Perfectionism is detrimental on so many levels.
First of all, it affects the afflicted. We demand so much of ourselves that we can never measure up. We fail before we begin.
For example, when we try something for the first time we expect to do it flawlessly. We don’t demand the same results of others (we are willing to give them grace), but for some reason, we don’t deserve the same consideration.
In this warped view, we deny ourselves joy in the moment. We are too concerned with our shortcomings that we discount the attempt. If at first you don’t succeed is not in our vocabulary. If we don’t succeed – we are failures. (notice I didn’t say we failed. No, the perfectionist views herself as a failure).
So… we rarely try new adventures. It is better to stay in our confining cocoon than to risk looking the fool.
For me, this manifests itself in playing any kind of game. If I don’t win, I am a failure. It doesn’t matter if it is a game of chance (like dominos) or an innocent fun activity (like an escape room). It isn’t so much that I am a sore loser as I feel incompetent. I should have known better.
For example, I loathe Scrabble. But you are English teacher – you should love word games! Of course I like words … but the pressure of winning, coupled with the expectation of using a large vocabulary, is too much stress.
But perfectionism not only hurts the afflicted, it also hurts those we love.
We don’t know how to set reasonable expectations. We always demand more of ourselves. So it is natural that we also demand more of others.
The Golden Rule fails us: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. We don’t know how to differentiate expectations from treatment. We expect the same of others – but it comes across as overly harsh – critical – legalistic. We therefore fail on two accounts: we demand too much (failure) and we lose their respect (failure).
The antidote to perfectionism, I believe, is to lower expectations. To demand less of ourselves – and less of others.
Of course, this is easier said than done. But one place to start is to learn to extend grace to all – myself included.
When I really listen to Delilah’s harsh words, I am appalled. I would never spew such spiteful hatred to anyone else. Why do I allow her to speak to me in such a way?
I need to recognize this is not the voice of a loving Father. This is the voice of someone who wants me defeated. And it’s time I stop listening to the lies.