"Why am I so hateful and a perfectionist?"

In a big rush this morning due to heavy teaching load, but had to post about this.

Like most blogsters, I regularly check my stats to see how much traffic I have, where it’s coming from, etc. Among other things, I see the search terms people use to wind up on my site.

Last night, in the midst of all the usual terms – “perfectionism,” “procrastination,” “writer’s block,” “Hillary Retik”, etc. – I found this: “Why am I so hateful and a perfectionist.” And it kind of broke my heart.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, I hope you read this:

You’re perfectionist because you grew up in a perfectionist culture – as did your parents, friends, neighbors, teachers, etc. Very few of us get out unscathed. Perfectionism is rampant in the media, because perfectionist tropes such as

*rags-to-riches
*overnight success
*lone genius succeeding
*bullying coach leads “loser kids” to victory

make good drama.

Most advertising is also perfectionist. If I can convince you that you are ill-groomed, a bad housekeeper, a bad parent, or in other ways a “loser,” I can create fear in you, and then sell you products to allay that fear.

Many people (including parents and teachers) promote perfectionism because they confuse it with having high standards. Let’s get clear on this: high standards are great. But perfectionism is about setting unreasonable, unachievable standards and punishing yourself harshly for failing to meet them. Perfectionists also suffer from a whole host of other symptoms, including overidentification with the work (so that any “failure” becomes a kind of ego-demolition), short-sightedness (the current work becomes a do-or-die matter), labeling (“I’m a total failure!”) and invidious comparisons (“Trollope wrote for hours each morning before putting in a full day of work, so I should be able to do that, too!”).

Dear Reader, being a perfectionist doesn’t mean you’re hateful: it only means you’re normal. It also means you care – since perfectionism is typically an affliction of caring, compassionate people who are striving to do well while honorably meeting their obligations and responsibilities. Please don’t bash yourself. Just work on overcoming your perfectionism and you’ll be fine.

And, Reader: the thing to do whenever you find yourself asking a rhetorical question about yourself is to answer it.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, I’m wishing you peace and love.

written by

Activist, coach, workshop leader, and author of The Lifelong Activist and The 7 Secrets of the Prolific.

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