Please note – This following post is meant as entertainment only. I am not a mental health practitioner, nor do I play one on TV. If you or someone you love is battling perfectionism, depression or any other serious condition, please seek help or contact the suicide prevention hotline
I’m a virgin (stop laughing! It’s true!). No, wait – I am THE virgin (no, not that one). My birthday is August 27th, which makes me Virgo the Virgin (If you keep rolling your eyes like that, they’re going to fall out of your head).
I don’t know about you, but I take Horoscopes with a grain of salt. Then again, I take a lot of things with a grain of salt (and a shot of tequila). I subscribed to Tarot.com for grins and giggles (it beats the heck out of the doom and gloom that’s been pouring into my newsfeed lately). Yesterday’s horoscope included a message that resonated with me. Dr. Harriet Braiker wrote “Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.”
- You feel like things should always be done a certain way
- You beat yourself up for making mistakes
- You believe if it’s not perfect, it’s a complete failure
- You procrastinate until circumstances are just right
- You worry others will see a flaw and judge you
- You think asking for help is a sign of weakness
- You feel the need to be in control
- You’re afraid of starting something new in case you’re not the best
- You attach self-worth to achievements, i.e. “I failed therefore I’m a failure”
- You think you should be doing things better, and rarely give yourself credit
- You tend to abandon goals if you make a mistake or fall off the wagon
The Whole Life Challenge also listed these uplifting responses to “What is your life really like?”
- “If I’m not the best, then I’m a failure.”
- “I can’t ask for help, people will think I’m not good enough.”
- “I’m exhausted but I can’t relax — I always have to stay one step ahead.”
- “I never feel satisfied and nothing I do is enough.”
- “If I make a mistake it proves I’m worthless.”
- “I feel hollow, like I can never be happy.”
Virgos are known for being perfectionists, so I could blame my Sun Sign. Evidently Virgo traits include perfectionism, cleanliness and highly analytical behavior.
Then again, according to The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are first born children have a strong streak of perfectionism, so I could blame the P word on being the first-born.
Of course, per the National Association for Gifted Children “It’s not uncommon for high-ability children to also be perfectionists” – so maybe I should blame my big brain (yes, I iz a smartie pants).
But I blame this woman.
No, not Julie Andrews. Mary Poppins. I loooooved the movie when I was growing up (still do). Mary Poppins was beautiful, never had a hair out of place, was extremely well dressed, sang birds out of the trees, and could ride carousel horses off the carousel.
(bonus – she rescued the poor little fox). While other girls dreamed of being Wonder Woman or Batgirl (completely off topic – why wasn’t she Batwoman?) I dreamt of flying through the air with my talking umbrella and magic bag. I had no doubt that when I grew up I would be just like my idol – practically perfect in every way.
I’m older now, and closer to being Peter Pan than Mary Poppins (I may grow older, but I refuse to grow up!) – but my Mary Poppins Syndrome (MPS) remains. It has proven to be more of a curse than a blessing. It stops me from trying new things (what if I fail/can’t do it perfectly?) and from finishing things I’ve started (my bathroom cabinets, which refused to strip perfectly, remain door-less, and I’ve been working on a book since my 17-year-old was a toddler).
I know that I’m not alone in my battle with the dreaded P word. Googling “The Perils of Perfectionism”* brings up dozens of articles. Knowing that I’m not alone isn’t comforting. If anything, it makes me feel worse.
A quick glance at The Alarming New Research on Perfectionism from nymag.com let me know that I may be at risk for suicide. “But real perfectionism can be devastatingly destructive, leading to crippling anxiety or depression, and it may even be an overlooked risk factor for suicide, argues a new paper in Review of General Psychology, a journal of the American Psychological Association.” It also advised me that I’ve probably cursed my daughter with the syndrome. “If you’re a perfectionist who also happens to be a parent, it’s even more important to get your inner Tracy Flick under control, because research suggests that perfectionism is a trait that you can pass down to your kids.” Not the Mother’s curse I was looking for.
Hey, that’s great.
But there’s always hope. I found several articles promising to help me cure perfectionism “In Six (or 5, or 11) easy steps.” Unfortunately, every article lists “don’t be afraid to make mistakes or ask for help” as one of the steps…and help is a four letter word.
I think I’ll start a 12 step program.
Hello, my name is Tracey and I have MPS.
*The Perils of Perfectionism isn’t anywhere close to being as much fun as the Perils of Penelope Pitstop