When you’re striving perfection for all of the wrong reasons

As anyone that knows me will tell you, I’m a bit of a perfectionist. Well, not just a bit. I’m a major perfectionist. But sometimes I wonder if this trait isn’t due to the desire to be perfect, exactly, but more so because of two reasons.

  1. I have to be perfect to be loved.
  2. I have to be perfect to try to keep my life in control.

Neither of these are good reasons to strive for perfection.

As a kid, my family was very demanding in terms of school, hobbies, etc. Being the best was praised. Falling short was not. Don’t get me wrong, I was never hit or punished or anything, but the disappointment could sometimes be worse. Even if it wasn’t really disappointment, it was definitely perceived by me as such. Questions like “You only got a 90% on this exam? Why didn’t you do better?”

When I was a teenager I was really struggling with mental illness. I didn’t know at the time what it was, but looking back I can see it’s roots back to when I was a preteen. Part of that struggle was that I would take thoughts, situations, interactions, whatever, and twist them into the most negative thing that I could. I, obviously, didn’t mean to do this. I know know that this was the disorder’s doing. And I know that I still do this to this day.

But I have to say, I’m not one of these crazed Type A personalities. Don’t get me wrong, I tick a lot of the boxes. but one that I don’t is that I’m not super competitive. At least not with other people. I compete with my own expectations. I compete with myself, more than anything. So maybe in some way I am competitive.

So bottom line, I guess, is that my skewed thinking patterns originated when I was young, gained traction when I was a teen, were honed and refined in my 20s, and by my 30s were so deeply rooted that they’re impossible to get rid of. And that my perfectionist, Type A (ok, I admit it) personality was born (borne? not sure which one to use) of it.

One of my pieces of homework from therapy from last week was to really feel an emotion, not just identify it and let it pass, but really identify how I feel in that moment. Am I hot? Am I sweaty? Am I smiling? For the record, I hate every moment of this.

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