Using writing, and meditation, and ice cream, and reading, and dreams,

and a whole lot of other tools to rediscover who I am,

after six years living with a man with OCPD.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 3 - Too Perfect

From A1 Diamonds
This post continues with Too Perfect, from Chapter Three.

This series will look at a small snippet of The book on the Perfectionist Personality, aka The Obsessive Compulsive disordered Personality, aka OCPD, each week. Please follow along, leave your comments, engage more on the FaceBook website... whatever your heart calls you to do.

Too Perfect, When Being in Control Gets Out of Control by Allan E. Mallinger, M.D. and Jeanette DeWyze was published by Random House in 1992.  If you believe you are dealing with OCPD or someone who is "Too Perfect," whether that's you or a loved one, please buy a copy of the book and read it for additional insights that will not all be covered in these excerpts.

Let's say that doing a good job is important to you.  You try to avoid making mistakes.  You pay attention to detail and strive to be thorough.  You value competence, both in yourself and in others.

Does this mean you're a perfectionist?

Not necessarily.  The aspects I described are all aspects of a normal, healthy, will to excel, a personality trait that can help one achieve personal satisfaction, material success, and professional recognition.  But in some people, the will to excel takes on exaggerated proportions.  Some people harbor the unconscious convection that any mistake at all is completely unacceptable.  They are driven to seek not just excellence but perfection.  At an unconscious level, perfectionists believe that mistake-free living is both possible and urgently necessary.

The Perfectionist's Credo says: 
  1. If I always try my best and if I'm alert and sharp enough, I can avoid error.  Not only can I perform flawlessly in everything important and be the ideal person in every situation, but I can avoid everyday blunders, oversights, and poor decisions or choices.
  2. It's crucial to avoid making mistakes because they would show that I'm not as competent as I should be.
  3. By being perfect, I can ensure my own security with others.  They will admire me and will have no reason to criticize or reject me.  They could not prefer anyone else to me.
  4. My worth depends on how "good" I am, how smart I am, and how well I perform.


#1 - Has anyone ever accomplished this?   Seriously?  Can any living, breathing, changing organism be "flawless" as a diamond?

We make blunders for a variety of reasons: we were tired; didn't pay close enough attention to the directions given, perhaps paid full attention but the instructions themselves were unclear; we were sick, we were distracted.  No matter how hard we try, a variety of outside factors beyond any human being's control will ensure that we will make blunders.

And, in the case of someone who is OCPD, by trying to control too much, in too many directions, that in itself will ensure that blunders are made.  Even the best jugglers can only keep so many objects in the air at one time for so long, before something drops.

#2 - When I was in school, I was very competitive.  I agonized over every test, every quiz that didn't achieve a perfect score.  Seems to me, now that I've gotten over it, this was a mark of immaturity.  I accept my errors - in business, I actually call them to the attention of my clients and supervisors.  "I've dropped the ball on X; here's how I suggest repairing the damage caused by my mistake."  Because I don't try to hide the fact that I make mistakes, because I openly acknowledge when I've blown it in some way, I actually enjoy greater trust and respect from the people I work with, because they appreciate I'm not playing Cover My A$$ with them.

#3 - People who "appear" perfect annoy the crap out of me.  Ever get one of those holiday letters:  "Looks like Abner will be top of his law school class again.  Brenda still volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club despite her being captain of the cheerleading squad for the third year in a row, plus all the AP classes she's taking.  Chuck and I just celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary with a romantic trip to Niagra Falls, and this summer we'll be re-landscaping the back yard and adding our own waterfall to the pool area with his huge bonus that we totally were not expecting."

Does your BullShit detector go off, too?  Don't you feel like a) this can't possibly be all true, they have to be hiding something, and b) if it is all true, you hate these obnoxious people?

Since we can't stand "perfect" people, why do we think that by being perfect, we'll win friends and admiration?  They'll just think of us the way we think of Chuck and Doris.

#4  In a way, this is true.  Outsiders judge our worth based on what we offer them.  If we're a "good" employee who consistently performs well, or a student who applies him/herself, we will be valued as "worth more" by our employer or teacher.  If we don't have an internal sense of self, if our sense of self-value is totally based on what others seem to think of us, then we do need to be "good."

Outside sources can be dead wrong.  In high school, I had a creepy teacher in one of my AP classes who was always putting his hand on my arm, my shoulder, leaning a little too close to see my homework...  When I began loudly calling him on it, saying in class, "Mr. Creep, please don't touch me," my grades dropped.  (Pretty much all essay-based, therefore subjective.)

At least in that area, I was strong enough/smart enough to realize that I hadn't suddenly become stupid, and that I shouldn't let Mr. Creep determine how I felt about myself.   If you have a "friend" who's been taking advantage of you for X many years, and you begin using boundaries and refusing to let her take advantage of you any longer; she might tell you you're not a good friend anymore.

We need to learn to get past judging our value based on what outsiders think of us.  Even those outsiders who are our partners - the only person who's inside my head is ME.  We need to develop an internal sense of self based on knowing ourselves, loving ourselves, accepting that we are not perfect, and never will be.

It's a lifelong work, and not easy, but much more attainable than trying to be perfect.

How about you - have you ever confused a will to excel 
with a compulsion to be perfect?

Have you found that admitting flaws actually 
brings about better relations with others?