PERFECTIONISM seems like a disorder when you see it in all caps. And in so many ways, it is as damaging as one. It starts small and grows like tumors. And some tumors when they happen in the brain manifest as personality functions. No really, it’s true. But I did learn that by watching Grey’s Anatomy. I do not dispense medical prognoses, but I do carry the Perfectionist gene. And I apologize.
Once I told my husband that I feel like I suffer with perfectionism, and he laughed and said, “You’re not a perfectionist.” I was offended. Did he not see the discipline in my habits? Pffff. Did he measure my perfectionism solely on the housecleaning? Because I’m not a perfectionist about that, obviously. That doesn’t mean I’m not a perfectionist. Clearly I’m not trying hard enough, thought I. Translation: work harder.
Perfectionists who have it worse than me have told me they seek perfectionism even in their perfectionism. For me, there are just a few areas where I judge myself strictly and about those things, there is some identity dangling above me which I will never be tall enough to reach.
This month’s writing challenge, #write31days, has caused me to sit down with my inner perfectionist and poke holes in her image for clean light to beam through. She stood between me and hitting PUBLISH every single day. There are many others on this path, 100’s of people who blog this challenge annually, whose creativity I lust after, and even some of them have given themselves a day off or taken a powder when family was more important. As we all should have. But for me, when I set my hopes on a finish line, I have a really hard time letting myself down.
It’s been great this month to learn and be honest and frail with this slave-driver shadow-self, and figure out how to maneuver around her for the heart of why I am writing. I have a sense for the value of daily discipline and I respect it. On several occasions this month I respected it more than I respected the reader and left some topics under-explained when I could have lingered to offer just the right illustration or removed more of the cliché’s. But in frailty, I let things that were just fine and not great sally forth unrefined. Because it was important to me for October to stay on track.
I am in no position to preach on perfectionism. But I do hope that coming clean about it makes a difference to those of you who have a thing or two that you’re just a Nazi about. I want to dare to look at those things long enough to get to my “white-hot why“, a really helpful descriptor I heard this year from Bill Hybels at the Global Leadership Summit. It speaks to the idea of pushing beyond one’s purposes to the reason, the reason under that, and the reason under that, in hopes of uncovering the purest motivations. Our pure motivations, those that lurk deep inside, are always manifested anyway because they drive stuff. I figure I may as well see if I can look that driver in the face. Or fire her.
I’ll let you know how that goes. You do the same.