Category Archives: Perfectionsim

Day 21: Taking the Struggle Out of Life – Today is a Gift

Todayisagift

One of the things I wrote about yesterday was how I can find all kinds of ways to lapse into unconsciousness.

After I stopped shopping online, I discovered I could also lose huge chunks of time by trying to create the perfect image to represent an idea I wanted to write about.

I love the trading card design I created for the post about Lack or Love AND I spent most of the day making it. I love the image I created. It’s really cool. I’m going to use it as a template for one of my projects. Still, I feel as though I spent a fair amount of time being pretty obsessive-compulsive.

I think there’s a middle ground.

The image created for this post took me about 15 minutes using Photoshop. It’s my “good enough” image so I really can have more time today to experience the gift today is.

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Filed under Getting Out of My Own Way, Mindfulness, Perfectionsim

Day 11: Kicking the Online Shopping Habit

Gus
What Would Epic A Do?

As I’ve been contemplating perfectionism I’ve been asking myself, what does it look like to be unconditionally lovable?

It’s hard for me to get there myself. I mean it’s hard for me to imagine myself as unconditionally lovable. Perfectionism is a hard habit to break. Every time I think about not doing something as well as possible a lot of resistance comes up.

So I’m using my cat, Gus, (A.K.A. Epic A) because I find it very easy to love Gus unconditionally.

We adopted Gus from a when he was barely 8-weeks old. He had the feline herpes virus which is very contagious and he had been separated from his litter mates and other animals.

Even when he was little Gus just got along well with people. He’s the kind of cat that greets you at the door and he always checks out visitors. My theory is that Gus was socialized at such a young age (he was barely weaned) he considers himself human or he considers us to be strange-looking cats.

Besides being very handsome, Gus has a very endearing “catsonality.” He seems to live his life assuming that everyone will love him and his needs will always be taken care of. Unlike most cats that meow and look worried when their bowl is empty, Gus purrs loudly and gives me friendly head butts until I figure out what he wants.

I nicknamed Gus “Epic A” for “Epic Adorableness” because he’s so naturally lovable. My teenage son cringes when I use this name because the word “epic” is so overused and because things the nickname “epic A” is just completely over the top in a nauseating way.

But I can’t help myself.

What’s important here is this: Gus does nothing useful in our home. Like most cats, he’s basically ornamental. But his lovability makes him incalculably precious to me. When I’m out of town, I miss him. When I return I can’t wait to get in the door to give him a cuddle and say hello.

In the scheme of things, my husband and son are way more important to me. There’s really no comparison. However, Gus is important because he’s the best example I can think of when I try to imagine what it would be like to be perfectly imperfect and yet be very easy to love.

When I described how I feel about Gus to a friend, she commented, “That’s how the Divine feels about you.”

This is a very beautiful idea and one I’d like to feel with ease. I believe when I feel that way about myself I am in the best possible position to do the work the Divine wants me to do.

So my question, “What would Epic A do?” is a serious one because Gus would never walk into a party¬†with any worries about “will they like me? am I worthy of their attention?” He would be his curious, friendly self and assume he would be liked.

That seems like a really nice way to be in the world.

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Filed under Compassion, Gratitude, Habits, Perfectionsim, Receiving

Day 8: Kicking the Online Shopping Habit

photo: Jez Page

photo: Jez Page

A Raging Case of Perfectionism

One of my measures of success is waking up in the morning and feeling excited about the upcoming day.

I usually wake up with a sense of dread and anxiety that feel like a low-grade fever. The feelings aren’t so strong that they interfere with my ability to function but enough so that I’d rather stay in bed and sleep late.

I was going to write that a raging case of perfectionism isn’t as bad as a raging case of herpes but I realized a raging case of herpes would be better because there are straightforward treatments for herpes. Perfectionism is something that I think our culture actually encourages in subtle ways.

But I’m not going to write about culture because I always have a choice in terms of what I allow to influence me. I’m going to write about why I’ve chosen perfectionism and how it messes with me and my efforts to do things differently.

I’m going to go back for a moment to the idea of looking forward to the day.

When I was a kid, maybe 7 or 8 years old, I usually looked forward to the day, especially during summer vacation. In the town where I grew up there was an awesome swimming pool that was maybe a 10 minute walk from my home. It was actually 4 swimming pools: one for teenagers, one for adults, one for kids, and one for kids who proved they could swim. My sisters and I would eat breakfast and change into our bathing suits. Then we’d pick up our friends who lived across the street and walk to the pool.

