I used to call myself a “reformed” perfectionist because my house was sometimes messy and I’d surrendered to the chaos. Laundry baskets were heaped with folded clothes and shoes were piled near the front door. I’d leave dishes in the sink overnight.
Rather than feel despair, I accepted the flaws in my life and in myself. A perfectionist wouldn’t allow it. I’d joke about not being Martha-Stewart-approved. Ha ha ha, I’d laugh without mirth.
A perfectionist definitely wouldn’t live like this.
Recently, I’ve indulged in naval gazing via a personality typing system which pegged me as a perfectionist, one who desires to improve, to reform situations and to bring order to chaos.
I realize now that my belief that I am never quite good enough is part of perfectionism. My looming fear is that I am at the core a bad person. Consequently, I try to hide that fact by doing the right thing as much as I can. Frankly, it’s exhausting. (It’s also why criticism stings so fiercely.)
Unfortunately for those around me, I also see their flaws and mistakes so my bossy side comes out. Please use this pan (it’s the right one). Do this paperwork that way. Put your stuff where it belongs. Do this, then that. Why? Because it’s right.
I want to do the right thing. I want everyone to do the right thing. I believe there is a right way and a wrong way and I’ve spent a lifetime trying to pinpoint the right way. Furthermore, I want everyone else to do things the right way. (I’m looking at you, idiot driver, merging onto the freeway “wrong.”)
I’ve lived a lifetime being called “Miss Perfect” and being accused of thinking I am perfect when inside, I am so aware of my flaws that I want to cry. I am mortified by mistakes I made as a child, by flubs and missteps taken as a teenager. Just a glimpse into a mirror or my closet has my inner critic yelling at what she sees.
I was a “perfect” kid growing up–if you weren’t inside my head. I never caused any trouble, other than that time in seventh grade when I was sent to the principal’s office for questioning a teacher’s decision to run through every single question and answer on a worksheet. I followed rules, I made good choices, I avoided the rebels and the troublemakers. I won awards and certificates and accolades.
But once I realized I would never be a concert pianist, I stopped practicing enough. I’d laugh and call myself a renaissance woman because I’d tried so many things but do you see me perfect any of those things? No.
Why when my inner critic was so loud and nit-picky? I thought the voice in my head was just me observing myself and drawing conclusions but come to find out, most of you don’t have an inner critic who is constantly nagging you and criticizing you and telling you that you will never be good enough.
Fortunately, along with age comes a realization that this life is really just a vapor. Do you really want to spend it trying to control the uncontrollable? Do you really want to listen to that mean voice in your head all the time? Do you care that you aren’t perfect and never will be?
No. (Well, a little bit if we’re being frank.)
But I really do wish you’d all do things the right way . . . which, shockingly enough, is my way. (Trust me, I’ve done the research.)