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Old 07-24-2014, 01:04 PM
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Perfectionism

Can we openly start a conversation about perfectionism? I feel so alone in my recovery recently and have had the character defect of perfectionism come up at nearly every turn lately. I know I'm not the only one so I thought there might be some who want to vent or discuss this as it relates to their recovery.

One of the things I realized is that my people pleasing attitude and my "I can't say NO" communication skills got me into a hole where I had to do things perfectly or people wouldn't like me. My RAH was/is a very critical and condescending person so I was always trying to live up to his barbs and comments like, "How come you can't get the dirt out of the coffee cup? This is how you make a bed, use hospital corners. Oh, you don't know what hospital corners are, what rock have you been living under." etc, etc. So, I've been going back to my earlier years of childhood and I realized that it really started way back then and that RAH just fueled the problem, along with my own complicity.

The only time I felt good about myself as a child was when I was pleasing my dad, and my mom to some extent. My dad's attitude ruled my emotions, though, so I worked hard to get good grades, I cleaned the bathroom better, I stayed out of his way, and tried to be the 'perfect daughter'. My mother, on the other hand, just never offered praise nor criticism. She was just 'there', trying to work hard and get through the day being married to an alcoholic.

I also realized that my grandmother was quite critical of us (the grandchildren) if we put on weight or if our clothing was out of place. She was raised in an alcoholic home but neither of my grandparents themselves were alcoholics. I didn't realize how unhealthy things were around her until I got together this past month with one of my cousins and my sister and we talked about some childhood memories since my grandfather just passed. And, then a lightbulb came on. I am always trying to keep myself at a decent weight, I fret when I gain 5 pounds, I hate my teeth, my big nose, and my facial skin is a mess. Those are the things that I see so when people tell me that I'm a pretty person or give me a compliment, I look at them like they're crazy and don't know what to say. Receiving compliments is a difficult thing for me, despite the fact that I feel the need to be perfect all the time. My grandmother has made negative comments about all those features on me over the years.

Journaling and spending time with Al Anon people have helped me see that I don't need to be perfect and that I am loved for who I am. I just wish I could drop the habit of beating myself up for gaining a few pounds or for the fact that I won't pay for braces but hate my crooked teeth anyway, LOL. Yes, I hate my teeth but I'm too cheap to get braces. Of course, my cheapness has kept me from trying extreme measures to find perfection because I'd never get plastic surgery unless it was medically necessary. I guess I can be grateful for that. Finding a way to love myself and see myself the way others see me (not the sick people in my life obviously) is going to become a larger part of my recovery process.

FYI: I just ordered the ACOA book, "Perfect Daughters", so that will be where I start hopefully to deal with this issue for myself.
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Old 07-24-2014, 01:19 PM
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At the first alanon meeting I went to the speaker talked about the alanon closing and what really resonated with me is that she mentioned that she hadn't ever heard from anyone that she didn't have to be perfect. It was a total newsflash for me as well.

This past weekend, I told my AH "I don't know what I'm supposed to do" a handful of times and I don't think I've ever actually said those words to anyone. Anyone. Ever.

Accepting that I don't have to be perfect is hard because for me I'm either chasing perfection or flirting with being a complete and utter failure. For me, the perfectionism stuff goes hand in hand with black and white thinking. I'm not perfect and the world isn't going to end because of it. Actually accepting that I'm not perfect and just rolling with the punches makes me more fun to be around too because I'm not so annoying with something doesn't go as planned.
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Old 07-24-2014, 02:07 PM
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Oh yes I've been working quite hard on perfectionism.

I've been fighting it forever. Being good or invisible was pretty much my chosen defense. If you can handle everything on your own (close to perfect), then you don't need to rely on unreliable people.

I've fought perfectionism in cleaning, orderliness, constructive criticism, work habits, and in relationships. Recently I realized that I may have cut other people some slack in relationships, but I really had not cut myself any slack. I was still expecting perfectionism in relationships from myself. Pretty funny actually.
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Old 07-24-2014, 02:29 PM
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The only time I felt good about myself as a child was when I was pleasing my dad, and my mom to some extent. My dad's attitude ruled my emotions, though, so I worked hard to get good grades, I cleaned the bathroom better, I stayed out of his way, and tried to be the 'perfect daughter'.
Yes...that's me. I've been thinking about this a lot lately. The wrinkle in my case is that neither of my parents is an alcoholic (if they were, maybe I would not have had my head so far up my *** when I met my ex - I was so nave. But I digress.)

So what was it that turned me into a people pleaser, fixer, show-how-competent-I-am-in every-situation type of person? I had a couple of "regular" boyfriends but I was attracted to the losers that needed my help. Why? The best answer that I can come up with is that life in our house revolved around my father's moods in the same way as if he had been alcoholic, despite the fact that he was a great provider, involved parent, 100% reliable, not an addict. In addition to all of that, he is/was a control freak with a hair trigger temper (not a batterer but emotionally, yes we were scared of setting him off). Staying out of his way when he was in a bad mood was something you just did. My brothers crossed him and took the consequences but I tried to be perfect and do what he wanted me to do. I think I carried that with me for decades.
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Old 07-24-2014, 02:50 PM
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Hi Santa,

My parents were not addicts either, but we had family dysfunction and learned crazy relationships. I fit ACOA Laundry List almost perfectly!
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Old 07-24-2014, 06:05 PM
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ACOA Laundry List
Is there one??
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Old 07-24-2014, 06:54 PM
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ACOA Laundry List

The Problem - Adult Children of Alcoholics - World Service Organization, Inc.

