Perfectionism

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Relevant song lyric of the day: “I’m not afraid of dying, any time will do”

I had to call and cancel my crisis team visit, I can’t handle having to talk to people at the moment, I feel ill (cold coming on, it wasn’t just the meds) and that kind of flat, empty depression has taken over. I don’t feel desperately sad or like crying as I sometimes do, just lifeless and bereft of happiness and will to live. I had somewhat of a revelation which I wanted to write about but I am too tired to get into it properly today.

I was thinking about the time when my first psychiatrist asked me if I was a perfectionist. My first reaction was to almost laugh in disbelief; I don’t know how anyone could look at me and ask that question. I don’t exactly look like someone who wants to be perfect. When I think about it more carefully though, I think that I am sort of a perfectionist, in my own twisted way. My (subconscious, or is it unconscious? I can’t control it anyway) idea of perfection is different from what most people would think of as perfect, and I seem to hold myself and others to this ridiculous ideal.

I want to conform to societies ideas of where and what I should be, even if I don’t actually want the things themselves, if that makes sense. I want to want to be a normal person. This probably sounds insane and it most likely is. I don’t think I could actually give up certain aspects of my life, I could never be one of those people who always has to be around others, I need time alone a lot more than others even when I’m not anxious. 

Having something like social anxiety makes you analyse everything to a huge extent, I remember details about inconsequential conversations from years back and a million other useless things that would pass most people by. It’s quite odd really, you can almost appear psychic since people tell you things and then forget that you ever talked about it but I remember most things (probably on account of the fact that I have about 1000x less conversations than the average person). 

I don’t know if I could give up my level of self awareness and the things I know about how people manipulate you, but while I have these dubious qualities I don’t think I can ever be happy or “normal”. When I think back to the time when I was actually happy, when I was a child, I had no idea about how cruel the world was and how people take advantage of any weakness you show. I hate this site, but the description of stages explains what I mean better than I could, the blissfully ignorant stage. I don’t even want to consider the advice that it preaches, maybe I am embittered and destined to be like this forever but I just can’t become the person that it seems I need to be in order to fit in.

My twisted perfectionism makes me want to be all things to all people. I realise that everyone probably does this to some extent, but I change who I am based upon who I’m with. I don’t know who the real me is, maybe it’s the person who write this narcissistic, self obsessed drivel. This is the only place I am honest after all. I can’t be that person in real life though, I can’t express myself verbally. I’d be too scared about being thought of as a stuck up snob, which maybe I am.  I come across huge problems when I don’t know what people want me to be though. I think this is a big reason why I am so scared of meeting new people, I don’t know how to present myself because it’s been so long since the real me has been allowed out, it has withered away.

To fit in, you need to expose yourself, part of your personality and let people know about you. I find this terrifying, even giving away the slightest details about my opinions is often beyond my comfort zone. I can’t offer any opinions on music or anything else that most people talk about without a second thought. I’ve been through so much mockery and psychological grinding down that I can’t give away any chances for people to do that to me again. 

I’ve spoken to my online friends about this before and they always try to tell me that I’ve been unlucky with the people that I’ve been around and that not everyone is so malicious and cruel, but I can’t honestly put all that down to luck. I could start thinking that I’m the unluckiest person in the world, something my dad seems to do and I want to avoid. There’s no point in trying to pass off my own failings as someone else’s fault, I don’t want to blame the world for my problems. If there is one good thing that can be said for me, I want it to be known that I take full responsibility for my own actions and I realise it’s my own fault that I am such a wreck.

In the past I never considered myself to have a short temper, but recently I find myself being increasingly frustrated with people. I hate banal small talk, I don’t want to try and sound superior – I know that I’m definitely not. I just wish that I had some kind of flash cards I could hold up to save answering the same old shit over and over.

I think I expect everyone to be “perfect” like a robot, like I am. It might sound ridiculous, on this website I probably come across as a histrionic maniac, but in real life I am extremely reserved. I can’t stand to do things “wrong”, I’d rather not try than fail. This is one of my biggest stumbling blocks. I am terrified of making mistakes in all areas of life. To pick a random example, we used to have a pool table in the sixth form common room. I never played a single game on it even though I used to like it when I was younger and I always wanted a snooker table of my own but we had no space for one. I was so scared that I’d make a mess of it and everyone’d laugh that I never once played. I could list a million other examples of how this has held me back. This is incredibly difficult for me to say (being the master rationaliser that I am, I think I have avoided admitting this for other reasons) but perhaps one of the reasons that I have never had a girlfriend is that I’ve never asked anyone out or shown any interest (irl). I probably never had any friends because I’ve been too scared to approach people in case I make a fool of myself and so kept to myself and my group of abusive associates (I refuse to call them friends any more). 

