Enough Already!

I feel like I have been writing all day. Between writing my own stuff and grading student papers, my brain has almost had it.

The grading is taking longer than it should because I feel compelled to grade "perfectly." To correct every mistake, re-arrange the sentences properly, help them on grammar and sentence structure.

I have to remember: that's not my job. Okay, yes, I do need to give them good feedback and suggestions and that's fine. But I'm not supposed to re-write their papers for them. I just want to make it perfect.

Ah, yes. Perfection. You ethereal creature, always beckoning. Like Odysseus' sirens- so seductive and alluring, but then you get there and they kill you. So many things in life are like that, aren't they?

Yet I don't always think I'm a perfectionist because I don't feel that I try hard enough. I mean, there are things in my life that I totally let slide. Sometimes, my Christmas shopping isn't done early. There is (gasp!) clutter in my apartment. My car needs to be washed. Badly.

See? If I were a perfectionist, these things would all be done and ready and things would never be out of place and I would be all together and never have zits.

I just need to try harder. That's all.

It's an asinine argument, to be sure, but I also believe it. On the one hand, I know I'm a perfectionist. I hate making mistakes. I like things to be 'perfect.' But I feel it's an adjective, not a real diagnosis. Not in the way of some of the people in my family. I'm not good enough to be called a perfectionist.

That really sounds ridiculous when I read it. I mean, completely, utterly whacked-out.

And only a true perfectionist would think that.

I don't really think that being a perfectionist is a good thing. I don't really consider it a character flaw, but I do think it can get in the way of things. I mean, is it really appropriate to lock yourself in your room for several days after getting your first A- in college? Um, not really.

My problem is knowing when enough is enough. What is 'enough' exercise? What is too much? Ditto for dietary vigilance. And studying. And damn near every other thing.

Common with perfectionism is all or nothing thinking. That I don't dispute. I'm good at seeing the nuances of arguments and things like that. I can easily put myself in other people's shoes. But with pretty much everything else? All or nothing. If I make a mistake, the whole thing sucked. However, because I made the mistake, I can't be a perfectionist. Because- get this- perfectionists don't make mistakes.


I get that no one is perfect. On a weird sort of intellectual level. But I always thought that if I got this award, or this grade, or could lose enough weight, eat few enough calories, exercise enough hours each day, then I could be perfect. I could be 'enough'.

To be continued tomorrow...

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Dreaming again said...

I envy the perfectionists that 'get it right' ... mine, like yours ... is just enough to stop me in my tracks. To stop me before I start ...or stop me when I get overwhelmed and make me realize I'll never get it done 'perfect'.

So I have the clutter, the dirty car ...and I just live with the internal chaos screaming at me that I'm never good enough ...and instead self destruct ...

My new therapist is the first person that actually labeled me as a perfectionist.

I had one person who looked at me and said "there is no way you're a perfectionist!" As if she'd been covered by an offensive mud ...

Excuse me ... you have no idea the hell I live in when things are not perfect ...

I hadn't even said anything to her, I'd just been nodding my head in agreement to something SHE'd been saying about some project she'd been doing!

She doesn't even know how badly she hurt me.

Argh ...the life of an overwhelmed perfectionist!

carrie said...

I hear you. Boy do I hear you.

It's odd, because I have self-described as a perfectionist my whole life. At the same time, I thought I was a half-assed perfectionist. That I wasn't good enough at it. I wasn't trying to be better, mind you, but still.

But perfectionism is easily as much about the thought processes as it is the actions.

Jeanne said...

Wow. I hear you, carrie. "I'm not good enough to be a perfectionist."

I think what makes a perfectionist a perfectionist is the "striving" for perfection. We still believe in the idea of perfection. Like Don Quixote...

thinking of you,

carrie said...


Now I have "To Dream the impossible dream" running through my head...

Ah, but who will be my Dulcinea?

Dreaming again said...

Funny ... my son thinks my nickname should be Quixotica ...

carrie said...

And not Sancho Panza?

Tiptoe said...

It's funny you should bring this up. The NY Times had a recent article about perfectionism, dated 12/04 in the health section.

I know for me, I tend to go through phases with how "perfectionistic" I need to be, i.e. where I am able to allow more things to slide than usual. But in the end, it's like a neverending battle.

I even remember one doctor telling me that it's really the perfectionism that can kill you in the end.

Sarah said...

oh, wow.


I hear you.

I get it.


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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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