The Laundry List 14 Traits of an Adult Child of an Alcoholic

We became isolated and afraid of people and authority figures.

We became approval seekers and lost our identity in the process.

We are frightened of angry people and any personal criticism.

We either become alcoholics, marry them or both, or find another compulsive personality such as a workaholic to fulfill our sick abandonment needs.

We live life from the viewpoint of victims and we are attracted by that weakness in our love and friendship relationships.

We have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and it is easier for us to be concerned with others rather than ourselves; this enables us not to look too closely at our own faults, etc.

We get guilt feelings when we stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others.

We became addicted to excitement.

We confuse love and pity and tend to "love" people we can "pity" and "rescue."

We have "stuffed" our feelings from our traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express our feelings because it hurts so much (Denial).

We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem.

We are dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment and will do anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to experience painful abandonment feelings, which we received from living with sick people who were never there emotionally for us.

Alcoholism is a family disease; and we became para-alcoholics and took on the characteristics of that disease even though we did not pick up the drink.

Para-alcoholics are reactors rather than actors.

Tony A., 1978

Note: The Laundry List serves as the basis for The Problem statement.
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Old 07-24-2014, 07:18 PM
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Regarding perfectionism. It's a trait I have, not who I am. I used to think it was a positive trait. Then I thought it was a negative trait. Now I realize, it's both. It helps me accomplish tasks and learn new skills. It also makes me disappointed in myself and encourages my negative self-talk. It helps me strive for greatness, but doesn't allow me to feel satisfied with progress. It's not something I "struggle with" or hope to eliminate. Instead, I try to recognize when it's controlling me and allow myself to be less than perfect. When it takes over, I know the committee in my head is in session. That's when it's time to adjourn the meeting and just be. I've learned that you really can't fight or change the personality traits you have. You just have to learn to take yourself back when they try to take control. I'm not always successful in this. I still sometimes get caught up in perfectionism (and other things), but I'm slowly learning to recognize those parts of me that cause misery.

L
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Old 07-24-2014, 07:44 PM
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The only thing perfectionism ever produced is failure.
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Old 07-24-2014, 10:45 PM
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Originally Posted by LaTeeDa View Post
Regarding perfectionism. It's a trait I have, not who I am. I used to think it was a positive trait. Then I thought it was a negative trait. Now I realize, it's both. It helps me accomplish tasks and learn new skills. It also makes me disappointed in myself and encourages my negative self-talk. It helps me strive for greatness, but doesn't allow me to feel satisfied with progress. It's not something I "struggle with" or hope to eliminate. Instead, I try to recognize when it's controlling me and allow myself to be less than perfect. When it takes over, I know the committee in my head is in session. That's when it's time to adjourn the meeting and just be. I've learned that you really can't fight or change the personality traits you have. You just have to learn to take yourself back when they try to take control. I'm not always successful in this. I still sometimes get caught up in perfectionism (and other things), but I'm slowly learning to recognize those parts of me that cause misery.

L
Thank you for this perspective, it's helped me a lot today. I like that reminder that it's when the personality traits try to take control that you have to step back and recognize it and that opens up the opportunity for self-growth and awareness and improvement of self.
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Old 07-25-2014, 02:47 AM
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CodeJob: thank you. I can say yes to most if not all of the items on that list.
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Old 07-25-2014, 05:28 AM
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LaTeeDa, I think your post is so smart!

I suspect that I fight the trait because I could feel it slipping into OCD. I have some other anxiety behaviors too that i was surprised to see in the DSM. Everyone used to talk about how weird I was and no one ever tagged it as an expression of anxiety or OCD. Found it here on SR actually last spring. That realization really clicked a lot into place for me.
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Old 07-25-2014, 07:42 AM
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Originally Posted by CodeJob View Post
LaTeeDa, I think your post is so smart!

I suspect that I fight the trait because I could feel it slipping into OCD. I have some other anxiety behaviors too that i was surprised to see in the DSM. Everyone used to talk about how weird I was and no one ever tagged it as an expression of anxiety or OCD. Found it here on SR actually last spring. That realization really clicked a lot into place for me.
Same here with me. I've always been weird, though, just never connected it with anxiety or OCD. Now, I see it and I am learning tools to deal with it.
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Old 07-25-2014, 12:30 PM
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I can totally relate to this thread. I was just speaking with my therapist about my "perfectionism" last week... as it ties in so neatly with my anxiety and OCD tendencies. I have very high standards for myself, yet continually disappoint myself and have a very difficult time forgiving myself for my faults/mistakes. I'm harder on myself than anyone else has ever been.

I've spent most of my life thinking "If it's not perfect, it's not good enough... I'm not good enough". I know this thinking carried over into my relationships. If a friendship or a relationship ends, I feel like I have failed. That person doesn't want me in their life because I am not "good enough". I'm working (really hard) to change my thinking.

I found a book at the library last week, "Be Happy Without Being Perfect". Haven't started reading it yet, as I am finishing up another book first, but I've flipped through it a few times and no matter what page I've skimmed, I've found something applicable.
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