Lately, I've been doing this thing I do, where I get all tunnel-vision-y (fun with words!) and focus only on what's wrong, or on what's not good enough, according to me. Hence, why you've seen few posts from me ("What do I want to say? It's got to be really good and amazing and change lives and save kittens, and if I don't write about exactly the best thing, then all the kittens will die and I'll hate myself forever in a world without baby cats.").
Alas, but this is familiar territory for me. I am a perfectionist. Even writing that, my mind flashes to you reading this and thinking, "Uh, Bay does a lot of things pretty poorly (I really wanted to say "shit-ally" but couldn't decide on how to correctly spell my made-up profanity. "Shittily? Shitaly?" See? Do you see what I do?"), so she really shouldn't consider herself a perfectionist." Like it's some kind of esteemed title bestowed only upon the truly worthy.
It has me discount all my wins and magnify all my shortcomings. It also has me constantly stuck in comparison, which is a land of misery, and a place where I look to my areas for improvement, instead of places where I excel. It means constant striving, struggle and difficulty. It means satisfaction is fleeting and joy is limited. It makes it feel like I only get one shot. No second chances.
Yep. It's deep.
No seriously, it's deep. This story runs through my veins and exists in every fibre of my being. What I have come to realize — and rail against — is that perfectionism is my way of finding my place in the world. I need to rate myself and the products of my labours against, oh EVERYTHING, in order to know where I fit in (on the bottom, by the way. In case you were wondering where I tend to land in my ratings, I mean.).
Not Good Enough is the name of my game and I'm not winning. How could I? Everything is an indicator of where I'm falling short. Good lord, speaking of falling short, I even avoid acceptance with my height: I say I'm five-foot-six-or-so, when I'm pretty sure I'm closer to five-five. Because an inch taller is better, solely because it is what I am not. Like I had some say in the height I achieved, as opposed to genetics. "If only I'd tried harder, I'd have been taller." Yeah. Makes all kinds of sense, doesn't it?
It is, as they say, ridiculous. (By the way, I just narrowly avoided writing "I am ridiculous," which was my initial thought). I don't want to be this way. It is heartbreaking.
Now, I'm not saying that being a perfectionist, or even demonstrating perfectionistic tendencies, is a bad thing. Not for you and not for me, either. I am glad I'm committed to excellence. I'm glad I'm motivated and try hard at things I care about. But what I am saying is that for me, it's one of the key methods I employ that keeps me striving unhappily to be happy. In my game, I forget about the process and happiness (true, free and no-strings-attached) is only achieved once perfection is attained.
Therein lies the problem.
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You see the problem, don't you? What I'm left with, here and now, is disproval (my own), frustration (mine, too) and dissatisfaction (all me, baby). I'm completely unable to be present and enjoy the ride. All I see is where I'm not yet arrived. Every other thing I care about falls away (like writing my book, reading other people's books, getting to yoga, connecting with friends, making a kick-ass marriage a priority, having laughter and fun and relaxation in my life...) and I'm stuck with the thing I'm determined to fix, like a dour-faced kid stuck at the dinner table, staring discouraged and unhappily at the vegetables she doesn't want to eat on her plate, because otherwise, NO DESSERT.
When I'm fixated on the result and no longer striving for excellence or for the sheer joy of improving or growing, then I'm in for a fall. And, it's a long way down (and it feels like a looooong way back up to the surface again).
Wait — there's more! I also get to be super-annoyed with myself for this whole perfection-makes-me-happy (really?) merry-go-round, so I get to be not good enough at being not able to let it go, too. I chastise myself for not giving up on the perfection game, because I'm a coach and I should know better than to fall for the old perfectionist trap. So I'm not good enough at that, either.
I could keep writing, but I'd just be trying to get it right, so I'll stop. It's not like I can't post again, soon.
Does this sound familiar? Can you relate? What does your perfectionism cost you?
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