Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a dangerous thing. It feels at once virtuous and impossible. Striving for it is defeating. There are moments of joy brought on by achieving greatness, but the journey is peppered with aching feelings of unworthiness and being less than. It's terrible to feel unable to measure up to others' standards. It's worse to be unable to measure up to one's own.

Perfectionism is something which still haunts me today. I can see evidence of it in numerous areas of my life. I feel the way it holds me sequestered in my own home. My house is rarely "perfect". I rarely have neighbors knock at my door. The likelihood of those two events happening simultaneously... I usually do not open the door. I pretend I'm not home, ignoring the knock. Afraid for anyone to see my imperfections. How many neighbors have I missed out on knowing? How many great conversations have I hidden from? Reclusive in my perfectionism.

I feel it in my fear of speaking. I'm so afraid of saying the wrong thing! Of being seen as stupid. I play conversations through my brain endlessly. My great fear is that my mind will go blank, as often happens when I feel overcome with anxiety. My heart races. I hear the words I plan to say repeat themselves in my head, shutting out even the words of the person speaking to me. So focused am I on getting the conversation "right". Perfectionism here has stunted my relationships with others. It has held me back from forming real connections. From growing as I could. From learning all I can. From learning about myself. The fear and anxiety have held me captive, preventing me from reaching out and sharing with others despite my great desire to do so.

Perfectionism has hampered my work. I take everything incredibly personally. I want to do well by my students. I want my principal to see this. I want my students' parents to see this. As a result, any question, concern, comment, criticism is viewed as a challenge, not just on my work, but as an indictment of ME as a lesser human being. I feel defensive. This attitude often makes things harder for me. "Teaching is not a performance," my first assistant principal once told me... "It's a process. It's not supposed to be perfect. It's supposed to be messy and unpredictable." I needed to hear that... But so many of my principals since then have judged one's teaching ability more on the output, i.e. testing results, than on relationship building, which is at the heart of what I do.

My depression has also made my job so much harder. Because my job depends on my ability to get kids excited about learning, I am extremely hard on myself for my own lack of enthusiasm. For appearing sad. Anyone can hide anything for a short time. But eventually it comes out. I spend the majority of my day with those kids, and they can't help but see my sadness. My depression. I hate feeling depressed. Worse, I hate feeling like a failure because I AM depressed. That has taken me a loooong way from perfect in my job...

Perfectionism has affected my enjoyment and participation in my kickboxing and step classes... I am constantly comparing my current appearance and performance with what it once was. And I simply can't keep up with my past level! I'm working out FAR less than I once was. I'm eating twice as much. I should have MORE energy... But that starvation high is gone. That light-weight bouncy energy is gone. Sometimes it's all I can do to heave my leaden legs above the step. Or kick in time with the fast paced music. My side get stitches where it once never did. I'm gasping for air where I once was cool and calm. I'm sweating and red faced where I once was unaffected, and proudly superior to those gasping and dripping exercisers around me. I'm one of them... The average folk. My brain knows that I am healthier. That my body is better off. But the greedy green-eyed perfectionist wants to rise up and crack the whip. I have settled into mediocrity, it tells me.

For the same reason, I struggle with my bigger size... I understand and accept it for the health I know it is enjoying today. But still, I judge my body harshly, thinking of all the ways in which it could be improved. It's not perfect. It's a long way from perfect.

My recovery is imperfect. I do not fit the right mold. I struggle with labels. With slips. With the fear of relapse. With the fear of recovering. What will I do without my obsessions? What will I do with my time? Where will I point my brain? Without distractions from things I fear, how will I face them? Surely my anxieties will overwhelm me. Surely I will fail. So says my ED brain. It tells me I'm not patient enough. Smart enough. Talented enough. Outgoing enough. Sweet enough. Honest enough. Trusting enough. Guarded enough. Active enough. Hard working enough. Good enough. enough enough enough enough...

And yet I recognize that there is no such thing as perfect!!! It is a fallacy which does not exist! So, how can I allow this thing that cannot BE to so drive me? To make me feel worthless and less than others? Bottom line: I seek perfection in all things because I believe that if I can somehow rise above reproach, then people will HAVE to like me! Ugh... Wrong... Gross... Neediness and weakness, spilled on the page. And yet I strive for it.

