Know your Perfectionist

A study measured three types of perfectionism: self-oriented, or a desire to be perfect; socially prescribed, or a desire to live up to others’ expectations; and other-oriented, or holding others to unrealistic standards. A person living with an other-oriented perfectionist might feel criticized by the perfectionist spouse for not doing household chores exactly the “right” way. Socially prescribed perfectionism is “My self-esteem is contingent on what other people think.”

Perfectionists tend to devalue their accomplishments, so that every time a goal is achieved, the high lasts only a short time, like “a gas tank with a hole in it.” 

There are also different ways perfectionism manifests. Some perfectionists are the sleeping-bag-toting self-flagellants, always pushing themselves forward. But others actually fall behind on work, unable to complete assignments unless they’re, well, perfect. Or they might self-sabotage, handicapping their performance ahead of time. They’re the ones partying until 2 a.m. the night before the final, so that when the C rolls in, there’s a ready excuse. Anything to avoid facing your own imperfections.

Olga Khazan writing in The Atlantic

Shame cuts you down to size

Shame is universal, but the messages and expectations that drive shame are organized by gender. These feminine and masculine norms are the foundation of shame triggers, and here's why: If women want to play by the rules, they need to be sweet, thin, and pretty, stay quiet, be perfect moms and wives, and not own their power. One move outside of these expectations and BAM! The shame web closes in. Men, on the other hand, need to stop feeling, start earning, put everything in their place, and climb their way to the top or die trying. Push open the lid of your box to grab a breath of air, or slide that curtain back a bit to see what's going on, and BAM! Shame cuts you down to size.

Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

This is daring greatly

When we spend our lives waiting until we're perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make.

We must walk into the arena, whatever it may be—a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation—with courage and a willingness to engage. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgment and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen.  This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly.

Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

Jenni Berrett: Proof that I was a worthless piece of Garbage

I spend days at a time in bed, staring at the ceiling and thinking of all the things I could be doing but can’t because I know I would do them imperfectly. I lose countless hours to inner monologues filled with self-hatred and all-or-nothing thinking. I don’t read anything, instead preferring to slowly crush myself with the existential weight of knowing that I will never be able to Read All The Things.

For a very long time, I thought that I did this because I was lazy. I figured that if I just worked a little harder, tried a little more, then I would be able to accomplish the things I set out to do. Failing to do them was a failure of my character. It was because I was a bad person, or at least bad at being a person.

I told myself that I had to get my act together; I had to do all of these things so that I could prove I wasn’t the worthless piece of garbage I thought I was. When I inevitably cracked under that pressure, I took it as proof that I was a worthless piece of garbage.

If all of this sounds repetitive, that’s because it is. It’s a vicious, repetitive, monotonous cycle. It moves at breakneck speed, but also not at all. Experiencing it is the most damning case against perfectionism I have ever come across. Expecting perfection only leaves you with two options: do everything right on the very first try, or don’t even bother. Which is actually only one option, since 9 times out of 10, human beings don't do things right on the first try.

Jenni Berrett writing in Ravishly

It's a never-ending cycle

You start a project determined to execute it perfectly. You avoid it until you can “do it right,” but then you don’t do it at all. You feel frozen, stuck, incapable. You are paralyzed by the fear that you will be bad at the thing you want to accomplish. Which, of course, makes it impossible to accomplish anything.

It's a never ending cycle: perfectionism, procrastination, paralysis.

At my best, I am an efficient and organized person. I thrive off of hard work and high pressure, always ambitious, always reaching for the next thing to do or make or achieve. I am productive and full of ideas. I take charge and take action. I keep a clean house and read at least a book a week.

At my worst, I am flighty and frazzled. I spend far more time thinking about how I want to do something than I do actually doing it. I doubt every choice I make, every thought that flits across my mind. I let my apartment get increasingly messy, even though I know how much I need a clean space in order to be happy. I just can’t confront the glaring imperfection of a sink full of dishes, baskets of dirty laundry.

I recede further and further inside of myself.

Jenni Berrett writing in Ravishly