Thoughts on being perfect

Hi Bea,

Okay, I have been thinking about the perfect thing. It was interesting to me that you mentioned it because I have actually been thinking about that a lot lately. So, I feel like I have spent my whole life trying to be perfect. But, it’s always me trying to be someone else’s version of perfect, or what I think/assume/believe their perfect to be. It’s funny, but I don’t think I actually care all that much about being perfect, except that I have had this (surprisingly false) belief that I have to be perfect or people will reject me and leave me, not be able to love me. I can’t completely figure out how to put this into words, I think it is more of a feeling, or something, but you must have felt it or noticed it because you said it seems like I am not so focused on being perfect.

It really feels like to me that the “real me” doesn’t care about being perfect now that I am starting to see and be able to believe that I can be loved regardless of imperfection, and that I won’t be rejected or left just because I am not perfect. It’s more like my need to be perfect was/is driven by needing to be accepted and loved; it’s not exactly coming from me. Does that make sense?

I spent so much of my life trying to be what I thought (and kind of was told in non verbal messages) my parents needed– perfect. I had to be the perfect ballerina, the perfect gymnast, the perfect cheerleader, I had to be popular, socially correct always, I had to be smart– smarter than everyone else and get perfect A’s. Even an “A-” would cause my Dad to ask me what I could have done differently to turn the minus into a plus. I thought I had to be all these things, and that if I didn’t or couldn’t do them perfectly, then my parents wouldn’t love me. I was afraid of being less then perfect, and so I spent my life basically doing whatever my parents asked of me. In my mind,I couldn’t fail because then they would reject me, hate me. It’s not that they were bad parents. They were always supportive and involved. BUT I was doing the things they liked, that they wanted. It wasn’t always things I liked. I actually hated cheerleading. But it was important to my mom that I be a cheerleader. She was disappointed I was never captain, never tried to be captain. In my mind, my mom needed me to be perfect which meant being blonde and popular and thin and cute and smart and pretty and always presenting an image of the ideal daughter to the world. My Dad needed me to be smart, and to achieve a lot in school. It was lucky I was smart and able to succeed and achieve a lot, but I lived all my school years terrified of failing, of disappointing my Dad and having him reject me, not being capable of loving a daughter who was dumb.

I think I brought this belief of having to be perfect or I wouldn’t be loved or wanted into every relationship I’ve ever had– from friendship to dating to my marriage. I’ve spent my marriage trying to be a perfect wife. Some of what I believe to be the perfect wife is taken from my mom, and somethings I think I just assumed were what hubby wanted or needed. And if I messed up, didn’t accomplish everything a perfect wife should, I would panic and assume he was going to get mad, hate me, leave me. So, I’ve tried to be what I think is hubby’s version of perfect. And the more he has checked out on me, the more I have believed I am failing and he is going to reject me, hate me, and finally leave me.

In my job, I was most definitely Aveda’s version of perfect. I followed the Aveda creed to the letter. I never went against the company. I did what I knew the salon director expected/thought made a perfect employee. In school, I would figure out what teachers expected of their students– like my 4th grade teacher was very big on reading and writing, but my 2nd grade teacher was more about math and numbers and my 5th grade teacher liked nice handwriting and science — what they felt was most important in a way, and I would go above and beyond to be extra great at that thing so they would like me. I did the same with friendships– whatever that person needed, I would be. Kay was the exception, because she wouldn’t let me be so on the surface and perfect. I don’t know if I am explaining this very good, but I’m not sure how else to explain it.

I think I am letting go of being perfect because in the last year I have been shown that I don’t have to be perfect to be accepted. You, hubby, Kris and three of my friends– Jasmine, Rebecca and Kay– have really shown me this acceptance. Rebecca has said she feels like I’m a real person and she isn’t intimidated by me anymore (what?!? Me, intimidating? Seriously?!?). Kay says she sees me being who she always knew I was, but I’m not hiding it anymore and I’m actually allowing her to be close. Jasmine didn’t know me as well as Rebecca and Kay, but even she says I seem different, more connected. Hubby says he feels like he actually knows me now, and that he likes this me. He also says if I start acting perfect again, he would view that as me going backwards and not being okay. You have let me be me, let me have all my feelings, made it okay to be mad at you and still need you, and you haven’t left or treated me different no matter how many ugly, imperfect things I’ve shared with you. Even Kris has shown me it’s okay to mess up, to cry, to freak out— that she will still be there and treat me the same as she always has. So, I think between all of you, I’m seeing it’s okay to be not perfect; I won’t be left or rejected.

Of course, I still worry about this and have to double check and apologize and panic about things, but now I can ask and talk about it (which I could never do before). I actually told hubby the other day that I have panic attacks over the idea of him leaving me because I wasn’t doing all the things a perfect wife should be doing. He laughed, and then realized I was serious and told me he isn’t leaving and he doesn’t want me to be perfect, just me is enough. I guess overall, I feel calmer, more peaceful about things, relaxed even. Like its really no big deal that I still haven’t folded laundry and we are pulling clean clothes out of the laundry baskets. My mother would freak out over this, but unless I start thinking about my mom needing me to be perfect and this being something she would see as failure, I’m really okay with it. Which is surprising to me. I guess I’ve decided to give up trying to be perfect for my mom and dad. I’m never going to measure up to their idea of perfection. It sounds negative, but it’s really a positive thing; letting go of that has made it possible to really hear and see that others in my life truly don’t need perfect, and in fact seem to like imperfect me better. Which is again, surprising to me.

