Home » change » Bear with me–I’m a recovering perfectionist

Bear with me–I’m a recovering perfectionist

I have many big plans. I am going to read all the classics. I am going to write a blog post every day. I am going to start a vegetable garden, and teach my son sign language, and start my own business as a freelance copywriter.

But for all my planning, I have don’t have much going on. I am, it seems, overwhelmed by possibility and unable to see what I should do first. Combine that with past starts-and-stops that have ended in failure, and I have a recipe for stagnation.

One of the most paralyzing symptoms of perfectionism (and my tendency for over-analysis) is that thinking about things is great, but actually starting things is nearly impossible. For a recovering perfectionist, the entire process of a project must be perfect—I must be an expert and get everything right along the way. I struggle with the idea of learning as I go.

I have a pretty vivid memory of the burgeoning of my perfectionist tendencies when I was five years old and about to start first grade. I remember telling my mother that I was scared to go to school. I couldn’t go to school. In school, the children knew how to read and write and add numbers, and I didn’t know how to do any of that. “You don’t go to school already knowing those things,” she insisted, “you go to school to learn.”

I guess it is natural to be scared of what we don’t know. We derive confidence from knowing what to do and expect, but these things absolutely must come from experience. From mistakes. From sounding like an idiot from time to time.
My whole life I have felt like I need to do everything perfectly or else not at all. Which, as I mentioned, has a chilling and paralyzing effect on me. I shun criticism and rejection more than most people. I am extraordinarily hard on myself.

What I’m getting at is this: to this point, I have deprived myself of some great experiences due to my oppressive perfectionism and fear. And I need to stop this very moment. And I may fail, go back to my ways, and get frustrated with my failure. But I have to try again. Do something. Be humble. But be Interesting.

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14 thoughts on “Bear with me–I’m a recovering perfectionist

  1. Wow…can I identify with this!

    I THINK I’m getting better at jumping in and exploring things, and not allowing a fear of looking stupid to keep me from at least trying. But it’s still definitely such an ongoing challenge!

    I really liked how you ended this: that it’s the trying things (even if you fall on your face) that keeps you (and life, too!) interesting. I have to remember that.

    Thanks for this nice post!!

    • Thanks for the comment!

      I notice I tend to fall back into the same pattern, but I think what’s important is to recognize it when it happens and try not to let it stop you 🙂

      Best of luck to you!

  2. What a great and honest post. Perfectionism is such an easy trap to fall into! I have been there as well. Perfection is elusive and not really true, I think. Perfectionism usually stems from feeling like we have to “be in control” of things. I’ve learned that surrendering things is the best way to feel more in control. It’s very liberating. Here’s a good quote you reminded me of in this post: “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” George Bernard Shaw

  3. I loved this post! You and I are so much alike. 🙂 Keep writing! Your posts have been inspiring, especially this one. I look forward to reading more about your journey and to taking away tips on overcoming fear and perfectionism and living my own balanced and grace-filled life. Congrats on your blog!

  4. Goodness yes! I am the same way sometimes! It takes a while to get comfortable with failing time and again. And trying things that may or may not turn out in your favor.
    Good luck in your recovery, fellow traveler! 🙂

    • I agree. It might seem strange, but I think my perfectionism is more of a personality trait I am trying to overcome, since it often gets in the way of doing things average or otherwise. Perfectionism is, in a lot of ways, a hyperactive fear of failure!

  5. I identify with so much of this. I had a little boy just over two years ago and he has taught me that sometimes good enough is actually good enough. (The subtitle of my blog is ‘Learning that we don’t have to be perfect to be happy.’) I see from your other posts that you’re a mother too. It’s about getting the important things right and enjoying the journey. Kx

  6. My daughter is teaching me a lot about perfectionism. She is six and naturally quite good at most things she tries. She is reading at the level of an 8 or 9 year old but complained that she wasn’t a good reader because she needed help with the words. I pointed out that the words had become harder so she was still being challenged and stretched. A week, later, she was telling me that she could read better than me. Not because of my advice, I’m sure. The wind must have changed LOL. She has also had trouble with the violin. I am learning the violin as well and it is a very humbling experience for a perfectionist but we are both developing resilience.
    I feel quite frustrated with my daughter at times when she can’t see her own abilities. It’s like trying to convince someone the sun is shining and all they see is dark clouds. I feel like screaming “wake up!!!”
    I encourage you on your journey and am enjoying your blog!

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