Thursday, January 14, 2010


Sometimes the case of the letter makes all the difference.  God or god.  An important personal I or a misplaced letter i.  Summer the girl or summer the season.  The uppercase letter delineates between importance and the ordinary.

Perfectionism is a haunt of mine.  It is a ghost that follows me and does not stop no matter what I'm doing.   It kills a day in a blink.  It turns anxiety inside/out.  It takes away my care for something good; even the smallest of outcomes.

Fuck it.

That is perfectionism in two simple words.  If I cannot do it right then I refuse to do it at all.  How dangerous is that?  Or rather... how stupid is that?

I see my world in black and white.  Absolutes.  You are either right or wrong.  Good or bad.  Smart or stupid.  I have a ridiculously logical brain.  Logic is the glue that holds the shards of me together.  Without this reason, I probably would have landed in the crazy house a long time ago.  Logic is my reality.  If I can reason it; it exists.  If I cannot; it must not be.

And there is the problem.  There is nothing logical about my past.  Although it seems that abusers have a handbook; the logic chapter is always found to be ripped out, shredded, and burned.   They left that part of it up to us to figure out; to understand their evil.  That is what makes us crazy in the first place.

So the harder I try to understand; the crazier I get.  Literally.  I cannot reason what was done to me and so sets in denial.  I can't understand it; I can't make it right.  So fuck it.

The abundance of fuck its has really slowed me down.  Nearly to a halt and I'm not just talking about my mental healing.  This is my real life too.  Housekeeping, taking care of myself, dieting, exercise, blah blah blah... you get the picture.  If I can't do it right and perfect; then I won't do it at all. 

All great thoughts to live by.

This thinking is not something easy to change.  It is a deep part of who I am.   It is also something that makes me feel normal.  Normal exactly long enough until I realize that normal people don't do math and physics problems for fun.  But I digress because my weirdness belongs in a whole other post. 

I have steps to take.  One at a time.  Crying just one time worked for me.  And then I did it again.  Getting up early once led to me getting up early again AND working out.  It doesn't have to be all or nothing and sometimes it's alright to be somewhere and in between.   I don't have to be completely healed or entirely wounded. 

I'm still crazy; even with the steps towards tears and feeling.  But I have progress now because I have downgraded letters; even if it is just one.  Now I'm just crazy.

crazy with a little "c"...


Journal of Healing said...

yeah. perfectionism. black and white. and my solution, my "slogan" for that: progress not perfection.
visit my blog soon, when you have the energy to share. I am so inspired by your insight.

gentleness with you and yours first...


Anonymous said...

Although my experiences in no way match to what you've been through, I can relate. Because I couldn't understand it either, what happened. I couldn't make any sense of it and I kept feeling like I should be able to. And as you know, that just makes it harder to heal what happened.

Unfortunately not everything in the world makes sense. But that includes positive things as well as the negatives... like, how we fall in love is illogical. Or the joy we get from a beautiful sunrise - what does that really mean, anyway? Why does it make us so happy? Who knows, but it just does, right?

There's many other examples just like that.

You'll make it, you're doing so well already. *hugs*

English Rider said...

Perfecting the little steps.

Deborah said...

I'll leave the discussion of what is and isn't understandable about abusers to people who know more than I do. However, the issue of being 'normal' or not is something I feel slightly confident about tackling.
You do math and physics problems for fun? Fabulous. Seriously. You are someone I would like 'in person'. (I don't do those things myself, but I love numbers and problem-solving.) This is not 'abnormal' of you Jennifer, it's just you! And you are not crazy because of that. You are different, that's all. But then, all of us are. Some more different than others, and that's a good thing.
As for perfectionism, I'm a bit of an all or nothing person about certain things too. And when I get that way, I realize how much it interferes with enjoyment, productivity and satisfaction. It sounds a bit like your insistence on perfection becomes a handy hook to hang non-action on. Perfection simply does not exist.

I could not begin to analyse whether your past experience has anything to do with this perfectionism. In my limited way, I could imagine that you might have thought 'if I can be perfect, then I can also be loved' (with the implication that you would also be treated better). This is stuff for trained therapists, though.

You have such a fine mind, Jennifer. Very, very sharp. Your ability to take an analytical look at yourself is invaluable.
Such an interesting person!

Zan said...

