Sunday, July 22, 2012

The burden of trying to be perfect

I am continually amazed how Recovery has improved my life. Although I still suffer with fearful temper, I now have the tools to handle and muddle through situations that at one time would have been paralyzing. For example, I have a history of being a “checker.” Checking the locks, checking to make sure the stove is off, rereading documents multiple times, opening envelopes to make sure I really did put the letter inside—I would repeat these and many other activities ad nauseam every day.

In Recovery, however, I learned to let go of insecure thoughts and behaviors such as repetitive checking. Dr. Low taught me to be self-led instead of symptom-led. Perhaps most important of all, I have developed the courage to make mistakes. When I learned about this Recovery tool, I had an epiphany. I have long been a perfectionist. The idea that I could actually accept the fact that I will make errors and mistakes was so foreign to me. Yet doing so lifted a heavy burden from my shoulders, as it is not easy trying to be perfect! It indeed takes courage to stop listening to all of the warnings in your brain that something is wrong. I had to give up my passion for self-distrust and actively challenge thoughts that previously kept me in an endless cycle of doubt and worry.

I had to accept that I should not strive to be a perfectionist. I should strive to be average. Our society does not have a high view of “average” people. But I’d rather be mentally healthy and average than perfect and miserable.

Of course, every now and then I find myself wanting to check something. That’s average. Usually my Recovery tools help me fight the urge and move onto something else. Even if I have a moment of weakness I know that I should excuse, rather than accuse, myself. All of these Recovery tools have made daily living so much more enjoyable, an outcome I thought for a long time I could only achieve by being perfect.