I’m a perfectionist. There I said it. And that’s ALL I’m admitting to. Why was it so difficult for me to say that? Well, because I’m a perfectionist, and being one doesn’t just mean that you hope to do everything perfectly, it also means that you mean to do it while looking like a pro. No one can know how terrified you are. No one can know how much you struggle. You’ve gotta make it look easy. No sweat bro. But, this is the part that screws me up the most, because there are times when I do need help. Despite my openness, when I need to ask for help, I stay silent in hopes that I’ll find my own way—and usually I do. The truth is that, though I can handle most things well, I struggle so much with my perfectionism at times that I can’t help but wonder if I’m cheating myself—shortening my life by cuddling up with stress on my way to a good old-fashioned heart attack. I don’t want to have a heart attack; they put you on blood pressure meds and you can’t get an erection. That’s not good. Sex is good for stress.
Anyway. So, today was my second day of work at my new job. Awesome, right? Yeah I guess. Except that I’m stressed as hell. There’s just so much to learn and so much that can easily be overlooked and I’m pretty freaked out. But, the freaking out comes from these pictures in my head. Our minds can get us into trouble this way. You see, in my mind, it keeps making pictures about how terrible it will be when I can’t do something right, or how everyone will surely see me fail, or how I’ll finally prove to myself how stupid and incompetent I really am. Sigh. It’s a real shit-storm folks.
In order to help set my head straight, I made a short list of things to remember so that I don’t explode with anxiety at work this week.
Oh, and, as a side note, if you’re wondering where my quality of perfectionism comes from, I’ll spell it out in this short psychological explanation:
When I was young my mother was a pretty big prescription drug addict (she still is). So, because she liked to get high off of painkillers and wallow in self pity, it was nearly impossible for her to cater to my needs. This meant that whenever I got sick or had trouble with something, there became this unwritten rule that I was never to bother her; insisting that she curb her vices to help me was a violation of our relationship. My job was to be good, never ask for help, and always help her. I was her therapist, nurse, and campaign manager for most of my childhood. Having to be the perfect child so that you aren’t a burden to your mother, so that she can get high and take care of her own addiction—this all translates to my current condition. Asking for help, showing weakness, and accepting that I’m not perfect are extremely difficult things for me. Being perfect is the only way I survived childhood—but it just might kill me as an adult.
Anyway, so the list:
Most of the images in my head tend to be of failure and the subsequent catastrophe that will eventually be my life in shambles. These images aren’t helping, and, for the most part, tend to dramatize the severity of what would actually take place. In my experience, the worst case scenario usually never happens: you always land somewhere in the middle. Instead, replacing the negative images with some images of success and triumph over challenges will help to balance your attitude. And, it’s amazing how much more stamina and productivity you can get out of that.
I can’t expect to be great at a job I just started. That’s insane (though in my head, completely logical due to my perfectionism). So, we have to tailor our expectations to match the situation. If we expect results or an outcome that is not in line with reality, this distortion can have severely negative consequences on your attitude and motivation. Make your expectations fit the scenario.
Get this through your head, Matt:
It’s okay to be human. It’s okay to be imperfect.
I think a modern world of computers and precision has conveyed this idea that, we too, must be perfect. We make mistakes. We are going to make mistakes. We will always make mistakes. Acceptance of your own humanity is the key to unlocking it.
While I probably wrote this post to calm my own nerves, I hope it’s provided some insight as to how we might save ourselves from perfectionism. Take care all.