I used to be a perfectionist. But it was so exhausting! I used to be told I only saw the world in black and white. One way or the other. No middle ground.
Now I'm learning that there is a middle ground. There is no 'normal' by definition, it is what you make it!
And I am learning to sit down, with the room a bit messy. It used to drive me nuts. I needed logic like I needed air.
I learned, that because as a child, I let someone else take away my control and they used it and abused it, that's why I need control now, because I gave it away once and that didn't work out!
And once I realised where it all came from, that's when I could begin to see the middle ground.

Hugs you. I love the way you write btw.

Just Be Real said...

Great post! I see a lot of me in this too. Blessings.

The Pliers said...

As usual, I'm going to write something de travers. In "The Seth Material," not it specifically, but among the many fabulous volumes of work by Jane Roberts/Seth & Robert F. Butts, there is a paragraph that talks about the logical mind as one member of a committee, as such.

The "job" of the logical mind is to assess physical reality and make choices about how warmly to dress, when to pay the bills, when to mow the yard, when to study, etc. Other members of the committee such as intuition, clairvoyance, premonition, hunches, love, artistic inspiration undergird and work in concert with the logical mind in the exercise of its functions. Leaving the logical mind out there all alone to do work that it was not designed for is misguided, although our culture mitigates for doing just that because it views us in mechanistic terms. We are not machines. We are sentient, earthly expressions of unbridled consciousness in motion, trapped in a state of grace in a physical world that needs a logical mind on a team.

Perfectionism is a survival technique, like the body's habit of depriving the extremities of heat in order to save the core in the cold. As you have noted here, it is a choice. It is, as you are doing here, possible to acknowledge it and begin to dismantle it.

William Bridges's book, "Transitions:..." speaks to the need to "unlearn in the second half of life the mastery that allowed one to survive and thrive during the first half" as being a step on the journey back to an "inner home."

Lastly, to terminate my verbose blather, at the risk of contradicting a common notion, there are some things that will not be understood. My mother was a perfectionist who thought that everything would work out if she just "understood" it and that it was understandable. It has been my experience that there are realms of reality that will not be understood. They will remain mysterious. But we have one powerful option in the face of that lack of understanding and that is to let go and move on using only our own desires and bright inspirations to create a path before us that can not exist without us.


Shattered said...

Ang, "progress, not perfection"... that's a good thought. I visited your blog this morning; you are doing great!

Take care...

Shattered said...

Svasti, I used to be terribly disappointed that I could not understand everything about everything. It was maddening. I am trying to let go of that because you are right, it really does slow the healing process.

Shattered said...

ER, the smallest steps seem to be the most precarious at times...

Thank you for reading and for your encouragement.

Friko said...

Hi jennifer,

Perfection, n.

An imaginary state or quality distinguished from the actual by an element known as excellence, an attribute of the critic.

There is a lot wrong with perfection, endlessly striving for it stops you living. And haven't you done enough of that already?

I am glad that you have begun to dismantle it.

There's a life out there waiting for you; live it, one fucking step at a time.

Shattered said...

Deborah, yep, math and physics for fun. I know that that in particular doesn't make me weird; more of a nerd to be exact. ;) It is different or 'quircky' as my husband likes to call it and I'm OK with that for the most part.

As for the perfectionism; yes, it is a problem. And as you said so nicely, it is a convenient hook to hang doing nothing on. It has halfway worked for me for years but not so much anymore. Because you are right, it really does interfere with enjoyment of even the simplest of things. Perfect does not exist and like you said, it helped me cope believing that if I could be perfect enough I would garner their love. But that is a double-edged sword...

"You have such a fine mind, Jennifer. Very, very sharp. Your ability to take an analytical look at yourself is invaluable.
Such an interesting person!"

I'm trying not to argue with you about this so I will simply say thank you.

Shattered said...

Zan, I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks in black and white. Sitting in a slightly messy room? Wow, I'm impressed that you can do this!

I have enjoyed reading your blog and as always, thank you for visiting mine.

Ruth said...

Yes! I haven't read the other comments yet, but I want to quickly comment and come back and read them later.

But yes, I love where you went with this. I was just thinking about it yesterday. I did not feel a bit like cleaning up the kitchen after Don cooked and I'd worked all day, getting home late. I decided, I don't have to clean the kitchen. Let me do this one thing. I'll just put the stew away. Then I put the cabbage away. Then I put the salad dressing away. Before I knew it I had gone on to the silverware and plates into the dishwasher. Etc. I sat down after a clean kitchen - but I could have just as easily sat down after just putting the stew away and felt all right. It isn't all or nothing.