One of my sisters friends once had a birthday party at one of those places with bouncy castles, ball pits and slides etc to which I was invited. I can still remember vividly being afraid to go on any of the things or do anything other than sit at the side. I was scared that I’d fall over or do something else to make the other kids laugh at me so I did nothing. I was probably under 8 at the time, but I can remember the feeling and it’s the first time I can remember someone explaining the concept of “regret” to me. My mum told me I’d have a good time if I went and played and that I’d regret it if I didn’t (I just realised that sounds like a threat haha, it wasn’t said in that way). How right she was.

My whole life is littered with examples of wasted opportunities, I never did anything at a young age while it is still acceptable to be less than perfect and you have chance to learn. For example, I never used to play football with the other boys. When I got to secondary school this would return to haunt me as we were forced to play in PE and I was obviously awful, embarrassingly awful at it. I used to get so worked up and anxious in the days leading up to PE, begging my mum for sick notes, forgetting my kit on purpose and ending up with my first detentions. It seems like most of my readers are women so maybe this sounds pretty inconsequential (not being sexist, I just think society seems to push boys and girls into different areas around that time in adolescence) but not being good at sports is a great way to make yourself unpopular and an outcast at that age.

There are literally hundreds of other things that I avoided rather than risk embarrassment which have hurt me massively in the long run. Not attending any social events is probably the biggest of these.

I wonder if it’s too late to repair this massive damage. I am literally an empty shell of person, devoid of any life experiences, significant or otherwise. At the moment I feel that it is too late for me. Maybe if I was 16 or younger then I’d have a shot, but I’m supposed to be climbing the career ladder and buying houses now, not worrying that I don’t know how to kiss or any other basic life skill that should have been learned 10 or 15 years ago.

This post is all over the place, I’m sorry. I only got a couple of hours sleep last night and I’ve barely eaten again so my concentration isn’t exactly brilliant at the moment. I highlighted the main bit in bold if you don’t want to read the whole lot.

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6 thoughts on “Perfectionism

  1. Anonymous

    Hi Nick,

    Having suffered with SA myself, I know social anxiety makes you behave in a way that doesn’t fit in with your character. The problem is that most people perceive those aspects as being part of your character. I think people in general are perceptive, they see the nervousness, the fear, the defensiveness (the barriers we put up not to get hurt after so many bad experiences) that comes with having SA, even if it is slight (though it isn’t probably 10% as bad we think we come across) and they don’t know what to do with it. If people don’t understand they will distance themselves, mock and unfortunately form alliances with other people to defend themeselves against the insecurity they feel about not understanding why you are behaving that way towards them. Sometimes it can feel like we are the ones feeling uncertainty, its easy to forget that most people are surprisingly insecure.

    Its natural to feel like you want to fit in and be doing what everyone else your age is doing, even if you don’t neccessarily want it yourself – its human nature. I think the most important thing is to focus on recovery, which you seem to be doing. It does take work but anything I think is better than the suffering you can feel. A total commitment to recovery is the only way to overcome SA.

    I understand what you mean about perfection and apparently this is a common trait in people with SA. I think it is really hard to accept that your mind isn’t working quite as you would like it to if you are a perfectionist. Unfortunately we have no control over our minds, the best we can do is just deal with the situation and seek the help we need. After all, I often think there are much worse problems people are having with their mental health e.g schizophrenia. If I had a choice between the two, I’d choose SA any day, at least there is a strong possibility of recovery and leading a normal life.

    By the way, I really enjoy reading your posts Nick, you are incredibly eloquent writer, it is nice to hear SA decribed so well and so clearly, I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who feel the same as you do (myself included)who are getting a lot of relief from reading about their condition decribed in such an excellent and clear way. Have you ever thought of becoming a writer? Good Luck with the CBT

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  2. Hey Nick,

    I totally agree with the first commenter . . . and I too can relate to most of what you wrote about.

    Keep writing, it will make such a difference in the way you think and feel . . . writing has helped me so much. I have blogged for many years and hear from others who can relate to my life circumstances and it makes me feel like my bad situation is helping others cope with theirs.

    I analyze everything to death too, but I feel like it is helping me to heal from the different things that bother me.

    You can probably relate to two of my blogs . . .

    http://peacelovehappiness.today.com

    and

    http://simpleabundancelife.blogspot.com

    You can be happy Nick . . . think positively about yourself, accentuate your strong characteristics and build on them, take the time to understand yourself and love yourself for the person you are. Self-acceptance seems to be the key to happiness . . . you must be happy with yourself before you can be happy in the world. This is what I have learned through my self-analysis.

    Take care Nick . . . Gina

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  3. Ben

    Hi Nick,

    I could relate to what you wrote, and I have a couple of observations:

    “I could start thinking that I’m the unluckiest person in the world, something my dad seems to do and I want to avoid.” –> Do you mean, your dad thinks that he is unlucky, or thinks that you are unlucky? I take it he thinks he’s the unluckiest person in the world.

