Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Perseverance: An Antidote to Perfectionism

Two other comments got me thinking about how perseverance is really an antidote to the curse of perfectionism that poisons so many of us with creatively-formed brains (isn’t that a nice way of saying it?).
On the comment board of “Dear God: On Praying, However Imperfectly,” reader Melissa writes this:

Thank you for writing this. Just last night, I ran across Mary Oliver’s beautiful poem about praying, and it moved me and inspired me into sitting quietly and launching into a heartfelt prayer of gratitude….and then my mind wandered, and my stomach growled, and the cat did something cute, and I lost the train of my thought, and… You get the picture. I feel like such an amateur at this God/belief/faith thing after so many years of feeling unworthy of His attention (much less His love). Your essay, though, helped me see that my attempts to pray are better than nothing at all.

And on the message board of “Perfectionism: Ring the Bells,” reader Lisa writes this:

I’ve been “moping around” since my Mom died a month ago, knowing that the moping is justified but also facing new and unwanted childhood and adulthood monsters ie: perfectionism. Mom raised me with one eyebrow down all the time so I’m constantly looking over my shoulder waiting for the “look” of disappointment. How powerful a force it has been all these years. Reading such articulate descriptions of how perfectionism is affecting us has struck the deepest cord of my depression.

  • Larry Parker

    If everyone will forgive me using a bit of an insensitive proverb, they say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
    Maybe not truly the definition of insanity. But definitely the definition of perfectionism.
    And here’s the thing — perfectionism is a bit of a trap. I was the teacher’s pet, straight A student from elementary school through graduate school, high SAT scores (as Therese teases me about). Perfectionism is REWARDED in education.
    Then you get to life. And, boy oh boy, is perfectionism NOT rewarded in life. (Particularly if you have depression.)
    I’ve literally had to learn how to learn from my mistakes. And I’m slowly doing it. But it takes time to turn around what has turned out to be a half-a-lifetime of MIS-education.
    And so I have to keep in mind:
    Progress, NOT perfection.

  • Larry Parker

    Here is what I’ve had to unlearn the last many years in one classic image (http://) —
    (And yes, I was that roly-poly as a kid, too — even more than today!)

  • Lynn

    My Dear mother( my she rest in peace, hopefully ,maybe)Perfect wasn’t even good enough.I rebelled then , I still am rebelling. I love my mess, I love my disorder, I love flying by the seat of my pants. Needless to say I was not my mother’s favorite.My mantra is I DO NOT HAVE TO BE PERFECT! There should be an eighth deadly sin PERFECTIONISM!!!!!!! :)

  • Wisdum

    Re -Lynn | November 29, 2007 11:54 AM
    PERFECTIONISM is a sin! A deadly sin! All the evil in the world has been perpetrated by perfectionists, and their lust for perfect power and control over everybody else … “Only God is perfect!” … “My perfection is in your imperfection” I used to be a perfectionist. BTW there are basically two kinds of perfectionists
    1- Those that try to do everything perfect (that is impossible, nothing is perfect)
    2- Then there are those that expect everybody else to do everything perfect (they do nothing perfect themselves !) These are people with a low self-esteem problem, and will try to build their self esteem at your expense! That will be as Slave/Master … Producer/Consumer (this situation can be very costly for both parties, who feel they are being cheated)…
    3- And of course the “Clash of the Titans” that’s the head butting when two or more perfectionists gather together (also known as strong-willed children, to which we now have about four generations running around trying to control and piss everybody off!)
    LUV 2 ALL

  • Wisdum

    Oh ! I forgot to mention the Anti-Perfectionist/Controller … That’s me … I can piss off absolutely everybody ! (I use the same trick that Yeshuah used, never answer a question, but with another question … of couse I can expect to be soon abused, tortured and crucified, because they don’t take kindly to me making a fool out of them ALL !… some people have no sense of humor!)
    LUV 2 ALL

  • Larry Parker

    I’m a type 1 perfectionist, Wisdum. (Or at least a trying to recover one.)
    I have no particular expectations of anyone else. I can’t possibly meet my own expectations of myself, even in my dreams.

  • Lynne

    Re: Wisdum and Larry ; I am in agreement with Wisdum on several accounts. That only God is perfect !!! That dealing with perfectionistic people is a real pain-in-the-asterick!!But I’ve been too well trained for too long to completely abandon my people pleasing tendencies. Note to Larry , Have better dreams and less demands on yourself. I’ve read your posts…you’re one insightful dude!

  • Margaret Balyeat

    Larry, I second what Lynne said. I find you not only insightful, but encouraging to and compassionate with others who struggle with our common malady. Your comments are always well-worded, loving and on the money! Struggling to be perfect is a legacy from our childhoods born of a desire to please our parents regardless of how unpleasing we might have been in their eyes. If only we could realize(as children, I mean that the ONLY parent we need to please is our heavenly one, that our earthly parents are merely temporary custodians for our lives here!

  • Larry Parker

    You mean G-d placed me with His version of the horribly dysfunctional Division of Youth and Family Services here in New Jersey?
    (That’s a joke, Margaret. Sort of, anyway.)

  • Wisdum

    Re – Larry Parker | November 30, 2007 11:51 PM
    You mean G-d placed me with His version of the horribly dysfunctional Division of Youth and Family Services here in New Jersey?
    ** We are ALL dis-functional ! “My perfection is in your imperfection!” (more of God’s sense of humor,I suspect, that nobody thinks is one dam bit funny, but God!)
    (That’s a joke, Margaret. Sort of, anyway.)
    ** Here’s the kicker, you dictate the realm of your part in God’s story “His-story” with the gift of “freewill” What you do with it is up to you. Fortunately (or unfortunately !) you can only play Larry, and Therese, Margaret, me and ALL of us can only play our own individual parts, each one unique, in this “Book of Life” … Are we having fun yet ?
    LUV 2 U / LUV 2 ALL

  • Larry Parker

    I certainly agree, Margaret, that being well into adulthood, I have to take responsibility for my own life.
    That said, G-d as Kokopelli rather than G-d in the mainstream Catholic tradition I was educated in takes some getting used to …

  • Lynn

    The religions that I am most knowing about seem , to me anyway,to use fear to control their belivers, that fear is from man not God. Isn’t all this hellfire and damnation stuff just man made, that’s what I think anyway.I rebelled aganist the Fearful god I was brought up with, I think that those people( joyless and angry) were wrong. I like my version of God , Loving , understanding, forgiving and full of positive energy. I know he may get angry with us but I do not belive that any of the bad stuff that happens to us is from him. Freewill freewill freewill.He gave us paradise and we are destroying it, defiling it with chemicals and pollution, it is going to effect us somehow, geniticly we will change and not always for the good.The industrial revolution and progress is the reason for much suffering.We have done ourselves more harm than good. The natural world is no longer so natural . Our body and brains have suffered along with all this progress.Viruse mutate and change , become resistant to medications to survive. We are doing the same thing, as for surviving, it is becoming more difficult.With man’s ego running rampent and the polluting of the natural world , I am not so sure that we will survive. There is still time though, God has the answer. :)

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