Being a mom is the one thing I still really beat myself up over. I just am so afraid of doing the wrong thing, of messing Kat up forever and having her be me when she grows up. I don’t ever want her feeling like she has to be perfect to be loved. It’s a terrible feeling, and you always feel like you are falling short and are never, ever good enough. I do trust you, though, so when you tell me it’s really okay to skip playing with characters and play games or do art or whatever, it does make me feel better. It just takes me a while to get the message; I’m stubborn, so you might have to tell me another 500 times. It’s not even that I care about being a perfect mom, exactly. I just want to give Kat everything she needs to be okay and happy and confident in herself. I don’t want her to have to create this false self to feel loved, and to spend her life afraid that everyone she cares about is going to hate her for any mistakes she might make.

Gosh this is long. I didn’t mean for this to turn into a novella. I just have so much running through my head, and so much of it is actually good, positive stuff. I wanted to say today that I get afraid of being open and vulnerable because I am so unsure of the other person’s reaction, and that feels stupid to me because everyone I have named that I have been more vulnerable with has been accepting and kind to me. But I don’t completely trust it yet. I think I’m sort of in two worlds– the world where I have to be perfect to be loved, and the world where I can be me and still be accepted. And I want to be fully in the world that allows me to be me, but it’s new and so very different from what I am used to feeling, and it’s hard to fully trust it because I still have one foot in the old world of needing to be perfect, and that message isn’t fully gone yet. And I hold this belief that if I need something, state or show my needs, I will be thought of as selfish and mean and bad….I don’t know. It sounds silly when I write it, but it’s how I feel. And so being vulnerable feels wrong and scary and full of uncertainty and like I’m needing too much.

And I wanted to tell you that I bought the workbook for kindle, and that I did the first few exercises. But I didn’t bring it up and I’m not exactly sure why. I guess it feels really…maybe raw and vulnerable to really expose my behaviors and really look at them like this. The first few exercises were just identifying behaviors and how they help and how they hurt. That wasn’t so hard. The exercise that brought up a lot of stuff was one to draw feelings, challenges, stressors of teen years. I did draw my teen years, although I’m not sure I did exactly what the exercise was asking, but it was just….I don’t know, it brought up a lot of feelings. So I guess I feel like we should talk about teen years. I feel like it’s maybe teen me that is controlling all these behaviors. I don’t know. It’s hard to even talk about those years though, because so much of those years is a blur. Maybe because of that weird here but not here, unreal feeling that I got on Sunday from my parents and that I think was my normal for so long. I don’t know. But I never know what to talk about with the teen years, so I end up really panicked because I don’t know what to say. And being in that teenage part headspace is really uncomfortable because it feels like I need to be mean and snotty and push people away because that is the safest thing to do, but at the same time I feel like I have to try to “read” everyone and figure out what they want or need so I can be that, be perfect and they won’t leave me. And the teenage part is so angry at the whole world, but also sad and scared of the whole world. It’s overwhelming. I don’t know.

~Alice

And Bea’s response:

Hi Alice,

Wow! This email just has a sense of peace and contentment that feels really good. I am exhausted and can’t say much, but wanted to let you know how great it felt to read this.

The one thing that was brought up here for the first time ever was your dad’s expectations. We should talk about that. And the teen stuff–glad you got the book, and I need to catch up on my part!

~Bea

When I saw her Friday at Kat’s session, she said she was glad I was feeling the way I was about perfect. And then it got really interesting because Kat got out the emotions, and we were playing with them. My assigned character (assigned by Kat) was afraid of the mad emotions, and Bea’s character was trying to help me see mad can be good, that mad is okay. Her character drew a picture of its own mad feelings and talked about them. While it was set up and directed by Kat, it was almost like the session was speaking to me, and all the problems I have with fear of anger. I was able to make my character fully state all the reasons I can be so afraid of being mad. Using a character makes it safer somehow, because it is more removed. Anyway. Just interesting how that is what came up. Because if we are going to deal with the teenage stuff, I need to be able to be okay with feeling mad. It’s the teen part that holds almost all the anger.

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8 thoughts on “Thoughts on being perfect

  1. My teen parts also hold the anger. Very hard to access and I do NOT like feeling it (or even being close to it). Super insightful letter to Bea. Such good work you’re doing.

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  2. I don’t know how I missed this one. I relate so much to everything you wrote about. I think my worry about letting the teen anger be seen is that the teen part is the part I worry will be too much for my therapist and cause me to lose it all.
    I also relate to feeling like you have to be perfect. I had tears in my eyes reading your words because I don’t think I’ve ever let myself just be. And I didn’t know other people feel the same way. Glad you have people you feel supported and loved by now. Very cool. :).

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    • I am so afraid that the teen part is too much for anyone, but also that all that teen anger and sadness and fear will be too much for me, and it will kill me. I am afraid I am not strong enough to handle it all.

      I hope one day you can find someone you can just be with. Perfect really is over rated. I’d much rather know the real you, than the perfect you. Xx

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hear you, I am afraid that part of me and all of the emotion is going to overwhelm me. But the more I allow myself to even acknowledge it is there, the closer I feel to expressing it.
        I’m pretty lucky in that I have a large network of friends in my life who do love me for who I am. And of course my therapist. So I am slowly starting to internalize that people accept me, which is helping me show more of myself. xx

        Liked by 1 person

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