I grew up in the Midwest. We lived close to Chicago and midwestern summers can be really hot and humid. So we were happy to spend our day at the pool. We’d usually take a break and get lunch then we’d head back to the pool. Sometimes we’d even go back after dinner.

If we didn’t go to the pool we’d ride our bikes or play games. If it was raining we’d play games inside or go to the library. I don’t remember being unhappy or bored very often. There was just too many fun things to do. I liked to draw and color and sometimes I’d work on crafty projects like needlepoint or knitting. Sometimes we’d just walk along the creek and look for snakes and muskrats. If we found a caterpillar we might put it in a jar with a stick and feed it leaves to see if it would spin a cocoon.

So I would say my childhood wasn’t unusual but it was a lot of fun and there were lots of simple things that I enjoyed.

When I was 11 we moved to a new town where there were more wealthy people and I had a hard time making friends and fitting in. The move felt like a shock to my system. I knew everyone in my old neighborhood and I always had friends to hang out with. In the new neighborhood the kids seemed different. A lot of them belonged to country clubs and their time was more scheduled. They were taking tennis lessons and playing golf and seemed restless when there wasn’t anything to do but hangout. Plus there wasn’t much to do that was within walking distance. If I wanted to go swimming or go to the movies, my mom had to drive me.

Up until 6th grade I didn’t worry about my weight or what I wore. I usually wore pants and a top. Maybe a dress on the first day of school. For a while I wore the same pair of pants to school every day and a lot of the kids made fun of me.

Then one day my mom went to a local department store and bought me a really nice pair of pants, a blouse, and a sweater. Everything fit me perfectly and I wore my new outfit to school the next day. I couldn’t believe how many girls in my class complimented me and told me how nice I looked and how much they liked my outfit. It was the most positive attention I had received since moving and I felt so happy and wonderful getting that recognition.

It’s funny because I was the exact same person I had been 24 hours earlier when I was wearing my dark red pants. It was like the new outfit transformed me in the eyes of the other girls into someone elegant, cool, and admirable! I love the attention and I loved belonging.

The other girls began inviting me to their parties and even though I found I wasn’t as comfortable as I was with my friends from my old town, it still felt good that other kids wanted to be with me.

I began reading Seventeen magazine to learn about fashion and started choosing my own clothes. I started buying makeup and perfume at the drugstore. When a huge mall opened near my house, I went every weekend with my friends and was always looking at the new fashions being shown.

When I turned 16 I started working part time and I’d spend all my money on clothes and makeup.

I was a teenager in the 1970’s and being thin was the look. It wasn’t different from the 1960s which was more about being natural. In the 1970’s it was being thin and elegant so you could wear designer jeans and slinky tops. Although I was never “fat,” I definitely didn’t have the kind of figure that looked good in designer jeans and slinky tops. I was kind of chubby-looking and in most of the pictures taken of me at that time I look uncomfortable and confined in my jeans and blouses.

I decided that I was going to go on a diet and take on the weight problem once and for all. My mom was always watching her weight and worrying about my dad’s weight so it was easy, even encouraged to go on a diet. The problem was once I started losing weight and getting complimented for how good I looked I decided that if losing 10 pounds was good, losing 20 pounds would be even better.

My diet turned into a full-blown eating disorder. I had anorexia and I found I couldn’t just lose a few pounds and maintain that weight lose. I developed this deep fear that if I gained any weight I’d never stop gaining. To keep off the weight I developed these elaborate rituals around food which is pretty common in anorexia.

I had foods I would eat in certain orders at certain times and if I broke any of these rituals I would freak out because I was sure it would lead to massive weight gain.

That’s when my perfectionism really kicked into high gear. Most of my energy went into food and clothes and keeping my bedroom neat. When I went to college, the perfectionism expanded to include my study habits and grades. Looking back what I had done was to create a very comfortable prison cell to live in. I was lonely, isolated, and living a very one-dimensional life but it was predictable and under my control. I had no real friends but that was ok because friends were too unpredictable and caused problems. I had no boyfriends and made no efforts to meet men because if girlfriends were a distraction, men were a major distraction.

Plus my appearance was not exactly what most men were attracted to unless they had a freaky side. But it didn’t matter. Even if someone was interested, I would have be oblivious.

I’ve written a lot. I think mostly to look at how I went from being someone who enjoyed her life to someone who is constantly anxious and slightly depressed. I’m seeing that becoming a perfectionist made sense because it seemed to be an answer to how I could feel happier and better about myself at one time in my life. But ultimately like most things it became a problem when I was ready to grow past it.

I’m going to write more about perfectionism tomorrow and how it shows up in my life currently.

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Filed under Compassion, Habits, Perfectionsim, Receiving