    Is your dad somewhat like you? They say, ‘like father, like son.’ For me, I resemble my dad in that I’m pretty introverted and can seem pretty moody when I’m not, which tends to make people take an instant dislike to me. My dad is dead now, but looking back, he probably had a lot of issues similar to my own. We didn’t get on, but I realise that I made it hard for him for us to get on. I could have helped him had I actively spent more time with him and helped him get out of the armchair he spent far too much time in. If I could go back I would have got us to renovate the loft together which would have greatly benefited us both. Anyway, the point is, if you see some of yourself in your dad, it is within your power to help him.

    Secondly, you said: “My whole life is littered with examples of wasted opportunities, I never did anything at a young age while it is still acceptable to be less than perfect and you have chance to learn.”

    It’s quite important to remember that it’s still acceptable to be less than perfect even when you are not young, and even when you are 100 years old. I know you realise that, but it’s worth pointing out that this is another symptom of your perfectionism (‘By a certain age, people should have worked out how to do X, Y and Z, and if they haven’t, they are a failure’.) By thinking in this way (which I also do but am trying to break out of) you are shooting yourself in the foot. You’re going to be petrified of making mistakes and hinder your own opportunities for experience and advancement. The thinking would be, ‘Doing X is difficult and may be humiliating. I am not going to do it, but instead I’m going to wait and hope that something else will happen that will help my personal development and perhaps allow me to do X in the future.’ Wait for a miracle to come, basically. It’s better to actively take small steps forward. Don’t necessarily take huge steps that are going to embarrass you, but maybe take smaller actions that require you to ‘put yourself out there’, like making a joke with someone behind the counter in a shop when there’s a queue behind you, or whatever.

    I also totally agree with Anonymous above – you are a very eloquent writer. As a journalist and someone who studied English Lit I know good writing when I see it. How about blogging about something other than social anxiety (as well)?

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  4. Hi Ben, sorry I have taken so long to reply to your comment. I’ve not been up to much writing, beyond my coursework just lately 😦

    I meant that my dad thinks he’s the unluckiest person in the world, he seems to delight in his own misfortune.

    We aren’t really that similar, he’s one of those people who can talk to anyone and never seems to be embarrassed by anything. He’s also very hard working unlike me, he started work after he left school at 15 and he’s 60 now. I feel like a disappointment to him in many ways, even though he never, ever says so or implies it. We do get on well, though my relationship with my parents has become a bit strained since I moved out. It’s hard to spend a lot of time with them now I’m used to having my own space and all that.

    I understand what you are saying, it’s just that “less than perfect” is a huge understatement when it comes to me.

    Doing X is difficult and may be humiliating. I am not going to do it.

    You basically just described my life so far 😦 I didn’t/don’t expect any miracles though, I just let things rot away. Now I’m so far behind I don’t know what to do. Up until about a year ago I wasn’t ready to try and improve things, it took me getting rid of the poisonous people who made my life miserable to even begin thinking about it. I’m still stuck in somewhat of a rut though as you can see.

    I’ve “put myself out there” quite a bit compared to in the past. I’ve met several people in real life who I talk to online and I’ve managed to talk to more people in the last few months than over the entire previous 2 or 3 previous years. It hasn’t really made a massive difference to how much of a failure I am though. I don’t really know how to get past that stage. I may have come past the stage where I used to panic when paying for items at a shop, but actually making progress in a real social situation seems like a massive leap forward and I don’t know how to deal with it.

    Thanks for the complement but I think I sound like a high schooler trying too hard. I don’t really know about anything enough to write about it, and I think my writing style is actually quite annoying 😦

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  5. Gina Alfani :

    You can be happy Nick . . . think positively about yourself, accentuate your strong characteristics and build on them, take the time to understand yourself and love yourself for the person you are. Self-acceptance seems to be the key to happiness . . . you must be happy with yourself before you can be happy in the world. This is what I have learned through my self-analysis.
    Take care Nick . . . Gina

    Thank you Gina, I don’t really think i can be happy with myself though. Goodness knows I spent enough time self-analysing and I have come to realise that I don’t have any strong characteristics, not any worth liking anyway. It’s hard to see how I could love myself when I have so many flaws and hideous things wrong with me 😦

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  6. Anonymous :
    By the way, I really enjoy reading your posts Nick, you are incredibly eloquent writer, it is nice to hear SA decribed so well and so clearly, I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who feel the same as you do (myself included)who are getting a lot of relief from reading about their condition decribed in such an excellent and clear way.

    Cheers 🙂 I originally intended this site to be much more helpful than the current journal that it’s turned into.

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