Little Miss Perfect

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"That which makes us good can also make us crazy." -The BadAssMama

I've known for quite some time. I am a perfectionist. An unabashed, unapologetic, nearly un-wavering perfectionist.

It started when I was very young. I don't remember the exact origin of my particular neurosis (neurosis, psychosis. Po-TAE-toe, Po-TA-toe...). Perhaps it had something to do with the night that my dad had me sit at the kitchen table and repeat the days of the week over and over (and over, and over) until I got them right. Not that there was anything wrong with that - he wanted me to learn the days of the week, so we practiced. A lot.  Thirty-some-odd-years and countless millions of dollars in therapy later, I'm good with it.

But seriously, I thank my parents for instilling me with a strong work ethic and pride in a job well done. Excellence was not necessarily rewarded - it was expected. Not in a creepy-Tiger-Parent-you-can-never-go-on-a-play-date sort of way, but in a supportive-yet-firm we know you can be the best sort of way. Fast forward to today, the constant pursuit of perfection (please don't sue me, Lexus marketing people) has taken me far in life.

It's also made me a bit nuts.

I have an insatiable need to be right. ALL. THE. TIME. Just ask my husband. I am a textbook teacher's pet, book worm, over-acheiving-type-A-lunatic.

Most of the time, I limit my relentless pursuit of perfection to myself. I don't demand the same level of crazy efficiency from those around me - either at work or at home. True, I may swear under my breath when the ticket-taking process at the midnight Harry Potter screening is less-than-ideal, but I don't make a stink about it or let it ruin my night (at least not ALL of it...). I celebrate the "Colossal Failure of the Week" in each team meeting at work because I truly believe that we can learn more in failure than in success. Well, I believe that others can learn more from failure. I accept little short of constant success from myself. I am learning to give my kids the space to be kids and learn through trial and error.

You wouldn't suspect my peculiar personality quirk immediately. In fact, few outside of my closest inner circle are aware of my maddening quest for total perfection. Most folks in my professional circle just think that I'm driven. Smart. Accomplished. Mommy friends and casual acquaintances marvel at my ability to effortlessly juggle career, family, fitness. They don't see me up at midnight balancing the checkbook or finishing a training run.

I hide my crazy well. I'm a highly functional lunatic.

My particular brand of crazy has served me well over the years. It has been rewarded with good grades, promotions, awards and recognition. But here's the thing. I have no interest in passing on this disorder to my kids.

True, I want them to have every opportunity in life - to have the option to pursue whatever it is they choose and make the most of it. But I don't want them to drive themselves crazy doing it. I want them to be the very best version of themselves that they can be. I want them to know that you don't have to be perfect to do well. That perfect rarely makes you happy.

I've made some progress in recovering from my perfect-addiction. Like any other addiction, I don't think that I'll ever truly be rid of my desire for perfection. I'm just learning that there are other things - better things in life to strive for. Letting you in on my dirty little secret is a big part of my recovery. I'm even trying to celebrate my failures. Most of them relate to parenting, but hey - I've gotta start somewhere!
Michelle said...

As your trademark lawyer, I can assure you, you have done nothing to incur the wrath of the Lexus marketing folks (or their lawyers). :-)

Christine Chadwick said...

Thank you thank you thank you! It's nice to know that I do not suffer from this "condition" alone! Daily I have to remind myself that I am human and even if I could still fit into my Superwoman Underoos...I don't have to handle it all!

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