Sooner or later fate was going to catch up with me and I was going to pay the price for what was happening to me at work and what I hadn’t done to make sure my head was in the right space. After swallowing all the self-pity I could manage over the previous few months I realised that I wasn’t going to recover without some form of help from a psychologist. Waitemata Mental Health staff are exceptional and in those early days I couldn’t have managed without the reality checks they gave me and it was thanks to them that I was referred to a psychologist.
One of my issues is that I am a perfectionist and as a result I procrastinate because unless I can do something perfectly I struggle to even start it…..why….because I get anxious about doing anything. I under-estimate my ability to do something because I set my standards too high because perfection is the only result that is good enough for me. My psychologist said that when you run perfection across all aspects of your life then you are destined to fail because you can’t do it without crippling yourself.
As an example I use to paint water colours….anyone who knows the medium will know there are no second chances…make a mistake and its hard to cover up. It was traumatic for me, even though it was supposed to be a pleasure. Just sketching the template had me rubbing it out and re-drawing to the point where the paper wore out and I ended up throwing it away. I hardly finished anything because if it wasn’t how I wanted it to look then I’d throw it out. Now I get anxious just thinking about painting because I drive myself through such mental torment that there is no pleasure in it.
A few years ago I was working in the National Intelligence Centre at Police National Headquarters and writing a report for an international multi agency seminar. I needed it proof read and sought the help of someone far smarter than me. That person stood over my shoulder and watched me type the changes and she dictated them to me. What she observed was perfectionism at its worst….as I typed her changes she watched me go back and correct the spelling and punctuation before carrying on the sentence. Her train of thought came to a screaming halt as my desire for perfection engulfed my head and crippled her to the point where she pushed me out-of-the-way and took control of my incompetence. I watched her furiously type out what was in her head and glared at her plethora of mistakes. A five-year old could have done it better… but that wasn’t the point…..the point was she was getting her thoughts on paper….the mistakes could be corrected but her thoughts would never be recovered if she did what I was doing. She never realised it but she taught me a valuable lesson that day, a lesson that I still look back on as something I should have grasped a lot earlier.
On some occasions writing this blog can be like pulling teeth for me. Sometimes I can sit down and write something without giving it a thought….on other occasions I can’t string two words together without dragging myself through a world of torment. Some of you who read this blog may know when this is happening because the post won’t quite flow like it normally will. Sometimes I struggle to publish a post if it’s not as I want it and as a result it can take weeks to release something because its not bloody perfect.
Why am I like this…..I don’t know. There could be a multiple of reasons but I believe it may have had something to do with my up-bringing. I was never really good enough when I was younger. When I did something wrong or I did something that wasn’t good enough I would receive the relevant punishment. In some cases that punishment far out-weighed the crime and ultimately it made me a meek and mild weakling who was afraid to do anything. That has carried on into my adult life and now I worry about everything and everybody. Everybody is better than me and they don’t make mistakes and if they do they learn from them…..what did I learn…..I learnt to get a whack. Now in adult hood I don’t receive that punishment from someone else, now I receive it from myself and it drives me to do nothing and keeps all my opportunities at arms length….and I have very long arms.
I’ve been discussing my battles with perfection and my subsequent recovery with my psychologist and implementing some cognitive behaviour therapies (More about them later). I’m trying to shut my past out and concentrate on what makes me happy, what I truly want out of life. One of my strategies is to start and do something for 20 minutes and no more. It could be anything….exercise, hobbies, home chores, work or just talking to someone. I’m trying to concentrate on just starting and not worrying about the result, not worrying about perfection but just doing something without the fear of failure. This type of therapy is something that the founder of Instagram Kevin Systrom works on….see link http://nzh.tw/11873944. He recommends doing 5 minutes and that five minutes will have you starting and probably finishing what you want to do……I can only do a couple of things in five minutes and I can’t publish what they are !!
I’m not sure where 20 minutes to perfection will take me but it can be no worse than where I have been. It’s difficult for me but something that I’m finding very therapeutic…..maybe it will help you?
Categories: My Story 2016