I realize now why I signed up for the thirty days of blogging back in December. If I don’t feel obligated to sit down and write every day I won’t. Just like any other practice, writing doesn’t happen by itself and it never seems convenient. The problem with not writing every day is that I get all these ideas swimming around in my mind. Instead of sitting down to stir them together into something, they stay fragmented and seemingly separate. When I take the time to write it out, I discover that situations that have been bothering me and little seedling ideas about concepts actually fit together into a solid theme. A few weeks ago when I was working on the big catering job, the theme was clearly perfectionism. When I began to dissect that big beastly idea I came up with so many facets I could write a book. Some have, maybe I will. For now, I will try to keep exploring one or two topics at a time until I feel satisfied.
Today, I’m going to delve into some “side effects” of perfectionism: denial and defensiveness (in that order).
I realized that when I have the crooked paradigm of needing to be “perfect” working in my mind, it leads me to push aside any thoughts and behavior that don’t fit into my idea of how I should be. For example, I decided at some point, probably long ago before I even remember, that I am a kind and gentle person. That’s true, I am very kind and gentle. However, the truth of who I am is so much more complicated than that! I have many other sides, including angry, judgmental, passionate, silly… The side that makes me most uncomfortable is my angry side, so I try to hide from it. I believe that there is always a way to see the positive in a situation and that everything happens for some reason. Not necessarily in a mystical destiny kind of way, but in a there’s-always-something-to-get-out-of-this kind of way. I don’t like to acknowledge when something happens that really sucks and makes me angry. I don’t like to acknowledge that when Ben wakes up the baby or draws on the wall or dumps out a bottle of expensive soap, I feel really angry!
Thankfully, my therapist reminds me that feelings are always okay. What I want to avoid is acting my feelings, instead of just feeling them and talking about them. This is easier said than done! What happens for me with perfectionism and denial is that I try to deny having the feeling, and end up acting it out rather than experiencing, acknowledging, and talking about it. Thus, I try to avoid feeling angry but end up acting angry anyway. See how this is a problem?
Then to make things more exciting, denial leads into defensiveness. When someone (Mo) calls me on acting in a way I don’t like to admit that I act, because it doesn’t fit in the mold of how I want to be I get defensive. I can be forgetful, disorganized, and cluttered. I really really don’t like these things about myself. I judge myself for them all day long. I try really hard to compensate for my natural tendency to be scatter brained, so when I have somehow “failed” at this, I enter denial and mentally cover for myself. I can see now, from a distance, that the best thing to do would be to apologize to Mo or anyone else I have affected negatively. Then I could forgive myself and move on. But no! My usual habit is to deny that I have caused any problem with my behavior, since I don’t like it, and then get defensive if Mo calls me on it. If he says, “Just so you know, I constantly close the cabinets behind you.” I immediately fire back with “You know I don’t ALWAYS leave them open!” I can see now that I do this because it is painful for me to hear him point out something that doesn’t fit in with my perfect idea of who I want to be. I don’t want to be the cabinet-leaver-opener! I hate that I do things like that! I hate hearing someone say it out loud even more! He is not a fan of walking into sharp edged cabinets which for him are right at face level. It’s true, I don’t ALWAYS leave them open, but the other day when I was home alone I walked into the kitchen and I’m not kidding, almost every cabinet was just hanging open. Hrrmph. How does that even happen?
I truly hope to be able to acknowledge the things about myself which I find uncomfortable or “imperfect” and either work on them if that is possible, or acknowledge them and love myself anyway.
How have you learned to love your “flaws”?
Here are some more photos from the party I catered. Today I’m featuring side dishes: