Hi. I’m Catherine, and I’m a Perfectionist, and yes – the struggle is real!
You have high expectations of yourself and/or the people and world around you. And here’s the thing: underneath it all, you mean well. Better than “well” – you want THE BEST for yourself and everyone and everything around you.
Because you deserve it. Because they deserve it too. Because if you and everyone else did their upmost all the time, we just might live in a better world and live better lives.
We just want to feel good.
It’s so frustrating that nobody else understands that, I know – if they could just do or stop doing that annoying thing, or if the situation could be resolved, then it would be so much better for all of us.
Because they’ve got potential, they could do so much, go so far, achieve all their dreams too. And when they do? We’ll all benefit and will be happier for it.
You love them. You want the best for them.
It sometimes feels like they don’t want the best for themselves.
Why the hell wouldn’t they want the best for themselves?! Don’t they want to be happy?
Yeah, I know – you can lead a horse to water and even chastise it for not drinking, but that gets you nowhere…and underneath it all, you know it.
But sometimes, it’s not even that – it’s just plain embarrassing and humiliating to have to deal with these things and to try and look respectable, to keep your standing within the community, and hope that people won’t gossip about how unruly your children are, or how your partner isn’t good enough for your or is too good for you, or how you said or did something that is brought up over and over again for their own amusement – good grief! She/he isn’t perfect! HAAAAA!
And yet, what you do for and to others is nothing compared to what you do to yourself:
Planning. Revised planning. Execute part of the plan. Scrap it all because it was in the wrong order and you convince yourself it will never be good enough like that. Silently scream at yourself for getting it wrong. Eventually you start again. Good, that bit was perfect. What about the next bit? Uh-oh.
You can’t let it go either. It’s not perfect yet to show the world. They will judge you if you release anything less than perfect – everyone is out to get you one way or another, they’re looking for ways to prove you’ve failed and drag you down into the pits again. Check it over. Check it again. And again. Is it completely impervious?
And if anyone dares to tell you that “you can only do your best”? Poor fools, don’t they realise that it’s not *your best* which counts, but *the best*? They’ve settled for less their entire lives without realising it.
Or have they?…
When did this all begin?
We’ve all got different stories as to where this began. Me? “Good girl” syndrome – it felt like I was loved and appreciated for what I did and not who I was. “Good girls” are loved and will continue to rise, “bad girls” are hated, abandoned, and left to rot with the rest of society.
Really, that’s what it felt like for the majority of my (relatively young) life.
“If I could just be perfect and do everything perfectly – I’ll finally be loved for who I am too.”
Did you ever reach that juncture where it all just got too much, and you just let stuff go and decided to take whatever flack came your way?
How badly did it hurt?
For me, it was excruciating, but I was so fed up of maintaining the perfect shield that I just took it as it came. Everyone important to me telling me that I was weak, that I disappointed them, that they expected so much more of me, from me. I’d burst everyone’s bubbles, and they felt deceived.
It seems the ones who love us are the ones who we deceive.
Y’see, my particular reason for the perfection deception was in order to feel safe and loved, and in that safety and love?
I hoped I would be happy.
Except that I never truly was happy in all of that.
I read a wonderful email from Tara Mohr in the last couple of weeks about what the first question is that you need to ask yourself, whenever you find yourself in any painful or uncomfortable situation. Tara is currently enrolled on a class on The Power Of Awareness, being run by Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield, and the question we all need to ask ourselves when we are in painful situations is this:
“How do you relate to yourself in your situation?”
When you’re in the heat of the perfectionist “I gotta get everything right and so does everyone and everything else right!” mode: how are you relating to yourself?
Are you angry with yourself (and everyone/thing else)?
Are you telling yourself punishing things about never being good enough, or not being deserving enough if you just can’t do that thing?
Are you witholding the things you want or need in order to achieve some lofty goal you set yourself (or feel that society has set for you)?
Certainly for me, I get easily frustrated with myself.
“I have the time and space, I should do this/that.”
“My dreams aren’t gonna achieve themselves, gotta do it…otherwise you’re a miserable failure!”
Urgh, even writing all of this blog post is stirring all that angst in me, to be honest, and it hurts.
But here’s the thing:
You can always choose to be kinder to yourself.
We can choose to be kinder to ourselves.
And in Tara Mohr’s words, because she summed it up beautifully:
“Whatever you are bothered by the most in yourself or your life, whatever you are struggling with the most, can you see your own suffering, your own trying, your own dear heart, and be kinder to youself about it?”
Because beating yourself and everyone else up around you adds to the misery and suffering of the world. As corny as it sounds, it really does begin within you, and within me.
Perfection is, and always will be, the lie that some of us are more prone to be seduced by than others.
Yet, there are also great qualities in perfectionistic behaviour that are worth keeping:
- A willingness and initiative to put in the necessary hard work – so put that necessary hard work into something you love, not what other people tell you that you should love.
- The extraordinary ability to align people and resources to pull off great feats – really, that’s much less common a quality than you realise, and draws people towards you as a leader, even if maybe you’re better as a manager than an actual leader (leaders come up with the ideas and make decisions, managers take those ideas and decisions and make it happen).
- By having high standards, you are great at “maximising” ideas and creations – and by that I mean, some people are best at getting things off the ground, and some people are best at making those things as efficient as possible without compromising on quality: the latter is “maximising”, you maximise the potential of ideas and creations. The trick with this is to realise that there is only so much you can do by yourself, and only so much you can do to maximise something, and when it’s as good as you can make it, you have to find your “fuck-it” button and let it get out there into the world. My own balance? About 80-90% good to go is good enough for me, and I’ll run with it as it goes from that point onwards. You’ll find your own balance when you experiment and see how you feel when you let things go.
The main quality to drop, for your own sanity, is the obsession with how you will be perceived by others – because the sad reality is that they are much more obsessed with themselves than they ever will be with you. Those things they say and do to you? Are a reflection of them, not you.
Those people? You could hand them all the gold in the world to try and make them happy, and they will complain that it’s heavy. Really.
So, in kindness to yourself, think and feel into what you really want and need, not what they really want and need, or what you think they really want or need. Stop deflecting from yourself for once. Don’t be scared – it’s only your soul talking, and it never wants to hurt you.
Will you listen?