What better day is there to feature a guest blog post about perfectionism? 🙂
I wasn’t really aware of it but for most of my life I had this mentality that if I couldn’t do something perfectly I just wouldn’t do it all. This meant that sometimes I would perform to my optimal ability and the results would be great, but more often than not it meant that I just didn’t do whatever it was I was supposed to do, or planned to do. I would be afraid that I wasn’t going to be perfect and so rather then prove that this was true, I would just avoid trying new things and avoid possibly failing. I would never talk to another person the way that I talked to myself. The horrible things that I used to say to myself would have left most people in tears and broken. One of the hardest things I have had to learn again was to myself in a different matter. I have learned a lot about the power of positive self-talk and the role that plays in self-forgiveness.
It is strange because I have found that many addicts and alcoholics express this same issue and for a people who are known to consistently screw things up during their active addiction, having a perfectionist mindset almost sounds counterintuitive. It is one of those dichotomies of addiction that you have to experience to understand and for many alcoholics and addicts, myself include, the want for perfection actually causes them to stay sick for a long time.
I know that it did for me because I would always put so much pressure on myself to be perfect that I would enviably buckle under that pressure and grab for a bottle or a pill. I just couldn’t live up to my own expectations and because of this I often times failed at what I was doing before I even set out to try it. It really was a miserable way to live and I would try to justify why I didn’t do something or why I failed at something by saying, “If I had really tried it would have been different” or “I didn’t do this or that because I didn’t want to” but the reality is I was just scared to not be perfect because of what that meant to me.
Not being perfect was a big deal to me because I at some point in my life made the agreement with myself that all love was contingent on performance. This means that I believed that people would only love me if I was good enough or I performed well enough and that as soon as I fell below the threshold of perfectionism that I had set out to achieve they would abandon me. I couldn’t fathom that people loved me for who I was and this is because I hated myself and so therefore I assumed that everyone else did as well.
I believed that if I only achieved this or did this, then I would be good enough for myself and in turn be good enough for people to love. As you can probably already tell this sort of thinking didn’t really work out for me and while I would feel accomplished for fleeting periods of time, achieving “perfection” never really brought about the feelings that I wanted. I was always left feeling like I was lacking something and after the self-congratulation ended I was left with my underlying self-rejection and feelings of being unlovable.
When I got sober I had to face a lot of this. I had to face the fact that I was human and let me tell you that was probably the most difficult things for me to do. I had to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t a superwoman and crazy as it sounds, I had to forgive myself for this. I actually had to forgive myself for not being perfect. Finally let myself off the hook, so that I could be comfortable in my own skin. Finally be comfortable with the fact that I, of myself, was enough and that love is not predicated on how well I performed that day.
The thing that really allowed this to happen was coming to understand that God loved me regardless of how I acted. That infinite power that loves me wasn’t sitting around somewhere with a book saying, “I’ll give Rose 30% love today because she’s only acted 30% good.” That’s insane and when I came to realize that God loved me no matter what and that God had forgiven me for all of my transgressions already, I began to see that I had to forgive myself as well.
This way of thinking completely changed my life and it opened the door for me to just relax and do the best that I could. I didn’t need to be perfect anymore. I could fail. I could try new things and I could admit that I didn’t know how to do something. Imagine that. Perfect me admitting that I didn’t have all of the answers. It was really very freeing and in doing so I actually found, paradoxically, that my performance got better. By not holding myself to an impossible standard I was able to do better at work. I was able to do better within my family. And I was able to do better as a friend because I wasn’t so rigid in my belief that everything had to be a particular way or it was a failure.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still sometimes today when I believe that I have to be perfect or everyone will leave me, and I’ll be a completely alone failure, but for the most part I have learned to love myself to the degree where I can see the fallacy in this thinking. I have more of a desire to be myself, with all of the failings and successes, then to be an automaton robot who goes around pretending to be perfect all of the time. It isn’t always easy to set aside my pre-programmed want for perfection, but with each passing day, I get better at it. I get more comfortable in my skin and I learn to forgive myself, and others, more and more.
Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.