Ah perfectionism. "It's just fear in really great shoes."
I'll never forget when I first heard that quote by Elizabeth Gilbert. She was on a Super Soul Sunday with Oprah. "It's either 'I'm stuck and I'm scared to make a move, to make a change,' or it's what I call the haute couture, high-end version of fear, which is perfectionism. It's just fear in really great shoes".
As a lifelong perfectionist, I'd always identified with my perfectionism as a strength, albeit one that was a bit *too* strong and caused me grief from time to time. I'd never seen it was a form of fear, which is very clearly not a strength. Now I would call myself a recovering perfectionist. Similar to my eating disorder (I believe the two are inexorably linked), I see recovering from and managing my perfectionism as a never-ending process. It's something I pay attention to constantly and I think I always will.
Two silly examples from this week (I call them silly but both have taken up an inordinate amount of brain space as I've ruminated on them daily): a protein cheesecake I made on Monday and a mistake I made in a work meeting on Tuesday.
The protein cheesecake is incredibly easy to make, satisfying, and not-at-all clean. It's 12 ounces each of Greek yogurt and reduced-fat cream cheese, 2 scoops of protein powder, 2 eggs, a little vanilla extract, and about 2/3 cup Splenda (I warned you that it is not clean). It's baked at a higher temperature for about 30 minutes then a way lower temperature for another 60. When I took it out after the 90 minutes in the oven, it was still incredibly wobbly and appeared to be under-baked. I meant to put it back in for about 10 minutes. I got distracted and it turned into 20. So it was slightly over-baked. Not ruined. I've had a serving every evening since and have enjoyed it. But every time I put it on a plate, and especially on Monday when I was hoping for the most perfect protein cheesecake I've ever made, I was so disappointed in it and myself. In my rational mind, I know it's a slightly over-baked cheesecake that no one else will eat. In my perfectionist mind, I've wasted the ingredients, am no longer a decent home chef, and just so grateful that my husband isn't home to experience this letdown. I have to constantly remind myself that it's fine, the cheesecake is fine, and it doesn't change my aptitude for home cooking. Perhaps more importantly, it also doesn't affect my worth and value as a person.
In our daily check-in for work, we each present a quick update on what we're working on that day then call on someone to go next. On Tuesday, I called on someone who had already gone. I apologized and picked someone else. In my rational mind, I know that no one else thought about it again. In my perfectionist mind, I worry that everyone thinks I wasn't paying attention in the meeting and that I am therefore not detail-oriented and organized enough to do my job well. I thought about it multiple times during the rest of the day and was so consumed by the anxiety of not making a mistake during the next day's meeting that I barely paid attention to anyone else's updates - I was just concentrating on who hadn't gone yet so I could call on the correct person. It's small and silly yet it can take up so much space in one's brain.
I don't have a solution for this other than acknowledging it and repeatedly telling myself that it's not a big deal, it's fine, I'm fine, everything is fine.
Hopefully practice makes perfect.