(Pat Barret asked a question on perfectionism in January of 2011…and of course the post with that question has disappeared. The answer below can stand alone though I think. Originally posted 1/9/11)
Just my thoughts on this one Pat…
Perfectionism is the perfect mask (pun intended). It creates a wall between us and others that is nearly impossible to break down. If I am building the wall, I will choose to be a perfectionist about the things that I am best at. (and I learned to do this so that I would be loved, appreciated or at the very least not punished. I have built my entire sense of worth and self-worth around it. )
I can appear to be in control (and I think I am) I can be better than others. (because I learned early on to divide the world into two categories: those who are good enough and those who aren’t). I instantly know how to deal with others. ( see last parenthetical reference lol) If you are perfect also, then I am right. If you are not perfect then I am right. Life is perfect; I’m always right. I never have to deal with my fears and I never address any inadequacies I might have hidden deep inside.
Perfectionists are, at heart, scared to death. However, the longer you live as a perfectionist, the less you remember and deal with those fears. It is also a very lonely, lonely life. But for most perfectionists, it is a price that they are more than willing to pay. Their paradigm is self-fulfilling. If I have high standards, then that is why people don’t like me…because they don’t have high standards. If they don’t have high standards, I don’t want to be around them. I’d rather be alone….at least that is what their paradigm tells them…repeatedly.
Perfectionism is extremely hard to cure for that reason alone. I truly believe that most perfectionists are petrified and miserable, but living in a self-created world that controls not only their own lives but seeks to control the lives of others so that no one, ever, will put them (the perfectionists) in a position to have to address any of their fears. What they fear most is not being good enough.
Because they have put people into two distinct categories: good enough and not good enough; the perfectionists are completely alone. The other ‘good enough” people are not really, inside, like them at all….because perfectionists never ever let go of the inner realization that they are not perfect (have I said that this is primarily an affliction of folks who are intelligent by nature?) They will gravitate towards other perfectionists (hence the poisonous atmosphere at lunch in the faculty room…) but only long enough to remind each other that their way of life is the best.
Spending too much time with other perfectionists is dangerous…it makes people worry that they aren’t as good as other perfectionists. (perfectionists rank EVERYTHING. it is how their paradigm functions….hmmm life within a grading system no?) They will spend time with lesser mortals to remind themselves that the lesser folks are just that..somewhere underneath them in the ‘system” ….but extended time has negative consequences as well: a) they are reminded too often that imperfect people exist b) it tries their patience to have to deal with lesser/lazier/dumber/fatter/poorer etc. folks.
I humbly admit that I have my perfectionistic tendencies. :o) TPRS has been a saving grace for me (as has flylady.net which is where I really started to understand perfectionism…) My heart goes out to perfectionists…and to those who have to survive living with them. :o)
Sadly, schools are a haven for them. Schools create, honor and perpetuate the myth and hand out masks as rewards.
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