The Perils of Perfectionism – A Glimpse into Therapy

After my disappointment over the whole ex-boyfriend thing last week, I went into therapy today to try and figure out what was going on.

I knew that he is not the type of guy I need. In order for me to be the right one for him, I would have had to do cartwheels and turn myself into a pretzel to have the type of qualities he was looking for. To me, in my twisted logic, that meant that somehow I had failed. No matter that we’re are two different people, and it simply wasn’t a match. I took the whole thing on my shoulders that I was to blame, that it was ME that was defective. The worst part for me I figured was that for the first time since my divorce 4.5 years ago, I don’t currently have any male attention. And that sucks.

So I went to see Randy tonight and he listened like he always does and then he did this exercise with me. He started sentences and I had to finish them. He said just to answer them don’t put a lot of thought into them. OK.

Q I want male attention because….A. It makes me feel like I have value.

Q. I don’t feel like I have value on my own because….A. I always make mistakes

Q. I don’t like it when I make mistakes because….A. I’m supposed to be perfect and when I’m not I hate myself.

Q. The person I admire most that never makes a mistake is….A. Um….

So you see how it goes. So we started talking about the roots of my perfectionism and of course I knew exactly where it came from. My mother, of course.

See, my mother expected that with me being born, my birth would solve the bad marriage she had with my dad. When that didn’t work, then I was immediately branded as imperfect. Fast forward to age 12 when my older brother ran away for 6 weeks. I decided then and there that I would be the perfect child. I would always be busy, go to bed on time, never argue, cook for my family, clean, whatever. That went on for 2 years.

But one day my mom got mad at me because I had held things inside and finally talked back to her. She grabbed me by my forearms, shook me, and yelled “Why can’t you be like Pat’s daughter?!?!” Pat was a friend of hers and Pat’s daughter was a very nice girl, pretty, lots of friends, everything I wasn’t. And my mother resented the hell out of it. So even though I had spent  2 years being the perfect daughter, in one fell swoop, it was brought to my attention that I had failed. And then she decided to place an exclamation point on her thoughts by beating me with the buckle end of a belt.

Thus began a cycle of me always striving to be perfect to gain my worth, making mistakes in being human, feeling low worth, trying again, transferring that desire to feel worth from my mother onto the men in my life and it continues today.

Randy said something profound to me. He said that my perfectionism comes from fear. Yes. Fear of rejection. When you are rejected by a parent you are constantly fighting for validation.

I am still fighting. I’m working on how to stop that fight.

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2 Responses to The Perils of Perfectionism – A Glimpse into Therapy

  1. Rick says:

    It’s amazing how far we carry that stuff into our adulthood, isn’t it? For some things, our entire lives. It’s good that you’re working on this. I believe that weight loss will help whatever it is you’re dealing with internally, which in turn will help your physical health. Keep up the good work.

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