In my overall search for the “answers” in life, I have come to one very uncomfortable conclusion: I am a perfectionist. I knew this already, but I did not necessarily understand perfectionism itself. I sat down with a few books and got very intimately acquainted with the topic and two things happened: I understood a lot more about why I am certain ways with myself and I felt relief that it doesn’t have to be that way. There was also a lot of sadness, and still is, surrounding this and how it came about.
Do you have one of those voices inside of you telling you that you are unworthy? Mine acts like it gets paid per minute of success – it is constantly there telling me that I spoil my child, that I am ungrateful or snobbish, that I am not worthy of anyone’s love, that I am an utter failure who is holding on by a thin rope, and even sometimes, it tells me that I’m not needed on this earth (not so much in a suicidal way as much as in an unworthy way). My voice even sounds like someone who is a real life person with whom I have a relationship. The shame in that alone …
There have been so many moments of joy that I should have had, unspoiled, but this little voice will say something, or hint at something, which bothers me to the point of hyper focus. What that does is take my focus off of the experience or person in my life and refocuses on my short comings. Legitimately, I have people in my life who do this too and I have learned to do it to myself in such a way that I do not even recognize it. Or, when I have recognized it, I convince myself that it’s part of my self-awareness and self-improvement.
Here’s the rub: perfectionism is not about self-improvement, it is about trying to earn approval and/or love. But guess what? You can’t earn love. It’s not something to be earned. It’s either there or it isn’t,all based on how you create it and allow it to grow. Two people have to actively work on that love. It’s not about a scorecard where if he does this, I love him, if he does not, I do not. Sometimes, I do wish it was that easy, but it isn’t . When you truly love someone, unconditionally, it is not earned. You cannot just give up on love because they hurt you. You can end the relationship, yes, but that does not make the hurt go away, the hurt of losing that love, losing that trust, but alas … another post for another time. The point here is – you cannot earn it, you cultivate it.
Approval is something entirely different. I have associated the two for a very long time, probably my entire life. I have longed for love and approval, feeling of belonging, a sense of place where I am free to be who I really am. I have felt trapped in a fake self, trying to find the right place, befriend the right people, have the right kind of life. I worked hard for that, found it, and realized it did not bring me joy. I’m trying to re-find it and I have glimpses of joy, but it’s not always sustained. If you have that voice saying you’re not perfect, just look around, you are not loved or approved … well, you will find it.
I honestly feel like the side of me that strives for perfection has actually hurt me a great deal. I have not improved in any way, instead, the shame of everything I have done wrong replays in my head on a speed loop, pushing me further and further back into my hole of despair. Depression, anxiety, life paralysis (Yes, oh my goodness yes, this is me … someone has actually said this), missing opportunities (also very much me) can all stem from perfectionism. How is it, then, that I have been thinking perfectionism is a good thing, that people who are ambitious and win at life are perfectionists? I have no clue how I came to that conclusion, but I bet that little voice has something to do with it.
I do suffer from depression and anxiety and paralysis of forward progression and I have suffered a lot of missed opportunities. Through my transformation (as I will affectionately call this stage of my life), I have started to realize that it just isn’t working … this perfectionist viewpoint.
Instead, I am incredibly afraid of failing. Of having an amazing person not feel I am worth their time. I am so incredibly afraid of criticism that it is ridiculous. Whenever I get feedback, if it is not 100% positive, I fixate on the negative and try to will myself to do better. But you know what? All it does is make that spot worse – improvement doesn’t stand a chance. It creates this feeling of me being a bad person who is not worth anyone’s time. It has a face, it has a voice, and unfortunately, it has had a hold on my life for far too long.
Guess what? We all go through this – different stages, different levels – but we all go through the shame, blame, we are not perfect and do not deserve cycle. I am trying to have more positive self-talk. I have been writing down the good feedback I’ve been getting and using that to help with my self-talk. I know I am not a snob, I know I am not perfect, and I know that imperfection is wonderful and can openly celebrate it in so many others that I love. We are all different, we have strengths, we have weaknesses, and we are made that way beautifully. I am going to try and remember that …
In the spirit of accepting imperfection, I am not going to proofread this (stupid, yes, but I’m going with the theme here ….). Happy reading, and mind the mistakes.