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Perfectionism Questions/Relationship between 2 of them!

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by ValVal, Jul 15, 2013.

  1. ValVal

    ValVal Peer Supporter

    I'm a perfectionist like most of us here... Anyway, throughout life I always thought this was a great thing- something to even brag about or be proud of. Only through learning about and dealing with TMS am I realizing it isn't so great! (How did I not know this???)

    I was watching a YouTube video with Brene Brown and Oprah and this was a eye opening for me.
    Perfectionism is not about healthy striving for excellence. It's a cognitive behavioral process that says if I live perfect, look perfect, do it perfect I can avoid or minimize shame, blame and judgment. It is the ultimate fear that the world will see me for who I really am and I won't measure up. It's a shield we think will protect us from getting hurt but it protects us from being seen.

    I'm wondering if there are any books on perfectionism you'd recommend???

    I am working on myself and consequently while doing so trying to express to my husband (also a perfectionist) the things he does that cause problems for me. He is very rigid and regimented- needs control- is a neat freak, and can be tough on the kids to do everything perfectly, not get dirty, etc..)

    He is also very loving, emotional, supportive and open to discussion. He plays so well with the kids. and they adore him but I fear his rigidity with them at times is and will become more of a problem. They are 5 and 7.

    I am also a perfectionist but it comes out in different ways. I am very aware of the kids and b/c of my husband I try to be more lenient and not make them feel the need to do everything just so. My father is a perfectionist and so I know the cycle. I am very patient where my husband is not. My perfectionism seems to be more inward and I hold a lot in whereas he expresses a lot outwardly.

    He gets annoyed at me if I don't do something perfectly (rinse out the recyclables!) and I have my own issues with being hard on myself so I expressed to him weeks ago that I can't take it anymore. That I am trying to do everything right b/c that's what I do and then for him to find the one think I don't do right in a day is really horrible! Also, that it's one thing for me to have to live with it but I don't want our kids to have to live a life like I did with my father! (PS- My first husband was very similar to him in that way as well. I can't believe I married 2 men that are like my father!)

    Long story short he is aware that his control issues/neatness/anger is a problem. He gets mad at the smallest things (not being able to fix something or someone not putting something back in the right place or a driver who doesn't use their directional)... It stems from his childhood, of course... He was so upset once I opened up to him. He apologized and cried and says he's just always been that way and doesn't know what to do. He's been trying to "let things go" and he read a book he found on Amazon (Stop Overreacting by Judith Siegel) but I know (and made him aware) that reading one book isn't going to change 44 years of how he has lived his life thus far.

    He wants me to tell him when he does things he may not be "seeing" but I am also dealing with my own issues and don't want to be responsible for his either. Nor do I want to be his "parent" and give him a report card on how he's doing from week to week. Plus, sometimes I don't know if my observations of him are always accurate being I, too, suffer from perfectionism and a real sensitivity to criticism.

    Any thoughts are welcome. Yesterday was a day when we had company and so much of it was great but in bed I dwelled on 3 things I thought he did wrong (Things with the kids I felt he should have "let go") and couldn't sleep all night. That's where my problem is... I was worried about what our company thought about the 3 things as I, of course, want us to appear perfect to the outside world. So exhausting.

    (This is coming from the person who cleaned & prepared obsessively for our new friends.)
  2. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Perfectionism and goodism are not terrible traits to have. In fact, these traits helps us achieve and do alot of amazing things in life. They lead us to being kind, caring people who work hard and are motivated. These are all positives. The only problem is that when we are being perfectionist we have a tendency to repress our emotions. Our perfectionism keeps us from recognizing that we have deep anger and rage. You do not need to no longer be a perfectionist to recover. All you need to do is learn to be more allowing of your emotions, and not let yourself repress the anger and rage associated with your personality.

    Of course this is easier said then done. One great book that may help you learn more about these traits is Pathways to Pain Relief. It provides a wonderful overview of the psychology behind TMS. I found it to be very eye opening.
  3. ValVal

    ValVal Peer Supporter

    Thanks, Forest. What you say makes sense but is it really good to need to have everything "perfect" all the time. Cleaning obsessively, organizing, over-planning? Also, I tend to find the one thing I did wrong out of many wonderful things and I dwell on it... "I" am my own worst critic and realize that I am very sensitive to criticism. The fact that I criticize myself must be very angering to my unconscious!

