Wednesday, March 4, 2015
confessions of a recovering perfectionist
For as long as I can remember, I have been a serious perfectionist. This translates into everything I do- my work, household, relationships and even hobbies. During my final year of High School I gave myself a mild case of lockjaw. As in, I was so stressed out, that for several weeks I couldn't open and close my jaw properly.
When I look back on this now, I actually find it a little bit funny. I was stressed, of course because I wanted to get the grades I needed to get into college. No matter that I eventually dropped out of college (to move halfway around the world) and in the end, it wasn't even so important what grades I got in High School.
Today, all these years later, I've got to say that not much has changed. These days my perfectionism shows up in slightly altered forms- the anxiety I feel when knitting a gift or custom request for a family member (that the item won't fit, or they'll be somehow disappointed with it), the fact that most nights I cannot fall asleep before going through the house and putting everything back in it's rightful place, the truth that a carelessly-stated criticism can quite literally crush me.
This all translates into a large amount of anxiety that sits in my gut most days, churning over and over itself and refusing to go away.
I remember back in the early days of Waldi and I, shortly after we got together. I think he was surprised by the amount of worry and stress I put myself through everyday over the smallest things, that in the end, aren't even that important. I remember, towards the end of yet another conversation where I was in tears because I couldn't hold up under the pressure, he said to me: "Ruth, you do know you don't have to live like this, don't you?"
you do know you don't have to live like this, don't you?
There are moments and days when this question still follows me- you know, the days where I'm obsessing about some small detail relating to something or other than I can't remember anymore. Because the truth is (and now I'm being completely honest) sometimes the answer to that question is no. Or at least, sometimes I live like the answer is no.
Why exactly am I talking about all this today? I don't have any answers, haven't found any tricks to magically make my inner perfectionist disappear, or at least be quiet for an hour or two. But I have come far enough to admit that perfectionism is a mean boss to give control of your life and happiness to. And I don't want to live by his impossible idealism anymore.
So. I am slowly trying to take my life back. To wrestle it from his clutched-fisted grip and claim the truth that I (yes, even me) am enough.
And there are small victories. Like when I speak up in German, knowing my sentences are full of big, fat mistakes that the person I'm speaking to will need to sift through and put to order for me. Or, like recently, when I'm learning a new craft (spinning) that I am so unbelievably bad at, but I keep going anyways. Making the ugliest, most uneven and imperfect yarn AND even daring to enjoy the process.
It's not the perfect answer- but I guess that's kind of the point.