Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,
I now realize, at age 67, I am not perfect and neither are the people I required perfection from. What a shock!
I could blame this on my parents, like everything else. They were harsh in their expectations for me. My mother, especially, who always told me how horrible it was that I didn’t eat everything on my plate (thus, my inconsistent weight from fat to skinny), or clean every spot off the mirrors in the bathroom (I was only 8), or how my A-minus paper wasn’t what I was capable of.
But the truth is that I was an ardent organizer since age 3. My toys, my books, my color-coordinated closet, and my room were spotless.
I went on to try to force everyone else to keep up with my expectations of perfectionism.
Now I keep apologizing to everyone I have burdened with my harsh expectations. What now?
Not perfect anymore
Your motto could be: Perfect enough!
The problem with your former perfectionism is that you tried to avoid failure more than feeling the freedom and goodness that comes with acknowledging your perfect moments.
We may have many perfect moments. For example, the idea that it’s wrong to force others to meet standards that cannot be achieved will benefit those you love.
Perfectionist parents are common and could possibly go back to the beginning of Adam and Eve. Now, you can help stop the damaging effects of hyper-criticism and judgments.
Unless you were abusive and yelled things like, “No wire hangers-ever!” it’s safe to say that a genuine apology, delivered once, is “perfect enough.”
There’s a difference between striving for quality and handicapping yourself with human impossibilities.
The latter can lead to depression, procrastination, and delusions.
Unhealthy perfectionism can be pathological with a chronic sense of failure, indecisiveness, and shame, motivating your efforts. It devalues successes like:
• Loving your capabilities and rewarding yourself
• Admitting mistakes are not failures
Make sure you see a professional about your discoveries. Perfectionism can be a compulsion.
Teach your children and grandchildren that they don’t have to look “selfie-ready” all the time by your example. Another motto for you could be: Esse quam videri, a Latin phrase meaning “To be, rather than to seem.”
Remember, only one man who walked this earth was perfect and that was two thousand years ago.
Rhonda and Dr. Cheri