Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Problem with Perfectionism

Yesterday I baked and cooked and baked some more for Rosh Hashanah. I was vaguely anxious all day, hoping I'd get everything done on time. A few times I noticed my anxiety, and tried to calm myself. What was I so worried about? No guests were coming, this was simply a meal for our family.

By the time we sat down I had a headache and was all worked up. The chicken wasn't done yet, it was already 7 pm, the kids' bedtime was already weighing on me (they don't have today off), and then Sam started complaining about the texture of the butternut squash--normally his favorite vegetable.

Then the voices started- see, why do you try so hard, it never turns out how you wanted it anyway? What's wrong with you--should have gotten the chicken cooking earlier (never mind that you were at Maya's dance class)? What kind of a parent are you that your kids don't just eat their food without a litany of complaints?

And it occurred to me--when you are a perfectionist you really don't allow yourself to enjoy a damn thing! You're filled with anticipatory worry about all the things that could go wrong, and then when anything ends up differing from your vision of perfection you are upset at your perceived failure.

Every year at Rosh Hashanah I pray for G_d to help me to live a happy life. I'm so envious of those who seem to have happiness come to them so easily. I pray that this will be the year that I will learn to stop shooting myself in the foot, that this will be the year that I will be a patient mother, a loving, non-critical spouse, and that I will do the things that I know (in theory) will help with my rampant anxiety. And so often I am feeling like a failure even before the end of the first full day of the new year.


Suna said...

What a great post--I have so been there and done that. And I wish I could have had the squash--butternut squash is actually my #1 favorite food.

You're so right about not allowing yourself to enjoy things if you keep focusing on your faiings--that is one of the things I work on a lot. Being mindful of it, and focusing on all the positive things as you did in your Rosh Hashanah prayer really helps--visualizing things helps make them so.

I hope the rest of the holidays goes smoothly.

And thank you for your supportive words on my blog, too.

Miss Sassy said...

L'shanah tovah.

I hope I said this right. I am not completely familiar with Jewish custom.

It is so easy to be hard on ourselves. I wish I had advice but I'm the same way though I have felt better since I got sick and had a bit of time to reflect on how counterproductive it is.

I don't know a lot about Jewish custom but isn't it OK to do some life reflection and focus on the positives of the new year?

Melba said...

I am giving you a big virtual hug my friend!

Despite some of my depressing posts lately, reading abraham-hicks books have really helped me choose a better thought. Like when I get upset, not to feed into the negative energy and find something (anything) to feel good about.
It helps.

My Maternal Grandmother is Jewish and although I wasn't raised in the Jewish Faith I was always aware of the Holy-days. It is odd because where I live now the schools weren't closed and I would not even remembered it was a holiday if my Mom had not mentioned it on the phone.

May this New Year bring you peace and the courage to pursue what makes you happiest.


shisomama said...

i think it's a positive thing to always be striving to become a better or more satisfied person, but it can be difficult if it ends up making you feel inadequate. as for other people achieving happiness more easily than you... i'm not so sure that's the case, but it can sure seem like it to folks on the outside. be good to yourself, sister!