The Pitfalls of Perfectionism
I am a Perfectionist
Not the clinical diagnosis of perfectionist with OCD (Obsessive-compulsive disorder) tendencies, although sometimes I wonder, but I am someone who gets a sick feeling in her stomach, when the house is a mess or my face doesn't look just right, or my clothes don't fit "perfectly" on my body.
I can remember being this way since childhood. Well, no, my room wasn't neat and clean and my parents could attest to the messes I'd leave behind, but my dolls were always perfect with combed hair and adorable outfits. As I grew into a teenager, spending an hour blow-drying my hair to perfection was never out of the question, although this did morph into a morning shampoo and a tight ponytail, because not only am I a perfectionist, I'm impatient - ugh! How did this happen?
Self Worth and Perfectionism
If the house looks good, I look good.
If I look good, I am good.
Reminds me of the white glove test. The over-controlling mother-in-law of yesteryear who would check the house for dust and if she found some on her white glove, it would confirm her son's wife wasn't good enough for him.
When I was first married (almost four decades ago) my mother-in-law seemed to have it all together; a neat, clean home, she was always dressed just right for every occasion, and she appeared in total charge of her world. I needed to make a good impression, so I reserved every weekend for cleaning my house from top to bottom, spraying Pledge like a mad woman and getting onto my hands and knees to wash floors (no wonder my knees hurt, today!) I won her over, eventually, but it had nothing to do with how I kept house, although the "feeling" of being judged for the way my house looks has apparently stayed with me. Time to let go. In fact, it's way past time to let go. It's been almost forty years - what am I doing?
A Need for Control
I'm an only child. Every make-believe scenario I created was up to me - no one else had a say. I think I carried that sentiment into my neighborhood friendships growing up and then into adult relationships. I've always prided myself on being a giving person, sharing and trying to get along, but do I really have to control outcomes? Am I disappointed if things don't turn out exactly as I've envisioned them in my head? Perhaps that's why I try so hard to plan the perfect party, sleepover, or family trip. I believe that if every hour is planned then everyone will be happy, because if someone is unhappy, then I've failed. I am realizing that it's not up to me to keep everyone happy. I can do my best to plan an event, but the experience is up to everyone else.
Fear of Disapproval
Perhaps someone pointed out a flaw, once. Or, criticized the way I carried out a task. I really don't know where this fear came from, but if I think about it, I can remember disappointments when someone else was chosen over me. That's something we all face in life and unrealistically high expectations can be self-imposed or created by a parent or parent-figure whose own dreams of the ultimate success story were imposed on us.
Think of the pageant mom who pushes her 5-year-old daughter into an unrealistic image of an adult woman to fulfill her own dreams of being the most beautiful woman on the planet. Whatever has created these mostly unachievable expectations in us, must be released in order to avoid and dissolve the resulting anxiety, stress, and worry that is the fruit of these unhealthy thoughts and beliefs.
Positive self-talk and creating an environment where we feel safe can begin to erase the "stories" in our heads. We do have the power to move away from these untruths, beliefs that grew out of our childhood mind, the one that could so easily be influenced by those with good or not so good intentions.
There is Help
The next time you are going into a situation where you feel anxious, say to yourself, "I am safe."
You can even say, "I am safe with _______." You fill in the person's name.
Avoid comparing yourself to others. Remember when you judge another you are literally judging yourself.
And, lastly, practice mindfulness and staying present in the moment. Focus on where you are right now and don't worry about the past or the future.
If you feel your worry and anxiety are too great for you to conquer on your own, talk with a professional. A counselor or a therapist who can guide you to a treatment plan. There is no need to suffer through life. God wants us to enjoy our lives. He wants us to be happy and love each other.
Trust God to make everything perfect and be thankful in every situation. Even those situations that break your heart - there is always something to be thankful for. This is what heals - this is what will open your heart to joy.
Be blessed dear friend. We are all brothers and sisters in the family of our Heavenly Father.
All my best,