Things to work on. That's all this is. A list of things to work on. ♥

Love you all,

Jen

Jen,
Thank you for this. You have expressed yourself and the entire perfectionism issue very very well.
I know how frustrating it is to UNDERSTAND, yet to still feel unable to change.
I love that you can consider this your list to work on...we all have that, whether we realize it or not.
You are a great inspiration Jen!! Love you....Jan ♥

Be careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, you can reach for; perfection is God's business. Smiles, Jen.

Jen: I love Celery's comment: Perfection is God's business.... because only God is perfect. We are not and were never intended to be. But enough spirituality

I might add to what your asst principal said: "Life is not a performance; it's a process". We are never "done" whether it's learning, growing, loving or hurting. I know we all wish there would come a point where everything is perfect and then we would be happy ; but would we? Or would we just raise the bar?
"Perfection" can be whatever you want it to be. It can be just being satisfied and happy for whatever you are and wherever you are at any point in time. (Chapter 6 of my Geenan Roth book). Dont worry folks the book is due back at the library tomorrow so I won't quote it anymore....

But it's so true; I see people all around me who are happy but not "perfect" in my eyes; doesnt' matter, as long as they feel good about themselves.

Not that I am anywhere near this place, but my goal is to be happy just being me. Maureen wrote something today about "underneath it all, it's still me". The sooner we all learn to love ourselves for being who we are, the sooner we can shut down this site.

Love to you Jen
!!!

I would just like to add..this book is a great one for anyone who struggles with this issue.

"Too Perfect: When Being in Control Gets Out of Control"
by Allan Mallinger.
It is available through Amazon, and in many book stores. It reads like a study guide, and was very helpful to me a few years ago.

Jan ♥

Thanks, Jan. Just in time for my next read!

Thank you, everyone. ♥ It was my homework assignment from therapy to journal about how perfectionism is affecting me today. We'll be working on my list. :) I always feel better with feedback from all of you, my support family. Excellence... Yes, perhaps we can begin to strive towards THAT. :) I'll look for the book, Jan! Thanks for the suggestion. ♥ Molly, shut down the site?? No WAY!! I plan to continue coming here after I am all recovered. Afterall, my journey will never be done. ;0)

Love you all! And many thanks! ♥

Jen

Jen: I was kidding when I said "shut down the site". I would love for it to remain and for all of us to recover and then continue to provide support for others who are still struggling. Sometimes I just get carried away with myself... LOL.
Love to you!

Molly, I got the joke. :) You're too funny! I was teasing, too. :)

Love you bunches!!

Jen

Jen,

I may be coming into the discussion a little late. I too am a teacher (highschool) and I am extremely busy with end of the year summative assignments etc... I have not been here to the site in a while.

I was sooo glad to read your account of how "perfectionism" affects your life. You seemed to be writting the words and feelings that are in my head.

I constantly feel as though I suck as a teacher if my students do not do well academically or if I cannot connect with them. I also feel inadequate as a teacher because I compare myself to all the other teachers in the school and I do not do the same things they do, I do not have as exciting a lessons, I do not have field trips, I do not, I do not, I do not.

I cannot excerise with other people because I compare myself to them constantly!!! Hence the reason I run always on my own so I do not have to keep up to someone or compare my distance etc...

I overanalyse everything I say and do because I want it to be the right thing to say or do. And the times that I am a little more spontaneous I rid myself with guilt because I should have done this or that differently.

I too have very few people to my house - usually because I am embarassed at the state that it is in. I have three little children and a husband. My house is never the way I want it. This drives me crazy. I have many conversations with my therapist about the state of my house and how I can never get it the way I want it no matter how hard I try. I have to go back and refold clothes that my husband has folded and put away. I have to rearrange the closets after he is through because they are sooooo not the way I want them.

I feel my perfectionism is a full time job on top of all the other jobs I have. It is very taxing on my mental energy, physical energy, emotional energy etc. Yet at the same time it is not something I can just turn off.

Thank you so much for working through your thought process on line. I am comforted in a sense knowing that my crazy obsessions are not just mine.

Continue to process through your struggle with perfectionism and if I come to any critical breakthroughs I will happily share them with you.

Hugs
Shana

Shana,

I'm sorry you are also struggling with these issues, and yet oddly relieved to find someone that truly understands! :) I'd love to hear more from you. Perhaps once summer is in full-swing for you? ♥

Happy end-of-the-year!!

Jen