    I guess my question is that even if while we are being perfectionistic we also make sure we are aware of our emotions and not repress isn't that desire to be perfect (not let others see our real selves) still a negative?
  4. Anne Walker

    Anne Walker Beloved Grand Eagle

    Valval, hello. My kids are older(12, 13 and 14) but I am having some of the same issues and concerns with my husband. This is our second marriage and the 13 year old is only with us part of the time(he is my husband's son and lives with his mother). My husband is very traditional, more strict, and critical. He is also very devoted, reliable, and hard working. He is with the children the way his father was with him and it is hard for him to consider changing. I have been doing a lot of work paying attention to my internal bully and I am so sensitive to any of my husband's criticism that I began to see him as my external bully. What has worked for me is to pay greater attention to the things I say to myself when I am reacting to him. Often I pick up my journal and write down what I am feeling and then try to see if I can defend myself or if I might be reading in more than he intended. I could write a long post about my concern for the children, not wanting them to have any emotional repression or to go through what I am going through with TMS. But then I am realizing, how much does this fall in the "worrying about the future category"? How much am I transfering my obsessive worry over my symptoms to worry and concern over my children. What am I seeing today that shows me they are having problems? No one has perfect parents and if we are open, loving, and attentive to our children's needs we are worlds ahead of a lot of parents. Many, many fathers and mothers have different opinions about discipline and how strict to be with their children. How much responsibility and control can we take for our partner's parenting style? I have been very clearly and specifically requesting certain changes, but I try to do it when all is calm and not the heat of the moment. There is a lot to think about here for sure.
    Birdie and ValVal like this.
  5. ValVal

    ValVal Peer Supporter

    Anne- Thanks so much for you post. Yes, lots to think about but you bring up some good points! I did speak to my DH this morning and he thanked me for making him aware of some of yesterday's issues. He is open to talking about this and working on himself which I am happy about and appreciate. I don't want him to be mad (so YES I do it when all is calm- often the next day.) but he isn't thus far and I am happy he's open to doing work on himself as I know a lot of people who are not and prefer not to try...
  6. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Val, I do think there are varying degrees of perfectionism and goodism that we need to keep in mind. There is a very relevant quote by Eric Sherman in Pathways to Pain Relief where he writes

    When Adrienne called to schedule her first appointment, she left a message that dazzled me with her ability to anticipate every inconvenience I might encounter in returning her call. She provided solutions for all the potential obstacles, none of which required any extra effort on my part. Of course, we all appreciate dealing with people who are organized, reliable, and considerate. What underlies Adrienne's goodist behavior is her deeply-held and examined conviction that another person could not possibly bear the slightest hardship on her behalf, without regarding her as selfish. The first time Adrienne presented me with an insurance form, rather than fill it out, I only had to sign it. Adrienne consulted all sorts of public records available on the internet to obtain much of the information required by the insurance company, rather than trouble me and risk having me despise her for being so inconsiderate of my valuable time. She barely knew me, but couldn't feel safe enough to expect a routine response from me, such as, 'Fine, I'll fill it out and return it to you at our next appointment.' Her behavior was not virtuous, it was over the top!​

    One of the reasons I like Pathways so much was because of this one paragraph. It is resonates so much with my own goodist personality, and anyone who has ever received an email from me could attest to the fact that I tend to always provide solutions to any possible obstacles. What Drs. Anderson and Sherman so eloquently point out in Pathways is that there is something that is driving us to be perfectionists and goodist. Understanding what this is can be extremely helpful in overcoming our repressive tendencies. In terms of how to address this, I think the goal should always be to become more open and allowing of our emotions, instead of trying to actively change your personality. Change will always come with more introspection and understanding, but recovering from TMS does not require one to no longer be a perfectionist, only becoming more accepting of our emotions.
    Alan Gordon LCSW and ValVal like this.
  7. Becca

    Becca Well known member


    I’m a total perfectionist, too. I think a lot of my perfectionism also comes from working on myself, as you put it...trying to make up for past wrongs, in a way. I also saw a lot of myself in what you wrote about criticism. I'm absolutely my own worst critic. The standards I set for myself are ridiculously high, so the criticism is present most of the time. Also like you, I often focus on the things I didn’t accomplish, as opposed to all that I did. (Although for me, this is a protective tactic. If I focus on the things I did wrong or didn’t do, and someone points it out, I’ve emotionally prepared myself for that possibility. Similarly, if I prepare myself for failure, but I don’t end up failing, then I’m pleasantly surprised. The problem with that, though, is preparing for failure turns into internalizing and believing that failure, until proven otherwise. So, I guess it's not really protective at all...)

