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, July 12, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 3 - Rising Above Perfectionism
Perfectly Human & Overcoming the Fear of Embarrassment

This post continues with Rising Above Perfection: PERFECTLY HUMAN & OVERCOMING THE FEAR OF EMBARRASSMENT, 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.

Rising Above Perfectionism

The ultimate irony - and tragedy of perfectionism is that it simply doesn't work.  It's supposed to earn you rave reviews and exempt you from criticism.  Instead it damages both your work and your relationships, and puts you under an unrelenting pressure.  If you've concluded that your perfectionism is hurting you, you can make changes.


Part of the Perfectionist's Credo is the notion that other people won't like you as well if you make a mistake, or you don't know things, or you allow your faults to show through.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Your need to be right all the time often repels friends and associates.

Nobody will ever feel empathy for you, love you, or enjoy being close to you simply because you are right or because you hardly ever make mistakes.  <snip>

And the next time you're wrong about something, just admit it.  Don't explain why you made the mistake.  Don't show how anyone would have made that mistake under the circumstances.  Don't insist that your answer actually was correct but was misunderstood.

Just confess, "I was wrong about that."  Then start counting the people who shrink away from you. I'm exaggerating, of course.  But when you start letting your fallibility show, when you let go of your need to know everything and to show how smart you are, you'll feel a burden being lifted.  You'll feel more relaxed.  It will be easier to smile.  You'll be free!  And these changes will occur the very first time you suppress your perfectionistic need to be infallible.


If you find yourself shrinking from certain activities because you dread being embarrassed, ask yourself two questions: Are your social fears and inhibitions preventing you from reaching your full potential or enjoying life?  And are you willing to endure a certain amount of anxiety to overcome the problem?

<snip> For example, if you dread giving oral presentations, start by asking questions as an audience member.  Don't wait until you have something brilliant to say.  Say anything.  <snip>

Follow the same gradual approach in other frightening situations.  Take classes that force you to perform in front of others.  Join walking groups,  Give parties.  Tell yourself that it won't be awful if your nervousness shows, or if you make a silly blunder.  When these things do happen, and they will, refuse to allow yourself to feel humiliated.  Concentrate on the fact that these missteps make you more attractive, not less so.  You come through as a genuine, vulnerable human being.  People can connect with you.


I wanted to show the karaoke clip from My Best Friend's wedding, but all the ones that had been posted online have been removed, per Sony.  If you've seen it, forgive me for the short explanation.

Julianne (portrayed by Julia Roberts) has decided to recapture the love of her best friend, who's engaged to marry Kimmy (Cameron Diaz).  She finds out that Kimmy, who has a terrible singing voice, also has a horrible fear of singing in public and exposing this.  So Julianne maneuvers the group to a karaoke place and pressures Kimmy to get onstage and sing, figuring that either a terrible performance, or an emotional meltdown will destroy Michael's (Dermot Mulroney) respect and admiration for this girl.

Kimmy is, in fact, woefully bad.  Bring-on-the-howling-dogs bad.  But Julianne's plan backfires, because Michael (Dermot Mulroney) finds Kimberly's courage and willingness to look bad in front of a crowded room just one more reason to love her.

Okay, this is Hollywood.  And I'm not suggesting that all the bad singers out there (you know who you are!) start crowding karaoke bars.  (Please don't!)  But I can testify that similar things have happened in my own life.  Whenever I have gone out on a limb in some way, I get more admiration and approval than if I'd just hung back and taken the safe route.  

Take writing.  Besides this blog, I've completed a couple of novels, and am working on another one.  I sent umpteen queries (70+) and pages before getting an agent.  (And I've gotten dozens more rejections via said agent, but still.)  I plan to be, I expect to be, a published writer in the not too distant future.  But even if that never happens, I know I'm a lot further along that goal than somebody who writes and secretes her writing in a box on the closet shelf, even if she's twenty times better a writer than I am.  Because I was willing to take that chance.

You'll always miss 100% of the shots you don't take.
~Wayne Gretzky

I'm also trying to tone down my own tendency towards Know-It-All-Ism.  Yes, I'm a fairly intelligent woman, and I've learned a lot at the School of Hard Knocks.  There's still more that I don't know, than I do.  Maybe I can win some respect, and admiration for being a Know-It-All, but love?  Close connection with other flawed human beings?  Not happening.

Nobody will ever feel empathy for you, love you, or enjoy being close to you simply because you are right or because you hardly ever make mistakes.  That phrase should be embroidered on a pillow or perhaps tattooed on my forehead, backwards, so I can see it every morning when I look in the mirror.

So many times I watched my OCPD ex launch into Know-It-All mode and begin lecturing our friends and family, seeing their eyes glaze over, seeing him ignore all their efforts to change the subjects.    My heart would ache, because I could see how very badly he wanted the admiration and approval of others - and how what he was doing had the exact opposite effect.  I felt horribly embarrassed and sad for him.  (Which, of course, is textbook co-dependence on my part - I should not have "imported" embarrassment or sadness on behalf of another person.  I'm workin' on it.)

There's only one Mr. Know-It-All people really appreciate.

Let me recommend, if you're a perfectionist yourself, another way of fighting your lions.

Have you ever gone out on a limb, and been glad you did?  
Please share, in the comments, below.