Perfectionism – perfection
I am very familiar with the concept of Perfectionism, having struggled almost my entire adult life with it on various levels.
I have found it to be rather like an oversized bag of heavy rocks that attaches itself to my back, that weighs me down, and prevents me from enjoying life as I should.
In my twenties and thirties I was ruthless with myself. I had to be perfect at work, my home had to be spotless, and my appearance had to be immaculate, fashionable, and put-together. It was a sign of ultimate weakness to stay home if I had a bad cold or flu. That was not being a good employee. By God you show up even if you have a fever and can’t see straight or have a second head growing out of your knee, because that kind of strength is hallowed and seen as “pushing through”, which is lauded, particularly in corporate environments, and especially as a woman. You never want to see men taking note that you had to leave the board meeting early because of (gasp!) cramps.
My modus operandus for years was: Make no mistakes (which of course is not possible, so you are doomed to fail), ensure that at all costs you are seen to be concscientous, hard-working, diligent, loyal and look fabulous and immaculate doing it. No pressure there, nope.
When I did make a mistake in my early career, I would be in tears. The pressure I put on myself to do a perfect job, have a perfect look and do and say all the perfect things caused a staggering amount of stress.
As I am approaching the middle of life, I am grateful to have learned some things:
- It is perfectly alright to make a mistake – rather than stay in the self-flagellation stage of needing to be punished for that mistake, and ponder how stupid I am, it becomes how fast can I fix it (a much more resourceful option).
- I have value in the present, in this moment, just as myself, whether or not I am fighting a midlife “softening” of my former hard-body thin self (half of that “thin self” was the utter anxiety and stress that came from needing to be perfect; add a wonderful man who was a former chef to that mix in midlife, and let’s just say, there has been an expansion of the midsection, but also a great contentment).
- I KNOW when I am ill, and I WILL stay home from work, and I will NOT feel insanely guilty about it, and say sorry 50 times to my superior. At 48, I know my body, I know myself, and if I am sick I bloody well stay home. I no longer need to be a martyr and go in to work and be some kind of hero when my lungs are falling out from bronchitis. I will no longer be a prisoner to false guilt.
Being neurotically house-proud is for the Retired, or those who have the time to put into it. My husband and I both work full-time outside the home. We have two big shedding doggies who will drop hairs as fast as I can vacuum them up. Their paws will bring in the residue of all 4 Seasons, and spread it joyfully throughout the house, carpets be damned. It is a slow road to madness to try to keep a “Show Home” quality house when you have puppies. But their love and antics make our lives complete.
- I have learned how to nurture my highly sensitive little soul. Taking time to read, meditate, pray, have a bath, get a massage, do something life-giving – just because I recognize the need for my mental/emotional/spiritual tank needs to be refilled.
I believe many women in particular suffer with this, and many women have struggled with the idea that you can have it all, be a perfect Mommy, and be a perfect Executive, and a Perfect Wife….and all the while dying for a break somewhere, and to feel like they are “enough”
Have you suffered with Perfectionism? Have you found your way out of it? If so, what has worked for you? Have you learned more ways to be kinder to yourself?