ARE YOU PERFECT? GOOD ENOUGH? OKAY? NOT OKAY, BUT STILL GOOD ENOUGH Passing or failing the white glove test? Some members of my extended family are so caught up in perfectionism, they rearrange other people’s stuff to fit their image of perfect. My mother-in-law suffered from this trait of perfectionism and it lapsed over into narcissism–having to make her way the way. I learned to let her have her way as a guest, but breathed a sigh when she departed, and I could once again have my house my way.
Many parents I have observed cannot abide children’s messiness or the mistakes children make. I watched one four-year old write her name in the sand. She left out a letter and that was all her father could see. She wanted praise and deserved it, all she got was correction. Not helpful and she has grown into a young woman who pushes her own children the same way. She is an achiever, but not a happy person and not easy to be around.
My human behavior guru’s Jerome Kagan and Leon Festinger see such behavior as an inability to deal with uncertainty. Kagan sees it as a personality trait meaning the ability to tolerate uncertainty is part of our genetic makeup. Some of us are born to be perfectionists. At the same time, Kagan makes clear that what parents do can reduce the negatives of many personality traits including perfectionism.
Perfectionism has its roots in childhood shame, but carried into adulthood destroys many things including those who try for perfectionism in all areas and those who live with perfectionists. Shame says we are not just wrong about something, but we are flawed, not worthy of being seen or included as a member of the human race. “I wanted to sink through the floor I was so embarrassed.” Here is an article looking at extreme perfectionism and the psychiatric labels it has been given, The article points out both the value and the destructiveness of being too perfectionistic and gives some quick ideas for dealing with it.
STAYING STRONG TIPS: The article gives some good advice. Mine expands on it:
- Do some reality checking and the first reality check should be to find out if others think you are too perfectionistic. Many people do not get how others see them and this seems to be a strong trait among perfectionists. Prefer a more objective evaluation? Here is a link to a quiz said to measure just how perfectionistic a person is.
- Second reality check involves whether perfectionism is too extreme a stance for the situation. A parent would certainly might gently correct a six or seven year old who was mis-spelling her name, but not a four year old. Angry thoughts often lead to shame, but do no harm and often allow anger to be expressed safely instead of being repressed. Moreover, some things are worth doing even poorly–you don’t learn to swim by waiting until you have perfected an Olympian’s stroke.
- Once you have done your reality checking act against perfectionism as often as you can. Leave the dishes in the sink, wear a pair of pants a day longer than usual, don’t take a shower every day, eat that dessert.
- Learn self soothing exercises including One Minute Meditation as presented in Wiki-how to combat perfectionism’s taunting.
- Learn a soothing slogan. Here is my Calming Talk poster. Find a slogan on it that soothes you and say that slogan over and over and over, until it becomes louder and stronger than the negative self talk attached to perfectionism.
- Remember what Matters.
For help with dealing with fear and other negative feelings watch for the release of my Staying Strong Poster Coach. You will be able to download it for free as part of my time limited offers on my webpage page and blog. If you have not yet downloaded When Good Kids Do Bad Things, the free offer expires in two weeks.
Meanwhile. Remember what matters: Good enough is usually good enough and at times done poorly is better than not done at all. Share, care, and stay strong.
IMAGE OF WHITE GLOVE BY: 1185119489FuF5EL.jpg WWW.democraticunderground.com
IMAGE OF CALMING TALK POSTER BY ME