equating perfectionism with a bully is a perfect analogy! I hadn’t thought of that, but it truly fits. I so got it when you looked at your carpet “and realized that it absolutely had to be cleaned before the family came…” I think what made me tame my bully was seeing the effect my behaviour had on others. You are right, when the bully takes over, we lash out negatively, putting others on edge and making them feel inadequate – they feel they’ve done something wrong at the same time we are blaming ourselves, not them. It helps when our partner and others understand us, but still it’s not fair to them – and it’s not fair to us either.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kate

      I'm so glad to hear you've beaten the demon. It gives me hope. Since the carpet insanity I'm making a concentrated effort to check myself - and more importantly - I've enlisted my husband to help point out the edge before I plunge over it. Accountability will be helpful I'm sure.

      You're right about our stress spilling over onto others and I hate that part even more than driving myself crazy. I wouldn't wish this affliction on anyone so imposing it on the people I care most about makes it worth every effort to overcome. My husband is very understanding and patient - but I hate that he needs to be!

      Maybe I'll get a "Recovering Perfectionist" tee-shirt and print "Remind Me To GET OVER MYSELF" on the back. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

      Delete
  2. ouch! as someone who's life (and especially writing) is so far over the perfection line that it veers into the OCD forest, this rang bells. We have been sold this myth that we CAN have the perfect life/home/family/body ..but as you say, the expectation causes health and other problems. Maybe we need to focus on the word 'contentment'...and learn that if we have health/loving family friends, that is sufficient.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great insights Carol. "Content" should be the new "perfect." I'm making progress! I stopped myself from trying to remove the fold lines from PLASTIC table cloths with a blow drier. If an event is casual enough for plastic, it's casual enough for wrinkles I decided. No one should ever NEED to decide that! :/ Baby steps!

      Delete
  3. Let me just throw in my two cents. If we’re perfectionists, we never get over it. We’re always recovering. Like a certain group of folks who call themselves friends of Bill. We can remind ourselves each day to Let Go and do our best. That’s all any of us can ever do—our best. Now as for whether I’ve done my best today . . . hmmmm let me get back to you on that.

    Nice post, Anita! Especially this quote: "Let me pour you a tall glass of get over it."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been drinking a lot of those tall glass drinks lately Jann! The sweatshirt I mentioned in another comment may need to be changed to say: Recovering Perfectionist: Don't Let Me Make It Your Problem.
      It's such a miserable thing to do to those we love.
      Thanks for your thoughts!

      Delete
  4. If you haven't seen Brene Brown's Ted Talk on vulnerability, Anita, it's very helpful where perfectionism is concerned. All of her books are. https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=en

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Paula! I'll give it a look.

      Delete
    2. Just watched Brene's talk. WOW. Did I need that. Thanks you!

      Delete
  5. Hello, When gone through your blog for the first time, I found this to be quite interesting. LOVELY!!!. And this is infact a good inspiration for all the fellow readers. Keep up your sharing the best.
    Writer @ college essay writing service

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Cathy for taking time to visit my blog. I'm glad you found this post inspirational. Writing it has helped me take a good look at how crazy perfectionism is and helped me get a grip on it. I'm not "perfect" at it yet - THANK GOODNESS! -

      Delete
  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Quality of the essay is the most important factor to be determined. Our company find whether the students is fully satisfied with the results or not. If the essay which is delivered is not on the top quality, the essay writing company ratings is lowered!We http://www.perfectessaysonline.com will produce the best quality work for you!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hello! It's the reason that millions of other imperfect bodies can enjoy being at the pol in swimsuits. If you looking for good essay visit custom term papers.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Well, that is good to read your point of you about perfectionism. I was given a task to write all my thoughts about it in the essay and instead of doing it by myself, I prefered >essay help with it from http://best-essays-writers.org

    ReplyDelete
  10. That is very serious problem. You have to be very careful to your child.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Every day numerous students from the US and abroad buy various types of essays. It’s completely legitimate to order custom essay writing services. Our advantage is that we write original papers from scratch and especially for you. So, it’s completely up to you how to use the essay you bought!

    ReplyDelete