I can think of a million and one reasons not to do something. Remind me to do it anyway.

I'm a thinker, and an analyst, and I tend to be hypercritical of myself. If I can't be the best at something, I don't want to do it at all. As a result, I almost never do anything.

I'm famous in my family for making ugly scenes out of moments that should be light-hearted and/or inconsequential. (Hey guys, remember that time I upset the Trivial Pursuit board at Thanksgiving, sending colorful little pie pieces flying through the air and skittering across the coffee table? All because I KNEW the right answers to EVERYONE ELSE'S questions, but not my own, and I got pissed off because I was losing? And I yelled swear words in the presence of impressionable children and stormed out, but forgot to take my purse with me? Yeah...that was fun, wasn't it. *sigh* Good times.)

If you beat me at Balderdash, or Scrabble, or even Chinese checkers, I'll respect you, but I probably won't like you very much.

In short, I'm kind of a jerk.

I can't cook if my kitchen isn't spotless. (It's never spotless, thus all the eating out.)
I can't sew if one stitch is screwed up. (At least one stitch is always screwed up.)
I can't scrapbook if I make one wrong cut. (I measure once, and cut...)
I can't write if I can't find the perfect words. (Hence the dearth of recent blog posts.)

Do you see where this is going, people? I am a perfectionist who knows she can never be perfect. I'm a master of self sabotage and a cultivator of discontent. No matter what I do or say, it will be the wrong thing. Therefore...I find myself on my day off crawling under a warm quilt, watching five episodes of Weeds back-to-back while eating three-fourths of a bag of orange creme Halloween Oreos.


And then I despise myself for all of my perceived shortcomings.

Somehow, I was under the impression that once I got help with my mood issues, sought and received medical attention for the depression I've suffered since adolescence, I would be fixed. Cured. Made better. It never occurred to me that depression is an on-going disease, one that I will battle for the rest of my life. The disease does not conveniently disappear just because I take a pill or two everyday. When I have a downturn, I get angry. I get ashamed, and I feel guilty about not feeling well. I'm supposed to be fine! I have no tangible reason not to be happy! But maybe...if my apartment were clean, I'd be happy. If I could sew without mistakes, I'd be happy. If I could finish a scrapbook page or a blog post, I'd be happy. It's not ME; it's these outward circumstances over which I have so little control...or over which I WOULD have control if I were just a smarter, more ambitious, skinnier, healthier, more attractive person.

Wrong. All wrong.

I'm not saying all of this to justify my being a jerk. I'm not blaming depression for making me act like a pain in the ass. I'm just saying that I'm a jerk to myself just as often as I'm mean to anyone else. Much, much more often, actually.

I'm mean to myself. I berate myself until I curl into a ball and achieve stasis.

In order to recover from this mode I have to allow myself to be imperfect, remind myself that imperfection is not only inevitable, but beautiful. It is what makes me who I am. If I were perfect, I'd be a Stepford wife, and truthfully, I'd much rather be fun, quirky, too-often-a-pain-in-the-ass Rachel.

I can list off in my head a million and one reasons why my feeble efforts at life are inadequate, why I shouldn't even try to cook bacon or knit a scarf, or hang a picture. And if I let myself, I will. I have an internal running commentary to remind me of the specific ways in which I fall short. But every once in a while, instead of listening to it, I tell myself to shut up. I kick my own ass, and I start hammering nails into the wall. I know my frame isn't ever going to hang straight.

Fuck it. I like it crooked anyway.


Cathy said...

Bravo!!!!!!!!! I LOVE it! BUT, did you just write this post about me, 'cause it all sounds so familiar, especially the part about doing nothing if you can't do it perfectly. Such a sad state, if I might say so. I haven't gotten a little better about just saying "eff it", but I always hesitate first. Hmmmm. You've given me food for thought, as always.

Cathy said...

I HAVE gotten a little better, but obviously not at proofreading. Bwah ha ha!!!!!

Adriane said...

This is exactly how I've been feeling the last month or two. I was starting to get into a good routine, and keeping things caught up and balanced, until Tanner went back to public school. Now I can't seem to get back into the swing of things. If I can't do them perfect, there is no sense in doing anything, hence nothing is getting done, commence downward spiral.

Rachel said...

You have no idea how good it feels to know I'm not alone. I feel a little less crazy now. :)

designhead | stacia said...

I have carried this one quote inside the cover of my notebooks for years now. Somedays I need to look at it and somedays just knowing it's there lets enough light in for me to see where I really am.
"I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that alot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it."
— Anne Lamott

chksngr said...

Ahhhh...perfectionism...it either drives one to striving and stressing and chaos, or it drives one to retreat and recede and shrink. Such a wonderful lie...that perfection is possible...we WANT to believe it...I mean Jennifer Anniston and Angie Jolie can't be wrong, right? Right? I lost my mind when I tried to figure out who decided that something specific was perfection...like, oh, that gorgeous shade of beige that seems to be on every wall in every magazine...who decided that was the perfect shade of beige? I mean if we were all perfect, the world would be terribly uninteresting, all perfect beige...and blond...with large boobs, long legs, perfectly straight teeth, hardwood floors and granite counter tops and windows that never get dirty and gourmet meals and straight seams. I mean, how good is good enough??? Praise God I'm perfected through Jesus...cuz LORD KNOWS I'm not perfect in any other possible way...I'm the striving, stressing, chaotic kind of imperfect...I do, tho...have blonde hair (now) HA!

nancy said...

As a perfectionist with depression, I can't even begin to describe how much I relate to this post. I spent a lot of years going back to bed because I couldn't bear the thought of living & creating in a house that wasn't perfectly clean. Or creating things that weren't perfect. I'm much better... but occasionally I still find myself in bed at 11:00 in the morning, hiding from the kitchen.

Amy said...

You have hit the nail on the head for a lot of us, hey, have you ever visited this site


She's got some great ideas on the whole perfectionist thing - check it out :-)

Enjoy the Ride Today! said...

I'm two weeks late in responding to this post, I hate it when I'm late, and I'm always late. I soooo identify with this post! If I can't do something "right" (read: good or perfect) the first time, I just won't do it. This is a BIG issue with games. I won't and don't give myself the time to learn and practice (speaking computer games here) so I give up. I have only ever played one single video game to its end and I had to have pushing and help from my gamer husband to "win". It took me MONTHS to get there. It wasn't fun. It should have been. I so get ya! And I love ya for sharing these pieces of you. Now, let's make a pact to EMBRACE IMPERFECTIONS! :)

Tracy said...

We are twins...LOL
As I sit here spending time on the internet instead of...paying bills, hanging pictures on the bare walls I've had for 10 months, or cleaning in general, I completely understand what you are saying. My drive for perfectionism leads to me delaying or avoiding things like writing papers or baking (if it doesn't turn out awesome then I have failed).

You are not alone. Let's make a vow to say screw perfectionism. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some pictures to hang.