The problem, albeit not the only one, with perfectionists is that their perfectionism isn’t limited to their areas of expertise. Oh no. Their perfectionism knows no bounds. They have to be perfect in everything they do.
At least, that has been my experience with perfectionism. I want to be perfect in both the things that are my strengths as well as the things that are my weaknesses. When I write or draw, I expect certain things from myself. When I try to roller skate – as I did on Sunday – I hold myself to some unrealistic standard. I expect to be the best, most perfect roller skater even though I have never roller skated.
The problem is that I am not the best roller skater. I am not even a good roller skater. I am an abysmal failure as a roller skater. I know I’m exaggerating, especially since I only tried to roller skate for a few minutes before surrendering to frustration and multiple falls, but that is how I feel. When I’m incapable of meeting the demands I set for myself, I feel like a failure. I become upset by those failures.
I not only become upset by the failure itself, but I also become upset about the fact that I’m upset. I know that it’s ridiculous to be agitated about my inability to roller skate. Having that knowledge doesn’t help balance my emotions; instead, I only become more upset because I have that knowledge and feel even more the fool because I’m distressed by a silly thing.
I don’t have a cure for those feelings or for my perfectionism. I try to respond to them appropriately on a day-to-day and, sometimes, minute-by-minute basis. I try to remember that I’m the only one who is setting the rigorous demands. Nobody else expects me to be the perfect roller skater. That is my expectation, and it’s one that needs to change.