Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The curse of perfectionism

The alarm clock rattles, buzzes, and wretches. As I force myself to face my day, I am immediately overwhelmed with all I must complete, everything I must do - and immediately yank the blankets back over my head artfully, slamming the snooze button in one fluid motion.

There's always tomorrow; all things become possible in the new day. Today, I'll coast.

As a recovering perfectionist, I understand perfection is an impossible pursuit, yet for some unknowable reason I crave that title anyway. The hitch isn't my desire, it's my actions - or more accurately, lack thereof - caused by trying to be perfect instead of actually working to be better.

In past days, I thought I had to be "the perfect dieter:" avoiding EVERY snack, steering clear of ANY treats, and swearing off ALL nibbling. As life would have it, without thinking, I mindlessly munch a handful of nuts from my co-workers desk, a habit I've repeated countless times. Once I realize what I've just done, I am embarrassed and disappointed by my actions, as well as ashamed of my lack of willpower.

A decision is at hand. I mull my options, navigating the fierce storm raging within. I could consider this faux pas as human error, eat a little less tonight, congratulate myself for adjusting, and move closer to my goal.

Or, as a full member of Perfectionists United (known as "P.U."), chant our mantra (join me if you know the words), "As long as I blew it, I'll really blow it, and start again tomorrow." Soon therefore, an entire bowl of peanuts vanishes, as do extra brownies from the office party, and two bags of chips from the employee cabinet. I weigh more now than when the alarm blared.

What would have been a minor detour has become a full-stop road closure - because of my perfectionist objectives. When I try to break these bonds, they even slip cancer-like around my thoughts to undermine the cure: small consistent steps.

Fifty pounds is too much; five is not enough. Wait until you're ready to do it all. Running five miles is unrealistic; walking a block is useless. Sit down, relax; turn up the TV.

Black. White. Perfect. Awful. Success. Failure.

The world is nuanced with progress happening via minor movements; success gradually coalescing around the actions. One tentative step now, another thereafter - each a deliberate decision, each its own accomplishment.

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