I consider myself a recovering perfectionist. I don’t think I can ever be cured of it, but I do what I can to keep this part from causing me unnecessary suffering.
Perfectionists come in many varieties. I am not the type that is meticulous about my appearance or my house. I don’t spend hours on assignments or projects trying to get everything just right. I am more of the variety that cannot tolerate failing, being terrible at something, or making a mistake.
I was one of those annoying students who thought that a C was failing. I didn’t get many of them, but when I did I cried hysterically to my professor, begging for some way to redeem myself. To this day, I think back on the one C I got in college and think, wow I wonder how my life would have been different if had I at least gotten a B in Anthropology. And then the voice of reality kicks in and reminds me that it wouldn’t have made any difference.
It’s hard for me to do something I’m terrible at. I once went bowling and played two games. In the first game I scored a 16 and in the second one I scored a 31. I’m pretty sure that most 5 year olds could score better than that. And I’m sure that with practice I could improve my average. But the thought of doing something where I am at risk of embarrassing myself is too anxiety-provoking, and it’s easier to choose something that I’m good at like tennis.
Making a mistake–particularly one where I am chastised for doing something wrong–is the hardest of all. As I indicated in a previous post, criticism sends me into a spiral of anxiety, self-doubt, and shame that far exceeds what might ordinarily be expected from the actual remark, which might be something as innocuous as “I thought that ball was in.” I never forget a mistake, and I try never to make the same mistake twice.
Blogging has been an opportunity to practice something that I do well–writing and talking about myself–along with something where I have no idea what I’m doing—promoting my blog. While the writing part is going surprisingly well, the promoting part is a constant source of stress.
For example, I did not realize that publishing multiple posts in a community in a short period of time constitutes spam, and when you do this the administer of the site will remove your posts. Which means I broke the rules and have been punished accordingly. Now I’m terrified of doing anything out of fear that I may unknowingly further violate protocol.
So I’ve decided to take a break from promotion and write a blog post instead. This is the part I really like, anyway. And I’m trying to remind myself that it is OK to make mistakes. That no one knows what they’re doing before they do it. That it doesn’t make me a bad person. That I don’t have to be perfect.
And then I took an Ativan, because that’s what my psychiatrist told me to do when I’m having an anxiety attack.
Another good blog! I don't think I am a perfectionist ~ but I hate to make mistakes ~ like letting someone pass me down the line more than 2 times in a match!!
Oops! Accidentally deleted my reply. I'm sure that doesn't happen often!
This is the 2nd post I've read of yours. You sound like me! LOL. I cannot handle criticism by any means. It knocks my down a peg or 2. But I lack knowing my own self-worth and remembering that criticism leads to improvement. Projects, essays, cleaning, organizing (especially my life) and planning are all things I do try to perfect to my own satisfaction but somehow or another, it never goes my way.
Thank you, once again, for sharing!
I try to tell myself those things too. But sometimes I still need the Atavan!
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When I was a kid with an eating disorder, my Dad picked me up from the therapist and asked what we talked about. I told him that I learned I was a perfectionist, and my Dad said, “If you’re such a perfectionist, why are you late returning books to the library?” For some reason, that comment hurt so much I remember it still.