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Life as a paladin: perfectionism, doing right, "being right"

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by armchairlinguist, Apr 9, 2015.

  1. armchairlinguist

    armchairlinguist Peer Supporter

    At my current job I've gotten some feedback on my communication style that has prompted some interesting self-examination, particularly in its connection to my perfectionism and wanting everything to be correct. Last night when thinking about this issue, it occurred to me that I view myself - not entirely consciously - as a kind of modern-day paladin. (The exact meaning of paladin varies by context, but here I'm using it in the "a good and pure knight" kind of way, probably most influenced by the Elizabeth Moon book The Deed of Paksenarrion.) Basically, I see myself as someone who always tries to do the right thing, technically correct or perfectly conformant to expectations. I have high standards, and I'm proud of having high standards. I tend to be pretty proactive with feedback to others that I think could improve or who aren't doing the correct (prescribed or ideal) thing. And while I tend to be fairly attentive to other people's good ideas or perspectives, I can also easily get pretty stuck on what I think is right in a given situation.

    I'm actually much more like this at work than I am anywhere else, probably influenced by the general primacy and value of correctness professionally vs personally. Possibly obviously, this doesn't always go over well with other people, especially if I'm not careful about how I convey my opinion!

    The thing that's interesting to me about the metaphor is that part of me can see how this isn't ideal - either for others, or even for me, because I end up trapped in this very small box where I have to do things perfectly or else I'm really no good at all (perfectionism). Despite that awareness I find that I'm still very attached to a lot of aspects of that behavior and image. Having high standards seems like a good thing to me, especially in hiring input where a mishire is extremely costly. Yet, being biased to say no means that saying no sounds to other people like a default setting, like it's less meaningful. And while it's good to make sure that issues get addressed and people know what they should know and do what they should do, sometimes it's all right to look at a situation and say "I don't need to provide my input here, it's actually going along acceptably well without me."

    So I find that I'm really struggling to understand how to keep what's good about being a paladin type, while letting go to some degree of some of the more troublesome aspects, the excess perfectionism and meddling...obviously, that stuff causes conflict and stress, both overt and unconscious, and thus influences my TMS experience/symptoms.
  2. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Great issue....

    Being a recovering perfectionist, I've given some thought to this issue. I think there is nothing wrong with having high ideals for which one strives. The problem is what happens when you or someone else doesn't meet that ideal. Then I think kindness and compassion (to others or oneself) needs to trump the ideal.

    There is also the issue of why you are doing something--is it to achieve a goal or to find some joy in the process? I've had a pattern in my life of not doing something at all because I think that I can't do it perfectly. Now I'm trying to do things for the sheer enjoyment of the activity.

    And I think any "good and pure knight" needs to pick her/his battles. Not everything is worth fighting for.
  3. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    My book publisher book is a perfectionist's perfectionist. He often drives me up the wall with how exact he is in what me wants from my writing. But when he sends me what he has written, for me to proofread and edit it, I find he is very careless.

    I've learned to relax more working with him and do my best but not worry about it if he criticizes.
    I could criticize him, but I know it's unwise to criticize a boss. haha.

    I am a very careful worker, but don't really consider myself a perfectionist, although I probably come close.

    The only perfect creature I know is my dog.
  4. armchairlinguist

    armchairlinguist Peer Supporter

    @Ellen - thank you, that input is so helpful. I don't think that kindness and compassion, or joy in the process, were really modeled for me growing up and your post is very helpful as some things to remember and think about to change my perspective. I think that I've managed to find that joy in the process sometimes (yoga is helpful that way) but often it's lost. Day 37 of the SEP, which I'm on right now, reminds about the importance of self-care by finding plain joy in an activity. There is always enough to "do" productively that it's easy to lose that and forget how important it is.

    Pick your battles is a hard one for me but I think especially essential at the office.
    Ellen likes this.
  5. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Linguist,

    I love your insights about your personality. This is especially clear when I read it.

    We are very fragile, aren't we, in our need to be seen or be a certain way, as you mention the word "image." Self-images are so important to us, and yet they are so easily threatened by what we are actually feeling! I either "fit the ideal" or not. And when not, then there is nothing OK I can be. You capture this so well.

    One way to work with this is to observe the importance to parts of us that we "are" these images and ideals, and how afraid or vulnerable we feel when we don't "measure up." We can develop self-compassion for our fear and neediness to be a certain way. Then this compassion grows to include ourselves when we are "not perfect." With more relaxation, we can allow ourselves to be "wrong" more of the time, and then we can more easily discern the answer to your question which to me is: "when is this perfectionistic tendency right, and when is is not helpful?"

    Aspects of your inner Paladin---the good and true knight--can also serve you, the parts that need attuned attention and discernment...May we all have a refined Paladin!!

    Maybe that refined Paladin might discern, as Ellen suggests, when we are really having pleasure or not.

    Andy B.
  6. mdh157

    mdh157 Well known member

    I'm trying to work out my perfectionist OCD...........for once i'd like to be able to do a job half-baked or leave stuff a mess like some others do!
  7. armchairlinguist

    armchairlinguist Peer Supporter

    @Andy B as usual your insight is gold! I will ponder your thoughts, especially the self-image.
  8. IrishSceptic

    IrishSceptic Podcast Visionary

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