We are judgmental creatures. We judge ourselves most of all. I once did a meditation where I realized I had a huge, huge, huge Judge inside me, and he was a big 7 foot neanderthal thug dressed in a Nazi univorm. I worked at cleansing myself of him, but he still comes back. When you're rasied in an environment where failure is unacceptable, this is what you get. You had it like me, but a thousand-fold.

Ok, I'll be back to read the rest later.

Shattered said...

Just Be Real,

Thank you. :)

Shattered said...

The Pliers, it very much is a process to change this thinking. It is hard but I think I will be happier in the long-run. Operating only in logic will only get me so far.

"They will remain mysterious. But we have one powerful option in the face of that lack of understanding and that is to let go and move on using only our own desires and bright inspirations to create a path before us that can not exist without us."

So very true...

Shattered said...


"There's a life out there waiting for you; live it, one fucking step at a time."

I really like this. :) It sure seems like perfectionism, along with a lot of other things, have robbed me on a daily basis.

Shattered said...

Ruth, it's interesting to hear about your own all-or-nothing-ness. I would also be interested to hear how you got rid of that 7 foot thug.

Our childhood environment does have SO much to do with what kind of person we become. As I write this, I am reminding myself that we need to strike a balance in our own home where mistakes are OK and even normal.

I am remembering now a certain conversation I overheard between my first grade teacher and my mother (who was also a teacher). I apparently missed a math problem on a test, ONE problem, and when I got my graded paper back I took that paper up to my teacher and apologized for missing that question. I distinctly remember hearing my teacher tell my mother, "this is not good... this is a serious problem. She needs to understand that mistakes are OK". And then my mother told her that they would take care of it. And that they did... which is a whole other post. *sigh*

Ruth said...

Oh how sad. There were no doubt people in your life who caught glimpses of the damage being done to your psyche, and you were not safe in their arms, but were in someone else's unsafe ones.

I sit here and close my eyes and try to remember what I did when I saw the 7 foot Neanderthal Nazi. Seeing him, visually, was the biggest thing, I think. I know I chose to be rid of him, to keep myself free of him. Since then it's been a matter of recognizing him when I judge myself and others - making the mental, visual connection, which doesn't always happen. It takes mindfulness, which seems to come in spurts. But I think it began with a meditation, a prayer, a focus on telling him: GO. It just takes a lot of GOs - and still the ghostly residue remains. But my behavior has changed for the most part, and how I see people. I want to see them as I am learning to see myself: an imperfectly wonderful being.

maggie said...

I wonder what gifts perfectionism have given you? Do you have good attention to details others gloss over? Your logical brain that likes things to make sense--did it make you good at math and physics? I realize perfectionism doen't work and paradoxically doesn't allow us to see the perfection of what is but I am sure you have some developed traits that have been honed because you had the drive to be perfect growing up. Interested to hear you take on this.

Annie Coe said...

This is a wonderfully written post. You have such talent! I can relate to this as perfection is something that gets in my way everyday. Mostly I feel if I am not perfect, in everyway, no one will love me, least of all, I won't love myself.

Rhonda said...

Perfectionism is a huge obstacle for me as well. I feel as if I can control everything, nothing can sneak up behind me and disrupt my life anymore. WRONG! It's just not that easy. But I struggle day by day to assure everything is organized, scheduled and in it's place.

I enjoyed reading your post.

Shattered said...

Ruth, it does make me sad that I was so close to those who could help but never close enough...

Ruth, that is really interesting how you got rid of your Neanderthal. I'm glad that you are rid of him for the most part. That must be really freeing.

Shattered said...

Maggie, I do tend to believe that perfectionism has helped me in some areas. I excelled in school, was able to go to any college I wanted to, and it drove me to make something of myself instead of being what they told me I was. School was all I had. Well, that and sports. Those were my two outlets and where I got my positive reinforcement from. Without that, I'm not sure where I would be today so yes, perfectionism has helped me.

Shattered said...

Annie, thank you. :) I'm sad that you can relate though; especially to the point of believing that you you can't receive love if you aren't perfect. :(

Shattered said...

Rhonda, I totally get trying to control things so nothing sneaks up on you. You're right because it doesn't work; I was reminded of this myself this past weekend. Thank you for reading my blog and for your encouragement. :)

sarah said...

what an amazing's the dance of healing...the recovery process. Black and white thinking...oh yeah..been there...lived it. It's horrible. That black and white thinking drove me totally nuts. You're healing. I love it. Be gentle with you. sarah

Shattered said...

Thank you for your continued encouragement, Sarah!