Well, this is the last of my five therapy boxes and I labeled it "Perfect." Aiming for perfection isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just that I felt I had to be perfect, that I could never do anything wrong. I'm pretty sure this tendency started at a very young age. I have this memory of being spanked by my dad when I was little and I remember thinking, "I will never do anything wrong again." I don't remember why I got the punishment and now as an adult I wonder why I wasn't mad at my dad for the punishment (isn't that what most kids do, be mad at their parents), I only remember thinking that I would never do anything wrong again.
As I grew up, I gave myself no room for mistakes, everything had to be just right or I felt like the consequences would be really bad. Around the house, I felt like I had to take care of things, my siblings, the cleaning, mowing, helping with dinner and so much more. I tried really hard to do as much as I could around the house, because I also felt like if I took care of things, then my mom would be more calm and I just wanted everything to be nice and perfect and I did what I felt like I could to control that. I even remember climbing up on the house by myself to hang the Christmas lights when I was around 13. When I was 16 or so I went and bought my family's Christmas tree and brought it home in the car. I felt like if I didn't do it, my parents wouldn't and we would miss out.
Once I was living on my own, the perfectionism continued. I remember one time buying something at the store and when I got home I realized I had the wrong item. I was really upset with myself, all I had to do was go back to the store and exchange it which shouldn't have been such a big deal, but it was. I messed up, and that was too much for me at the time.
If things didn't go the way I thought they should in my head, I got upset. I expected myself to do everything perfect and things had to go in perfect order. I forced myself into a perfect system every day. I thought I must be the perfect church member, daughter, sister, mother, wife, etc. I felt like I had to have the perfect home and be on top of everything. I felt like every little thing that wasn't a perfect comment about me (or even no comment at all) was an attack against me. If someone was whispering, I was sure it was something bad about me. I exhausted myself trying to be the working mom, support my family and be there for every little need of my family. When my daughter was 5 year's old, she said that I was Rabbit from Winnie-the-Pooh. I was running around like a chicken with it's head cut off and my 5 year old could see it, but I couldn't.
My need to be perfect was so great that I completely exhausted myself. I hit a point in my life where my every waking thought was, "I'm so tired." I had nothing left in me, I could hardly stay awake as I drove home from work every day. I started going to doctors for help with the fatigue and they pretty much just told me it was my life and I believed them, because my life was pretty crazy. Eventually, I became a stay-at-home mom and thought that I would start feeling better, but I didn't. Partly because I was still trying to be perfect in all I did and also because I had exhausted my body to the point that it could not recover on its own. I found my way to a naturopathic doctor and she put me on an adrenal gland support and that changed my life. Eventually I was able to get off the support and feel good on my own, but I was still trying to do everything and do everything perfectly.
When I started therapy and started working on my therapy boxes, I really struggled with what the counter balance of "perfect" would be for me and I finally decided that it would just be "more." Not perfect, but just more of what I was the day before, the year before, etc. I realized I didn't have to be perfect, I just had to try to be more of me.
So what have I done to be more of me? Well, first I had to stop trying so hard to be perfect, which wasn't easy. I think one of the biggest things for me was learning how to relax and recuperate. Learning the cycle of things, that you do stuff, then you recuperate, then you can do more stuff. I had just been doing stuff and doing stuff and never letting myself rest. I learned to listen to what my body was telling me. If my body is tired, it is time to rest, it doesn't matter if my project or goal isn't done yet, it is time to rest. If you stop and listen, your body has many messages and now I listen, or at least try to.
Another thing I did to be "more" of just me was learning to believe that what I thought about myself is more important that what others thought about me. I had come to realize that my self-esteem was connected to what other's thought about me, not what I thought about me. I visualized myself with arrows coming at me and those arrows were what I heard from others, if those arrows were good comments, then I felt good about myself. If those arrows were bad comments, then I felt bad about myself. I was letting those arrows determine what I believed about me. It was learning to put a barrier between myself and those arrows, I put the good things I believe about myself all around me, that is my barrier, then it doesn't matter if the arrows are good or bad, I'm still me, not perfect, just me.
Admitting my fears, not just to myself, but to my husband as well was another big step for me. I realized they are just fears, just because I don't do something perfectly doesn't mean my fear will come to pass. I would have so many fears running through my head, they would push me to do too much, and just admitting what I was afraid off was a first step in facing them.
It's funny, now that I have stopped trying so hard to have everything be perfect, I'm worse than I was before. For example, I can let the dishes go for a few days and be okay with it and, really, that's not worse, just more relaxed. More is better than perfect, we can't be perfectly happy, perfectly healthy, etc., but I can be more happy, more relaxed, more creative, more real, more me. See more is better than perfect.