7 Habits of the Serious Perfectionist

Those of you who saw my blog post on Facebook YESTERDAY, may notice that this title looks familiar. Halfway through writing yesterday’s post, I decided to split my post into 2 (maybe even 3), since I thought it might get a little long. What I forgot to do was change the title.

Oh, the irony!

You remember, my post on how I am overcoming perfectionist tendencies? Yeah! Well, I am happy to report that no meltdowns occurred. 🙂 I simply chuckled, shrugged, and changed the title, but too late for Facebook, apparently. Oh, well.

I DO have a post for you about some details I’ve worked through regarding perfectionism. Mostly, I’ve gleaned a lot of this from reading here and there and letting it marinate in my mind. I do not take credit for the ideas, because they are not new. But I will write about how the ideas affected me personally, and hopefully avoid blatant plagiarism.

Habits that I do battle with.

1. Setting Unrealistic Standards.

Pinterest. Real Simple magazine. YouTube make-up tutorials. Foolproof parenting methods. All these things have, at one time or another (or even now), created a dissatisfaction with my current life. I cannot tell you the number of times I would sit down to “enjoy” a magazine, only to be driven from my comfy but outdated chair with an extreme vendetta against every speck of dirt in my home. I’m sure we can all say the comforting truths: “These pictures are photo-shopped. No one my age can have that kind of complexion. Those homes haven’t had a child in them for a week while a group of stylists worked night and day to ready them for the photo-shoot.”

Well, while true, these statements are hardly comforting to the perfectionist. Because we what we BELIEVE deep down is different than the reality. “I SHOULD be able to make all the homemade cleaners, grow my own food, raise well-behaved children, etc. because, well, look at all the photographic evidence depicting the rest of the world doing the same thing.” We believe what we see. Even when REPEATEDLY our actual experience proves that we just can’t do it. We press on in vain.

The expectations are rigid and inflexible. And they just don’t jive with humanity. Circumstances change, people need room to grow and change. And relationships certainly don’t flourish under the harsh glare of impossible standards. See, my pursuit of this unattainable life creeps into the lives of those I love. I become frustrated when other people don’t work to help meet the unrealistic expectation I have set. This puts strain on my precious ones, and deprives our lives of joy and peace.

2. Procrastination.

I absolutely HATE setting appointments. Especially doctor’s appointments. This week I am supposed to be doing that very thing, and, well, I guess I’ve got to do it TODAY. Because procrastination.

What I’m good at? Planning. And planning. And planning. I have planned no less than 7 home remodels in my head. In my adult life, I’ve lived in 3 homes. And 2 of them were new. The only one ACTUALLY in need of remodeling is the one I currently live in. I am so thankful to be married to a man of action who is busily chipping away at my plans a bit each week. Because if it were up to me? I would probably just keep planning.

Why does procrastination plague the perfectionist? Because we don’t want to start something without the certainty that it will be perfect. And these things are just not under our control, so we hesitate, sometimes until it’s too late.

3. Self-criticism. 

Once a perfectionist does get around to doing a thing, the next task is to endlessly pick it apart, finding every single aspect that doesn’t measure up, and give herself a beating over it. This was not really one of the traits I had ever experienced until I had children. I could put my work out there and live with the results, whether it was a meal prepared for guests, a house that wasn’t QUITE perfect (only I would have known), a paper written for school, or anything really (except doctors’ appointments).

But when my children came along and could not be controlled by my most ardent efforts, I berated myself continually. Why could everyone else manage to have perfectly behaved children (at least in public), while my own children drew the irritated stares of everyone around them. Let me tell you, this did NOT bless my relationship with my children. It took me YEARS to understand that “train up your child in the way he should go” did not mean that I was given the means to CONTROL an autonomous human being. Yeah, still learning that one.

4. Self-defense mechanisms.

So, while a perfectionist is OVERLY critical of herself (and quite possibly others as well), what she can NOT handle is another person even offering constructive advice. She will get very defensive. Such interactions prove to the perfectionist that her greatest fears are true – she is unworthy of love and acceptance.

I’m an extrovert (barely, but still), so when I notice that I start isolating, I have to stop and ask myself why I am feeling judged. Most of the time, it’s in my own mind. Misinterpreting something a friend says, a sideways look from someone in the store, or even a phrase from a sermon can send me into days of overthinking and second-guessing their intentions. This, as you may guess, makes deep relationships difficult. Well, I’m still navigating this one, and it’s a bit bumpy for me at times.

To be continued…



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