The Defect of Perfectionism

Originally published November 10, 2011

I will sometimes, maybe even often, not do something because the idea that I will do it less than perfectly paralyzes me.  I’m way better now at allowing myself to make mistakes than I ever have been before.  Really, you don’t make the kind of catastrophic mistakes that we serious tweakers make, and not come to terms with them if you want to stay sober.  My mistakes are visible from space.  I’m thinking about having UNESCO declare them a World Heritage Site.  Outfit them with some kind of perceived value that the “normal” world can understand as useful or meaningful or positive.

Seems that my willingness to accept imperfection has its limits, though.  Imperfect at self-examination, but “willing to grow along spiritual lines” is great.  Just don’t let me get a B in a class.  Getting a B can only mean one thing.  The teacher sucks.  I mean I have a perfect score in a much more difficult class.  How could I be getting a B in a survey class?  How could I be getting a B in a survey of Theatre class?  ME!  Mr. Showtune Encyclopedia (abridged)?

It’s true though.  I’m getting a B in Introduction to Theatre.  Actually I’m getting a solid A because Prof. allows a generous number of extra credit points for seeing plays.  (Saturday I’m seeing Spamalot with my sponsor. – I think that 10 points actually brings me up to an A+.)  The score I’m earning, however, is a B.   If I’m objective and honest, if I set aside my emotionally reactionary addict self, it is easy enough for me to see that B is the score I am earning.

So rationally I know that I am earning a B, but my first impulses are to berate myself for not being perfect – and then to assign the blame for this catastrophe elsewhere.  If I’m not an A+ student it is because the teacher sucks.  It couldn’t possibly be my fault.   Even worse, I don’t just admit that I’m not that willing to work very hard in the class because I don’t feel like it.  I don’t want to read Tartuffe and Hamlet and The Cherry Orchard.  I would rather see them.  So I skim the material and I attend theater as my preferred method of keeping my score high enough.  It is a conscious strategy.  I’m doing it this way on purpose.

And still, when I see a test score that is one point from being an A I want to scream.

I can hear you thinking, “Take it easy, Tex.  Get off the ass-kicking machine.”

Part of my addiction was driven by the idea that if I couldn’t be perfect, I’d be horrible.  If I couldn’t manifest the ideal life automatically, I’d blot reality from my consciousness.  That was a deliberate decision as well.  Not a good one, but I was aware of making it every time I put using ahead of something real.

I’m grateful that today I don’t have to abdicate reality in order to be happy, and that when I recognize that what I’m doing is harmful to me, to the degree that I am willing, I can change.

Published by Chris M.

Champion of lost causes. Aficionado of underdogs. Passionate advocate of uncommon good.

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