I have been a perfectionist for as long as I can remember. With rock-bottom self-esteem issues and people in my life being hypercritical, this can be a volatile combination…and it was for most of my life.
I would do and redo things trying to make them just perfect, but never feeling they, or I, measured up. I am talking about everything – relationships, jobs, artistic endeavours, you name it. Throw in manic and depressive states and you have a real hot mess on your hands which was my life.
I attended group therapy as part of a psychiatric day program early in my diagnosis. I not only had to sit in the same place, but it had to be the specific chair I liked as well. If other group members moved that chair, or sat in my space, I became disoriented and would panic until all was made right. The group pointed out I was just a little OCD! LOL
My psychiatrist, the fourth one who I stayed with for over 20 years, was the one to work with my perfectionism. We discussed how it was stopping my progress and ways around it. One day he told me a story hoping that it would help unlock whatever was making me so obsessed with all things perfect.
In ancient Persia, the rug weavers were masters at their craft.However, they would each put a purposeful flaw in every one of their rugs. Perfectionism was an affront to God and they did not want to make Him unhappy. So, those intricate and beautiful carpets all had a flaw, probably only visible to the one who created it.
So, my doctor suggested I too put flaws into everything I did. At the time I was part of the tech team at our church and I made up the slides containing all the words to the week’s songs. I would spell a word wrong, change out a background or flip momentarily to the wrong screen and back before it bothered anyone too much. At home I would find a way to add flaws to even simple tasks.
However, I was on the manic side of my bipolar and the perfectionism fed on it like a sponge soaking up water. I all of a sudden was looking for the perfect flaw and would not stop until I found it.
When I went to my doctor he shook his head. What started out as a cure ended up fanning the flames.
But that was many years ago now and I am happy to say that as I am able to control my moods, I am also able to keep those perfectionist tendencies in check. I pick my battles as to when I allow myself to redo things and will myself to let others go. As I become more self-confident, the less I need to be perfect.
And the biggest factor in reducing my obsessive behaviour is my faith. God is perfect, we are not. Just like with the rugs, we have our own little flaws that make us unique and special. Knowing this I am better able to accept things the way they are.
The ironic thing about this is that the more I relax and not fuss over perfection, the less mistakes I make. Go figure!
(I need to add that when I write my posts I always get my hubby to look them over. For some reason I printed this one in Word instead of emailing it to him. I accidentally made changes in the word copy so I pasted it to the editor here. Like Word so often does, it put in extra formatting for the font. I had to fix it. It HAD to look right. So I went into to the HTML – something I haven’t done for about 10 years! It’s all better now…though hopefully not perfect!)