If you’re back for my next installment about perfectionism because it helped you last week, welcome – I’m so glad you’re on this journey with me. If you’re here for the first time, make sure to read my post Action over Perfection #1 which will set the scene.
Ok, so moving on from last week we touched on lots of nuances of perfectionism and I talked about my own experience of looking back and assessing:
- realising that perfectionism is a personality trait that I have had since childhood
- taking the steps to work out what that means for me and what my triggers are
- putting actionable strategies in place to combat the negative effects that perfectionism can have in our lives.
So moving forwards I’m going to choose a topic surrounding the complexities of perfectionism and delve into it a bit deeper; firstly to increase our knowledge and secondly so that with that knowledge we can start to move forwards to our most fabulous selves that we can possibly be.
Action Over Perfection – Topic 1: Control
This week I have chosen the topic ‘CONTROL’.
Man oh man, do perfectionists like to control!
Here’s the thing guys; we all need to accept that control and its friend manipulation are part of perfectionism and that our need for control stops the flow of life.
The NON-fairytale of New York
Let me tell you about New York.
Visiting New York is a dream for many, and it was a dream for me too, for years. You know, there’s nothing wrong with dreaming and nothing wrong with realising your dreams. I got to realise my dream of visiting New York and I loved it.
The problem comes when the dream has to look EXACTLY as we think it SHOULD. That’s when we set ourselves and the people around us up for a world of pain, confusion, disarray and the dream turns into a bit of a nightmare.
I’ve been to New York twice. I know I’m blessed and I’d love to go back one day, a trip to NY with all the changes I’ve made would be so different, so much happier and joy-filled.
The first time I went with my best friend Helen, and the second time was with my new-at-the-time husband, Jon. It’s the second time I want to talk to you about.
We had been married for only 5 months and hadn’t lived together before we were married, I think this particular trip may have opened Jon’s eyes to what marriage had in store for him going forwards!
I not only had the dream of going to NY, I also had the dream of going to NY with my husband and I knew everything that I wanted it to be: Romantic, exciting, fulfilling.
I did not let Jon into this dream.
Well since I’d already been to the New York on a 4 day trip with my gal pal Helen, of course I thought I knew everything we needed to know about New York and where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do. Yup, that’s the royal we by the way. Jon didn’t get a look in or chance to voice what he might have wanted to do.
Bless him. I learnt that Jon is a patient, kind and loving man (and that he hates Abercrombie & Fitch).
So after taking the long red eye to JFK we got to our hotel. Let’s just say the ‘petite’ room at the Radisson on Lexington was so petite you couldn’t even swing a cat in it. I panicked, I was exhausted (trigger), New York was loud (trigger), the room looked onto a roof with a huge noisy fan on it, the room wasn’t what I thought it would be (trigger). I was disappointed (trigger).
So any person who didn’t have perfectionism would go, ‘oh well, they’re never as good in real life as in the pictures are they?’ Slap each other on the back and get on with enjoying their lovely break in NYC.
But me? No way jose, because when things are not what they SHOULD be then an injustice has been done and they’re damn well going to make it perfect again, right?
Those poor, poor hotel people. I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart. I changed our room not once, but two times!
With every trip to reception and every ride in the elevator I felt more and more out of control and in a spin, I was heading for a full blown panic attack. Each room was higher up than the last and in the end I admitted defeat and decided that the room we had in the first place although noisy, was still better than getting vertigo on the 20th floor.
Tears are stinging my eyes by this point.
Disappointment, exhaustion, panic. Not the fairytale of New York.
So we stuck with our original room. Which for 2 people was absolutely FINE!!!!
Hilarious when you think about it and I can laugh about it now, but at the time this was serious! I can give many more examples in that one trip alone that show my perfectionism need for control.
We HAD to go to Central Park
we HAD to go up the Rock
we HAD TO go to see the Statue of Liberty
we HAD to go to Abercrombie and Fitch to find clothes that didn’t suit me
we HAD to go to Budakan Restaurant and drink cocktails and pretend to be city folk (Carrie & Big’s engagement meal in the Sex and the City movie, also disappointing).
Jon hated Abercrombie and Fitch and in a 4 day trip we went there 3 times! I mean seriously, I caused us serious angst and frustration and the trip just didn’t get going. Probably because I wouldn’t let it. Actually it was definitely because I didn’t let it.
When we went to Central Park we literally dipped our toes in walked around it for about 30 mins and then left. I mean WHHAAT? This is Central Park we’re talking about people?! Central Park is not just somewhere to tick off your list! It’s a beautiful park and it is huge, it’s where New York goes to breathe. We could have ‘wasted’ a whole day in there just being together and talking and dreaming (romantic) letting life show us something different (adventure) and we may have even had a rest for our souls (fulfilling).
I mean I want to shake the person I was then. At no point did I say ‘let’s just choose an area and lose ourselves there’. At no point did we ask a New Yorker, ‘hey, where’s the best place for coffee around here?’ At no point did we just EXPLORE.
What happened to life just taking you along with it? What happened to just BEING IN NEW YORK, just being there was ENOUGH soaking up the sounds and the sights, letting it overwhelm, letting it wash over us, watching the world go by?
My favourite part of that trip was sitting in a diner with Jon eating breakfast because I love american breakfasts something fierce and I hate British bacon with a passion.
It really is the LITTLE THINGS that bring us joy, being together, eating (generally), taking in the moment, taking a breath.
Tip #2 – Accept the situation
SO ON TO OUR ACTIONABLE TIP #2 ACCEPT THE SITUATION & LOOK OUTSIDE OF YOURSELF
My tip for you is ACCEPT things as they absolutely are, without trying to change a thing.
My tip is to look outside of yourself and your expectations to ask ‘What would OTHERS like to do’? And actually ask them and hear them.
My tip is to INCLUDE your friends, family and other halves into the adventure, let them lead the way, let them choose the restaurant and all you have to do is go along with it and CHOOSE to EMBRACE it.
The beautiful thing is the restaurant your partner chooses might not be what you thought it would be, it might be better.
Because when we control THAT MUCH we suffocate the flow of life. Its the truth and I know you know this too in your heart. This is our doing.
The great news is that we can make positive changes and we can choose to say no to perfectionism and say yes to a beautiful life.
Now over to you, what have you learnt when you placed too high expectations on a trip, event or person? How have you made changes and what ideas do you have about how it can be better next time?
I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below, let’s encourage each other.
P.S. If you missed the first in this series, you can find it here!!