My Quest for “Realistic” Perfection

This post is a writing prompt assigned several months ago from my bi-monthly writer’s group. The title of the prompt was “Have you ever tried to be perfect?”

I’m setting my standards realistically this time, so I won’t be disappointed. I’ve probably always been trying to be perfect. Somewhere between being a Myers-Briggs J, and the daughter of my parents I learned to accept nothing less from myself than one step short of perfection. Actual perfection was, of course, out of the question. I even had the theology to back it up. I spent most of my school years and on into adulthood in the quest for almost perfection. I repeated the same pattern time and time again. Setting my sights too high and then crashing and burning. So I developed a new method of setting “realistic” goals. I would start smaller and work my way up to where I was supposed to be. But my theoretically lowered expectations were an illusion. For example: I should exercise in some form six days a week. But I know that’s asking too much of myself. So I pretend that I should exercise seven days a week, with more than one kind of exercise on some days. That way my goal of four to five days seems “realistic” but is actually one step away from near perfection. When I invariably do not meet my goals I of course crash down again, just as before, but this time I tell myself, “Well at least you weren’t being a perfectionist.”

This strange twisted sense of logic applies to virtually every area of my life, from laundry and house cleaning to budgeting and parenting. I push myself to do better and be better as if to prove that I can be better than I think I am, if not as good as I wish I could be. The deep levels of disgust I have with myself are sure to produce less motivation or short lived super motivation as I again reach for that illusive goal of near perfection. Why do I reach so high only to come up empty handed? Do I fear that if I settle for less I will get it and be satisfied?

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