I started reading a new book by Dr. Joy Browne called, "The Nine Fantasies that will Ruin your life (and the eight realities that will save you). The format of the book is to present the fantasy, say a few words about the origins and variations, then explain why it is ruining your life. Dr. Browne has a radio show apparently (I wasn't aware) and she includes several "call in" questions as examples, though they seem rather exact to be real. I haven't completed the book yet, but one of the fantasies really rang true for me.
FANTASY: Everybody's Perfect...Except me.
I've always known that I have a confidence issue, as well as being a perfectionist. I was not aware, however, just how much that affects everyday life. I have worked for years on my impossibly high expectations for both others and myself, and I can really see the results of those efforts now.
She explained that to be alive is to change, and perfection doesn't allow change. So even if perfection is momentarily achieved, it is always fleeting. This is why striving for perfection is a horrible and unachievable burden. She gives an example about a woman who corrects her friend when she mispronounces a word. Dr. Browne asks, why did you need to correct her? Did you understand what she meant? (Obviously, yes, if you knew the word she meant) The lady answered that she was trying to save her friend from embarrassment. But when you think about it, there was no embarrassment until you corrected her, and showed everyone that not only did she pronounce the word wrong, but you knew the correct pronunciation.
Dr. Browne discusses the origins of the fantasy, blaming much of the problem on Hollywood and advertising. As if it wasn't bad enough that we are constantly shown images of perfection (from impossibly beautiful bodies to professionally cleaned or even fabricated houses), those shows are broken up with advertising constantly pointing out that your life could never possibly be complete until you have their product or buy their service. Hollywood also tends to draw a clear line between the good guy and the bad guy, leaving little room for the complexity that is human nature.
One important revelation from this fantasy came from the idea that as a perfectionist, much of your time is spent hiding the fact that you're not perfect. This has explained some of the behavior that I have struggled to rid myself of, not to mention understand in other people. This causes the intense need to be right, because being wrong is imperfect and thus not acceptable.
I have to admit, since reading this section, I have had a calmness I haven't known for a few weeks (not surprising since I've been moving during that time, but still). It's almost like a huge burden has been lifted from my shoulders. I'm not perfect, and that's okay. It is okay that others know that I am not perfect. It is okay for others not to be perfect, and I can accept that too.
So that's my new mantra: I'm not perfect, and that's okay!! :D