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Perfectionism

At first glance, you may think that this character trait is a good thing.  In fact, it reminds me of that piece of advice given for job interviews: when asked what your biggest weakness is, tell them that you are just “too” organized or “too” responsible so they think your only flaw is that you are more than you have to be – – that you are therefore “perfect” for the job.  Personally, I never got the memo on how to use perfectionism in a positive way.  For me it was always a prison.  From the time I first realized that I had a weight problem (somewhere around the 5th grade), I started thinking that, since I cannot control my appetite, I had to compensate for the “imperfect” way I looked by being “perfect” about everything else.  That’s when I believe I started unconsciously creating a list of rules that I had to live by in order to justify my own existance.  For example, I “couldn’t” draw any attention to myself, I “couldn’t” eat infront of certain people, I “couldn’t” wear certain clothes,…  As a teenager, it became more complex.  On top of all these rules I invented about things I “couldn’t” do, now I added a whole list of things I “had” to do…  I “had” to be the best friend, I “had” to have a boyfriend, I “had” to get thin,…  Little by little, my whole thought-life became completely black or white – – I was either living by the rules or I wasn’t.  I lost all the grey.  I could never just be.  By the time I became an adult, the whole process was so automatic that, whenever I encountered a new situation, a whole new list of “do’s and don’ts” would pop into my unconscious mind and start directing my every move.  If I wanted to try to go on a diet and I ate something not on the plan, it was over.  In my warped mind, since I didn’t follow the plan “perfectly,” then I wasn’t following it at all, so why even bother?  The same thing would happen if I wanted to learn a new skill.  If I didn’t improve “fast enough,” I would give-up. What was the use?

It was only at age 43, when I finally did the 12 Steps exactly the way they are outlined in the Big Book, that I was able to see any of this.  Years of counceling, seminars, self-analysis, journaling,… never brought any of this to light for me.  But now that I can see what a narrow, limited life resulted from this character trait, I am able to see it for what it truly is: a character defect.  As soon as I came to this realization (half-way through Step 4), I’d say that 50% of these ridiculous rules I had been living by for decades just fell away (and with them, 50% of the stress in my life!).  Since completing the rest of the steps, I’d say another 25% of them have been removed.  The remaining portion, I believe, will slowly but surely leave me as well, as long as I continue to work my program and stick close to my Higher Power.

March 2, 2012 This post was written by Categories: My Battle With Character Defects Tagged with:
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