Posted in all about me, life lessons

Like a Virgin

th[3]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.”

There it was – the P word. The word that has plagued me all my adult life. How do I know I’m a perfectionist? I failed the online test, but recognized the signs listed on wholelifechallenge.com

  • 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.

th[4] (2)

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.

practically perfect[1]

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in four letter words, life lessons, Uncategorized

Help me help you

10310622_10202638688706120_4691273213818244861_n[1]One of my New Year’s resolutions was to write 2-3 times/week. As with most of my resolutions (diet, exercise regularly,  call my mother*), I have failed. I started out fairly strongly, but I’ve managed to get derailed by grief and writer’s block. Today’s daily prompt from The Daily Post “Help” didn’t knock the block down, but it tried.

When I saw today’s prompt, I thought “I can’t write, but at least I can re-blog one of my older posts. I know I just wrote about the importance of asking for and accepting help.”

“Cheater!” screamed the EIC (He’s gotten louder now that I’m not writing).

“STFU.” (He may be getting louder, but I’ve learned not to listen).

I was surprised  to find that the post I had in mind was written in 2015. I know that time is a big ball of wibbly wobbly..timey wimey stuff**, but I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since I wrote about hitting rock bottom and learning to ask for help.

I think the post is still relevant. We are taught that help is a four letter word. We think that we should be able to do it all, and do it all well, and that we should be able to get it all done yesterday, if not sooner. We need to learn that not all four letter words are dirty, and that asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

More importantly, we need to learn to offer to help before anyone asks. Don’t get me wrong – this doesn’t mean you should try to “help” when you think someone is doing something “wrong.”

“You’re folding the socks wrong, let me help” isn’t helpful in the least, and it usually results in nobody ever folding the socks again (and the socks get mad, and run away, usually in different directions. One of them ends up in the dryer and the other one in the bottom of the toy box). I’m saying that, when we see others struggling, we should offer to help – and not the way WE want to help. We need to be willing to give them the help they want.

Which is a really longwinded way of saying that telling someone “I’m here if you need anything” is the best way to offer help. Sometimes knowing that help is close is all that we need.

* In my defense, my mom died in 1995, so I can’t just pick up the phone and dial

** For the Doctor Who fans in the audience:

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Friends

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FYI, this post is not about the tv show, although I liked it a lot.

 

I ran into a friend at the grocery store today. We were close once, but over the past few years we’ve drifted apart. Our daughters brought us together, but they grew up and found new friends, and so, our friendship faded.

That’s not exactly true, and since They say (no, I don’t know who “they” are) a writer must be honest, I’ll try again.

Our daughters grew up and my friend dumped me. Over the past year she stopped responding to my emails, answering my texts or returning my calls. I was hurt, and wondered what I had done wrong (because that’s the way my brain works. It’s always my fault). After a while, my feelings turned to anger. I decided she was a “friend for a season” and that I was better off without “friends like that”, but I was still heartbroken.

When I ran into her at the store, my first impulse was to smile politely and keep shopping – after all, I didn’t want my ice cream to melt. Seeing that I didn’t have any ice cream and that it was too late to hide, I decided to Be the Bigger Person and make polite conversation.

“How are you? How are the kids? Is your son a senior now?”

She responded by blurting out personal and devastating news.*  I was heartbroken again. I had written off a friend who was struggling to deal with a difficult situation. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t know, that I had no way of knowing what she was going through. I had walked away rather than trying harder. I had failed to be a lifetime friend.

What she did was not new – I have done the same thing in the past. I pulled away from friends and family, embarrassed to admit that I was having difficulty coping (“difficulty coping” is code  for “having a hard time getting through each day without crying”).  I don’t know why we turn away, when we should be reaching out for help. Or maybe I do.

We have been trained to believe that we can do it all (easily and effortlessly, thanks to Cosmo), and that asking for help is a sign of weakness. We’ve been told that help is a four letter word.  We have been led  to believe that other people sail through life (with perfect hair and makeup), and that we are the only ones who can’t get our S*** together. This way of thinking is not only wrong, it is dangerous. It’s the top of the slide into a dark, deep hole with slick steep sides. The bottom of the hole is filled with jagged glass and the sound of the Evil Inner Critic howling “You can’t do anything right, you are stupid, you are a failure, nobody will ever love you….”

There are ways out of the hole, but they’re difficult to find. It’s dark, and cold, and there are blocked doorways and false exits.  Some people choose to leave the only way they know how, ending their lives and leaving family and friends behind.  Some people are strong enough to climb out on their own. It can be done, but it’s a long, hard process.  The journey out is much easier when you have a team of people working with you – people who will cheer you on as you begin our climb, or throw you a lifeline and pull you up when you get stuck.

The first week of October is Mental Health Awareness Week. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask. Asking for help was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I am so glad that I did. Help came from the most amazing places. I learned that, although I CAN walk through this world alone, with a little help from my friends, I can fly.

*The news is not mine to share, and it’s not important to this piece.