    Here's the problem: no one is perfect, or can be perfect. There really is no such thing. Being a perfectionist, then, means constantly striving towards something that doesn't exist, which means always failing. And this isn't just exhausting, it's downright infuriating. So, to answer your question,. do we have to change our entire personality, and stop all our perfectionistic tendencies? No! But, if we try to stop striving for perfection in every single thing we do and work on being kinder to ourselves, it will help.

    If you want an expert’s opinion on this (because I’m just a perfectionistic 23 year old), I'd look at Alan Gordon’s recovery program. I know it's not a paper or a book, but it a) is a fantastic program worth looking at in general, and b) introduces Part II (there are two parts to it) by saying “The underlying message of Part II can be summed up in four words: be nice to yourself” , which I think is just awesome.

    In terms of literature, I 100% agree with Forest in recommending Pathways to Pain Relief . I think it’s the only TMS book that really explores TMS personality traits. The case studies on perfectionism and goodism were really powerful. I learned a lot from reading it.
    575 and ValVal like this.
  8. gailnyc

    gailnyc Well known member


    I also have seen some of the Brene Brown videos (though not the one with Oprah) and was surprised when she said that although you'd think that being a perfectionist would lead to success, some of the most successful people she's interviewed for her research actually said that their perfectionism HURT their success.

    I am curious to hear her expand on this. I hope to pick up one of her books the next time I'm at a bookstore or library. I too have a perfectionist streak and I would like to learn how to let go of it, too. I think it's tied into my tendency to obsess about certain things--also not healthy.

    ValVal likes this.
  9. ValVal

    ValVal Peer Supporter

    Hi Gail- A friend has read some of Brene Brown's books. The latest is "Daring Greatly" but she didn't like that one so much. She said it was a bit too "Oprah" for her. Not exactly sure what she meant except for maybe that it wasn't substantial enough for her liking- maybe too spiritual?? I don't know. She said she MUCH preferred "The Gifts of Imperfection" which I plan to check out in the next month or so...
    Brene Brown also has 2 or 3 Audio speeches that aren't books on Audible.com. "The Power of Vulnerability" and "Men, Women, and Worthiness". I had some audio credits to use and being I don't love audio books I purchased the 2 speeches of hers. I haven't listened to them yet though!

    Here is the interview with Oprah where they discuss Perfectionism among other things...
    gailnyc likes this.
  10. JoelA

    JoelA Peer Supporter

    To theorize:

    I sent an unsent letter to myself regarding my perfectionism today. One thought that popped up was, as the TS wisely concluded, that the basis of my perfectionism is the fear of failing. A brutal way to force oneself to overachieve, over and over again.

    This thought lead me into my own small theory. Could it be that, because most of us TMS'ers have something from the childhood, abuse, bullying or w/e it might be, that has over activated the ACC/Amygdala area ---> pain further into life (from Unlearn your pain w H.Schubiner) and therefore has the perfectionism personality trait as a sort of defense mechanism for the mind for further stimulation in this area i.e. not to fail and get "hurt"?
    Aziz likes this.
  11. hecate105

    hecate105 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Valval, how about you and your husband reading the recommended book together? Or other books/websites on TMS/perfectionism etc. I started this programme a few weeks ago, my husband started it a few days ago. He has seen the benefits to me and because I have been talking to him about some of the content, he decided that he could possibly benefit too. I have read out bits of Sarno's and SteveO's books to him and we have ended up having long, insightful conversations about each other and our relationships. It has been a really calm way of raising issues that either of us have, without it seeming like an attack. It has given us a closeness and an appreciation of each others frailties. I think it has been beneficial to our individual journeys as well as to our marriage.
    It must be difficult in a busy family, but perhaps you could set some time aside (it's YOUR homework time!) but not at bedtime - I think before sleep it is better to have settled any emotional issues/talks/content. It's always better to go to sleep happy...
    ValVal, gailnyc and yb44 like this.
  12. Becca

    Becca Well known member

    Brutal is the absolute right word for it. Because feeling like you have to be perfect, constantly, in order to be lovable, in order to be successful, in order to not get hurt, is exhausting, and enraging, and ironically creates a LOT of room for "failure" (not actual failure, but failing the impossibly high standards we set for ourselves). And my perfectionism has a nasty side called self-criticism that loves to jump in whenever it can...

