Don’t worry Mum, this is called growth and self-discovery.
I’ve been thinking about acceptance and control and the critical inner voice recently. I’ve been thinking about how, every time I naively think I might have shrugged off the label of ‘perfectionist’, I discover its tendrils and vines wrapped about another aspect of my life. The individual self, the relational self, the collective self - who we are, who we are with others, who capital-W We are. I’ve been pruning the vines about my individual self only to discover they are inexplicably wrapped up with my relational and collective self - I do not exist outside my relationships and society, it is all part of the same thing, one root network.
I might be getting better at allowing imperfection in my day job and creative work, but I am still struggling not to feel the need for perfection in my relationships and my position in society.
I want people to like me, and I put so much pressure on myself to be liked in every social situation. Since childhood, I have had the belief that people won’t like me for who I am. It made me bitter and spiteful in my teens, depressed in my early twenties, and now I just feel left behind, like I’vebeen locked out and don’t know how to get back in. I want to control how other people feel about me but it’s impossible. That’s perfectionism for you.
I wrote about this in my learning journal for therapist training at the weekend - my desire to be liked, my need for control, my habit of pushing others away before they can do the same to me. I didn’t realise I was like that until I wrote this journal. It’s been an epiphany, to be cliché about it. I didn’t think I was one of those people who pushed others away in fear of rejection, but there are many ways to push - ghosting, indifference, laziness, excuses. I would quietly slip out of people’s lives before they could force me out. I would save them the trouble, save me the heartache, though the heartache would still come.
I want to be liked so much. I want to reach the end of my life knowing I was adored - a successful novelist, a good therapist, a much loved mother and grandmother and daughter and wife and friend. The kind of person who has hundreds of mourners at their funeral. The kind of person whose memory takes centuries to die out.
But that means relinquishing control. Attempting to control life, how others perceive me, my career trajectory - perfectionism is just how I try to control a world that is completely unpredictable and wild. I know that only when I practise acceptance, when I lean into the fear, when I let go - then things may happen as I want, and if they don’t, I won’t mind anyway.
I am trying not to care what others think. I am trying to be true to myself and true to them. I am trying to treat myself and others with kindness. And maybe instead of hacking at the vines of perfectionism that choke my life, I should simply sit back and stop tending them, stop feeding them. They will wither and brown and die only when I leave them be.
I’ve read a couple of pieces on Substack recently that have helped guide me during this period. (I feel corny saying that but I’m also trying not to self-censor from a worry that people will think I’m cringe).
I was also thinking about the music that helps me love myself a little more. I’ve gathered some of my favourite songs on positivity and self-love and coming to terms with our failures and what we lack in a playlist. Be kind to yourself today and give it a listen.