I had a therapist tell me she would not answer my call until I rang her 5 minutes late. She was challenging my perfectionist nature to sleep at night knowing I did not make an appointment on time.
This was about 20 years ago, and I have not given myself such a robust dare since. Until today.
Today, I just didn’t want to be a rule-follower.
Today, I intentionally stopped about 200 meters short of the top of Shaw Butte mountain, turned around and ran down. It took a full two minutes of sprinting to convince myself not to go back up and finish it right.
And today I purposely did not tuck in my chair (or my husband’s chair) at the restaurant where we had cold beers and appetizers. The whole way home, willing myself to have done it right.
These are the regrets sticklers of perfection struggle with.
I don’t want drivers to be angry with me at merge lanes, so I measure our distance, the environment, their car, assess if they’ll want me to go first, or if they will want to go. Knowing dr. office receptionists believe they control the world, I enlist my subservience before pressing the number. I give eye contact and wave at every passer on the trail lest they think I’m unfriendly.
I make a lot of decision in an effort to be perfect for people who mostly don’t give a shit about whether or not I succeed or fail. But today I just didn’t want to care. So risked my reputation for giving 100%, and risked the waitress thinking I’m lazy.
I know we all have a desire to be accepted. Nobody wants to be alone. In fact aloneness is life-threatening. People who are isolated and/or lonely have poorer mental and physical health. Especially during disasters, like the government mandated social isolation we’re experiencing now, serious mental illness due to loneliness and lack of social support is exacerbated.
Maybe my perfectionism has nothing to do with my desire to be accepted.
Maybe I just believe if I don’t reach the top of the mountain today, then what happens tomorrow? Is it going to be ok to not get there tomorrow? And then the next day? And then the next? Pretty soon I’ll find myself on the couch with Cheeze puff crumbs in my lap, flipping through endless episodes of The Office on Netflix.
I guess I just want my effort to earn me something. Money. Success. Notoriety. Popularity. Maybe it has. Maybe it hasn’t. Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t.
I think ultimately, we just have to know what’s best for ourselves. For some people, not finishing is not a big deal. Not cleaning up their environment before leaving a restaurant is not a big deal. And that’s what works for their life. Honestly, I like being a person who finishes things right. As exhausting as it can be, I like being a nice person. I didn’t mind that I lived one day on the edge of a nightmare for incomplete work. But I really don’t want to live there. It just doesn’t feel right.