    I think you're right, perfectionism is absolutely a defense mechanism. A counterproductive one, but still. The trick is figuring out how to convince ourselves that we don't need it to protect us anymore.
  13. yb44

    yb44 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hecate, I had just been reading some of your responses to posts and was touched by how much progress you are making. Then I read the response above and shed a few tears. I am not doing so well at the moment and when you wrote about how you are able to discuss all this with your husband to the point where he has actually started the programme, it made me feel quite sad that I do not have that sort of closeness with my other half. I have tried to explain TMS to him but I don't think he understands the gist of it - perhaps it is how I am relating it. I suggested he read one of Sarno's books. It lay on his bedside table for months collecting dust. He just doesn't get what I am going through at the moment. It makes me feel quite lonely.
  14. Anne Walker

    Anne Walker Beloved Grand Eagle

    YB44 I know just what you mean! You should see how my husband looks at me when I pick up my journal. He calls it jokingly "Massive Bitch Syndrome." I keep telling him that no one wants to get over this more than me. I don't know what bothers him more, me complaining about the pain all the time like I used to or now me analyzing everything and trying to think psychologically. On the plus side, he's a great cook and I know he is going to hang in there with me.
  15. hecate105

    hecate105 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Yb and Anne, I am so sorry your husbands do not 'get it'. At the risk of being sexist - men do seem to have more problems addressing emotional stuff. It is seen as being weak (according to my hubby) I think that the reason he is so supportive is that he has always suffered inwardly whilst being a real man's man on the outside. He has had to look at his emotions/feelings or he would of ended up in a really dark place. That makes him more empathic to others and their feelings. Having a wife who has just been a barrel of problems, who he spent years pushing round in a wheelchair - could of pushed him over the edge! But he chose to use his empathy and good sense and it is largely because of him that I never gave up looking for a cure/answer.
    But being a man - he does like his info in 'bitesize' pieces! He would take months to get through a book - but he will sit and be immersed if it is just one chapter - or a section, or even better if I read it to him. Is it worth trying to 'tempt' your guys with reading a bit to them , then asking them their opinion?
    The thing is I expect most people have some TMS tendencies, and it is easier to say it's all rubbish and dismiss it, rather than look at our frailties/emotional repression. (just mention emotional repression and most guys would run a mile - heck just mention emotions and they've got their running shoes on!)
    YOU are the brave ones because you have taken on the TMS journey. Hopefully your hubbies will understand at some time and be supportive, if not - there are all these lovely people on this forum who DO know what you are going through...
    ValVal and Anne Walker like this.
  16. 575

    575 Peer Supporter

    This is so true.
    I'm a TMS "survivor" (;)) but I'm still very harsh to myself when I do the smallest mistake.
    My mind instantly says:"Well, now your day is completely ruined" and then it goes to "How did I make this mistake, why didn't I pay more attention" and I'm talking about completely unimportant stuff like forgetting to turn off your computer screen.
  17. Aziz

    Aziz Peer Supporter

    Looms like this thread was from way back when, but SO HELPFUL!

    My perfectionism takes the form of being super driven. I like what Forrest is saying about it not being a problem in and of itself. It's lead me to create some amazing things.

    The problem is from the urgency, pain, rage, and all the other emotions that arise when I am not progressing at the "rate I should." Or when I hit a setback.

    I can see how there is a compulsive, endless quality to it. And it definitely feels like a defense to me. If I am incredible, do enough, achieve enough, then everyone will love me, think I'm awesome, not be upset with me and give me love and attention.

    Doesn't quite work that way though, eh? : )
    ValVal likes this.
  18. ValVal

    ValVal Peer Supporter

    Thanks for bringing this thread back up! I need to read it again! Aziz I relate with your post!! Interesting as I woke up with some pain after a weekend of performances of my DAUGHTER'S. I find my perfectionism can also reach out to my children and settle inside of ME! I try not to put it onto them but it can be hard!
  19. Rainbowdash

    Rainbowdash Peer Supporter

  20. Duggit

    Duggit Well known member

    Here is an interesting piece on the psychodynamics of perfectionism: http://istdpinstitute.com/2013/perfectionism/ (Perfectionism - ISTDP Institute)

    An often overlooked downside of perfectionism is that it can spill over to how we treat other people, especially those we are close to. Of relevance to this, Dr. Hanscom posted some thoughts today titled "From Would Like to Should" in the "Mindbody Blogs (was Practitioner"s Corner)" forum on this tms.wiki site.

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