Posts Tagged ‘perfectionism’

The Curse of Perfectionism

In Bipolar, Exercise on September 12, 2011 at 3:18 am

I have a problem. All of my life I’ve wanted to be perfect. On the surface perfectionism sounds like it is anything but problematic. Who could fault someone for trying to achieve his or her personal best? Surely this is what our parents and teachers taught us to strive for? Work hard. Do your best. That’s all anyone can ask of you.

But, for me, I always wanted more. I’ve never wanted to blot my copybook. In fact just one stain would make me want to toss the whole thing away.

I’m not making an analogy. I’m being absolutely honest. There are days where if I write the date or the words “to do list” on the top of a blank page of my notebook and accidentally make a spelling mistake, rather than cross the offending typo out, I will rip out the page, tear it up and throw it away.

This doesn’t mean that I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I don’t insist that the tins in my kitchen cupboards all face forward or that my books are stacked in alphabetical order on my bookshelves.

My version of perfection is the “Oh fuck I’ve blown it, now I’d better go off the deep-end” type of perfection. Like a dieter who falls off the wagon because she has had one cookie and then proceeds to eat the entire pack – plus a giant bag of potato chips, a burger, fries and that milkshake she always denies herself – I am an all-or-nothing kind of girl.

I guess that’s why I have bipolar. It makes sense. I’m either saint or sinner, virgin or whore, lazy or incredibly busy. I can be a sloth, sleeping hours of my life away, doing no exercise for months and then transform myself into an exercise fiend, clocking at least nine hours at the gym in one week.

I can spend weeks knitting hats, blankets and scarves for family and friends furiously click-clicking away. Then a few months later, I will groan at the thought of being anywhere near a ball of yarn.

(PS This doesn’t translate to my work. I’m grateful that my bipolar has never affected my ability to earn a wage. If anything my bouts of mania propel my productivity. If I get depressed, I take myself off for a walk at lunchtime just to get away and clear my head.)

It’s outside of work that my battle to be perfect often impedes me; paralyses me.

So, it’s no surprise that after having verbal diarrhoea and uploading multiple posts within the first month of The Moody Cow, I have since been silent.

Oh dear. I didn’t write two pieces a week on a Tuesday and Thursday like I promised myself that I would. Oh the shame.

What my silence over these past few months has taught me is that doing something, anything, no matter how little, is often better than doing nothing at all. And if in my quest for perfection I muzzle myself it is an exercise in futility. Writing one sentence a week would have been far more productive than bemoaning the fact that I haven’t written anything of substance for months.

I don’t know if my quest for perfection is a “bipolar” thing or a “Marissa” thing or if it’s something that plagues us all from time-to-time. All I know is that it has sucked the life out of me for far too long and rather than be perfect I want to be productive. Progress, not perfection is my new goal.

M x