I am a Perfectionist

Hi, I’m Cece and I am a perfectionist.

I did not know I was a perfectionist. In fact, secretly, deep in the recesses of my mind, longed to be a perfectionist because then I could fight my pack rat syndrome and have a clean and organized home, and I’d be much more productive.

Perfectionists were, to me, those people who had it all together, but just kept picking and worrying at everything. They were “needless worriers.”

It never occurred to me that there were messy perfectionists. Or perfectionists who simply expected too much of themselves. Or that all worrying is needless, or at the very least, fruitless.

It took me a long time to realize that I have not always been kind to myself. When everyone else cheered and congratulated an accomplishment, I often looked for “opportunities of growth.” Never stopping to acknowledge my own achievements. I normalized this by believing this was just the behavior of a go-getter. Natural go-getter that I am, no accomplishment was enough for me.

Though it annoyed my family and friends to end and I got called on it often, I never knew this was a symptom of perfectionism.

Here’s a crazy example to demonstrate my inner workings. I gave birth in thirteen minutes, with a tilted uterus, and one pull of vacuum assistance. Yes, thirteen minutes from the time the doctor said, “okay push,” to the time she said, “it’s a boy.” A year later, in the deep odd part of my brain I was annoyed that I didn’t know I had a tilted uterus because I could have practiced “pushing from the bottom” and got him out without vacuum assistance. Reading this, you would think I have a cone-headed child, but I do not. That was just a ridiculous late night thought I had in which I yet again told myself, “good, but you could have done better.” Side note: I mentally smack myself every time I hear how long other women have to push.

The misconception, or rather, overly simplistic view of perfectionism is that it is a desire to be perfect or there is a persistent feeling of not good enough. To society, these are just fussy, overly tidy, type-A personalities who need things to be “just so” for their sanity and often look for ways to do things better.
Really, it is so much more than that. In fact, by the true definition of perfectionism, the number of perfectionists grows exponentially, hence my confession.

Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be our best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth; it’s a shield. Brené Brown

Perfectionism is born out of the fear of the unknown and the drive to alleviate ambiguity. It is the need to create the correct image, as well as a need to be invulnerable to scrutiny.

According to Psychology Today, there are three types of perfectionism: “self-oriented perfectionism, or imposing an unrealistic desire to be perfect on oneself; other-oriented perfectionism, or imposing unrealistic standards of perfection on others; and socially-prescribed perfectionism, or perceiving unrealistic expectations of perfection from others.” (Perfectionism, n.d.)

However, don’t let perfectionism become an excuse for never getting started.   Marilu Henner

My perfectionism manifests most in my fear of failure. I want to do everything well and I like to be challenged, so I take on more things and often make them more complex. My perfectionism also lies my constant overwhelm and frustration with things that are beyond my control or skill set.

For example, I’m from a long line of pack rats where it’s okay to have a cluttered house as long as it’s not dirty. However, the constant clutter overwhelms my cluttered mind, and my husband loses everything every day, so the clutter doesn’t help. Not to mention I have a hurricane—I mean four-year-old—who manages to knock over my neat piles and doesn’t like to put away his toys. I get frustrated that I cannot keep an organized house, so I have periods of frantic obsessive cleaning, followed by periods of defeat in which I don’t even try. As you can imagine, the house gets out of control during my periods of giving up.

And this is the side of perfectionism that isn’t often discussed. The periods of overwhelm to the point of stasis. The book isn’t perfect, so I won’t publish it. I’m not as good as everyone else so I won’t try for that position. I don’t want to sound stupid, so let me read this email another four times before I send it… Oops I forgot to send it. 

Perfectionism is often messy, cluttered, disorganized, and frantic. It can also be anxious, fearful, and static.

Social media allows socially-prescribed perfectionism to thrive. In this day and age, everything must be Instagram perfect and pin-worthy. And the growing number of YouTube and Instagram millionaires makes every day people long to find their own internet path to riches. This causes the perfectionists who may already struggle with materialism or low self-esteem to work overtime to be liked by a million people they do not know to feel worthy.

This one isn’t me. I’m a social media lurker, hence my lack of making millions—or anything—from this blog. But I am guilty of the other two. I hold myself and those around me to a high standard. However, the older I get, the less I expect of others. I now subscribe to the “live and let live” and “do you boo” philosophies of life. Yet, if I were honest, now and then I get burned by my expectation of perfectionism in others causing me to rethink my faith in humanity.

Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame. Brené Brown

There is power in knowing and calling a thing a thing. I now understand why I got into arguments with friends growing up. I know that I expected them to think like me and grow like me, instead of accepting them as they were.

I now understand my fear of flying. Success is as a big an unknown as it is fulfilling. There is no control in an unknown variable. There is control in advanced mediocrity. Failure sucks and just plain ole feels crappy. There is no controlling failure. There is control in being the best mid-level performer you can be.

Think, koi in a goldfish bowl.

Until recently, doing nothing until I could predict all the outcomes seemed wise; perfectly logical. There is research, planning, and meditation… And then there is stalling. Or rather, being stalled by fear.

There is control in perfectionism.

Hi, I’m Cece and I’m a perfectionist. I’m hoping to do better in the future.

If you’d like a deeper dive or tips on how to combat perfectionism, check out the following articles: