Posted in Freedom Friday

Toxic Perfectionism

I have a confession to make. I’m not sure if this is the right forum to admit this, but I’ll give it a shot. I’m going to write this in stream of consciousness without editing any of it. Let’s see how far I get for this Freedom Friday post.

Toxic Perfectionism
Toxic Perfectionism

The confession. If you haven’t figured it out from the title, I was a perfectionist. When I say that, I mean it in the strictest sense of the word. Thankfully, a decade or so ago, I had put it all away and I’m happier for it.

Being a former perfectionist allows me the liberty to recognize when others are suffering from the same debilitating condition. The unfortunate thing about it is not having the power to prevent them from causing harm to their neighbors or themselves. It’s like seeing someone holding a baseball bat over a brand new convertible and waiting for that person to trash it because it’s not a Rolls Royce.

You see, perfectionism convinces sufferers they’re not worthy. Strange, I know. Bear with me. Perfectionists always compare their situation with others, and in so doing, they minimize their achievements because they’re convinced the other guy has it better. Remember that saying? How does it go? Oh, yes, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” Thing is, it’s not. It’s an illusion. The Joneses show you what they want you to see. But what you don’t see are their heavy debts, the fighting that goes on behind closed doors, and the screaming kids. Perfectionists can’t keep up with the Joneses because The Joneses will always be one step ahead.

Then there’s the guilt. That guilt is the driving force behind the life of a perfectionist. Without it, they’d be like everyone else—relatively normal. But why the guilt? Simple, guilt causes perfectionists to set unattainable goals based on unrealistic expectations. A case in point is the guy who graduates college and a week later expects to score a job. Sorry, real life doesn’t work that way, unless you’re a drop out and found your own company like Bill Gates did, but that’s a story for another day.

The worst part about having been a former perfectionist is knowing I had gone through life thinking nothing was ever good enough. It all goes with not feeling worthy, comparing myself with others, and the guilt. It’s that “not good enough” feeling, which kills the most. As wonderful, happy and joyful life is, if perfectionists feel not as good as required, it doesn’t matter what happens in their life, they will always feel inadequate.

Perfectionists can’t survive without knowing they’re in control.

As I’d mentioned, it’s been a decade or more since I’ve given up perfectionism and, let me tell you, it’s been like someone had thrown the light switch. What a difference. Life is not about being perfect. It is not about others having more than we do. It is not about feeling unworthy, not feeling good enough, and feeling guilty every moment we take a breath. In all honesty, no one can control every situation, but it sure makes sense to want to try. Funny thing about it is what makes sense to a perfectionist is wrong.

That’s how I broke the habit, going against myself to want to be who I am without the turmoil. Now, I’m happy knowing I’m always giving my best regardless of how I feel. It’s a matter of maturing. It’s a matter of living.

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Do you know perfectionists in your life? What is it that has affected you most knowing them?