Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Hi, I'm Melli, and I'm a perfectionist.

Hopefully, I'm working on recovering from this...but I know I've had this going for a long time, so we will see how long it takes God to make the changes needed in me. He's got my whole life.

I always knew I was a perfectionist in school. I wanted perfect grades....and that one B on my high school transcript still bugs me. It was then that I learned not to risk. I got the B in Jr. AP English (yes, I did go on to get an English Degree in college). At my school, grades weren't weighted, so I chose a much less challenging English class as a senior, so that I would get the A. Why risk getting another B. Its easy to explain it away to scholarships....which did supply almost all the money for school. But I didn't like to fail....and in high school a B was failure to me.

Fast forward....I didn't set lofty goals for myself in college....but I had to keep my grades up to keep my scholarships, so I did well, but let go of perfection in this area...for now...

If you would have asked me just a few months ago, i would have told you that I'm definitely not a perfectionist at home. My house is messy and never ready for company. I am now realizing that somewhere down deep, I figured that if I didn't have the time and energy to do it right, that I just wouldn't bother. If I couldn't have it all perfectly clean all the time, why try? Flylady has a saying that is starting to resonate with me "housework done incorrectly still blesses your family" Wow...so a quick sweep or swipe that doesn't hit every corner is better than nothing. I don't have to wait until I have time to scrub the kitchen floor on hands on knees to clean it.

Now that I am teaching, I see my perfectionism in "school" coming back. At the end of a 3 hour session, these people get to rate me. And it isn't always pretty. i've gotten some mean comments. And I've gotten some that are probably accurate, but not very fun. I have spent way too much time thinking about what these people have said. I do need to improve, and I do want to work to do it. But I'm never going to please all these people, so its time to let go of that.

The biggest conviction I've felt in this area though, comes to risk in relationships. If I can't spend all kinds of time with my neighbors or if I feel like a student will think I'm dumb, I'm less likely to try. God wants me to get started, do what I can and not expect perfection as I try to reach out to people. Just 5 minutes listening to a neighbor's frustration is better than nothing...even if its not offering to bring her a meal or watch her kids for her. And sitting down by a student is worth it, even if she does get up and leave. The effort I made to honor God through building relationships is not failure.


At 12:30 PM, Blogger DenverSop said...

Wow - I never realized we had so much in common, Melli. There was a Light Zone retreat the weekend after I was certain I had destroyed my perfect GPA my senior year, and oddly enough, it was your then-fiancé who helped me work through it so that I was at peace with it when I returned to school the following week only to find out that by a miracle, the teacher had misplaced some of the final exams and had therefore been unable to figure them into the semester grades. My GPA was safe.

And then I remember the overwhelming sense of relief I felt my sophomore year in college when I finally broke the straight-A streak. I enjoyed college so much more after that! (Funny how I went back to straight A's in grad school...)

And I've lost count of the pages in my diary lamenting how much I care what other people think of me. I care way too much and I really don't like that about myself. At times when I am feeling particularly bad about something, I won't even write about it in my diary because I'm afraid someday 50 years from now someone will find it and read it.

At 9:39 AM, Blogger Sherrie said...

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At 9:42 AM, Blogger Sherrie said...

Great post Melli!!

On my headstone it should say, "She always tried" ...

In years past I too was driven my perfectionism, somehow being perfect seemed a protection from being judged or criticized which I just couldn't take. It seems like part of my inner self is so fragile and so sensitive. Being perfectionistic met two needs - avoiding as much criticism as possible and by being wrapped up by trying so hard there wasn't much space in my mind to dwell on the "criticism" that inevitably came.

I'm still sensitive, overly-so when it comes to my family (something many people wouldn't guess). But I'm grateful that I'm not perfectionisitic anymore and I'm ecstatic about being released from its bondage. I finally realized a lot of things about perfectionism ... it was a place that did not create relationships and experiences that really made me feel better, it was a fake sense of security, it created distance with others because I was more concerned about me and my performance than them, everyone has different expectations so there is no way to be perfect for everyone, it was a lie from the enemy that kept me trapped in rules and obligations and approaches that were life suckers, and it was a trap that kept me frozen in important areas. So now, I've traded in a belief in the power of perfectionism for a more balanced belief in the importance of productivity -- it seems to me that its better to be moving forward in a quality way rather than pursuing perfection or being stuck.

I try to live a life that is good enough, make choices that have balance, and pursue the "best" in life which means doing many things at 80% rather than 110%. Of course these newer approaches have their downsides as well (without the "drive" of perfectionism, often my productivity is not as great as it should be!) And there are things I still don't do because of guilt - these stumbling blocks in life haven't gone away yet.

Hopefully some day.

And I wonder, did I, do I, do enough? But without a doubt, I always try.

Have a great, awesome, free, good enough day!!!

Love, Sherrie


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