I’m a Perfectionist

I had heard about Enneagram for a while. Another way of understanding personality like Myers-Briggs, I reasoned. Always on a quest to understand myself better, personality questionnaires intrigued me. I often don’t trust my estimation of myself; I think I am too close to see myself for who I really am. I am more comfortable taking the opinions of others as truth because other people are not me, they must be more objective, and their views about my character must be more accurate. A new personality quiz seemed right up my alley.

At the end of the test, my results showed that I was Enneagram Type 1 –  The Reformer.

The Rational, Idealistic Type

Principled, Purposeful, Self-Controlled, and Perfectionistic.

When I shared this news with a very close friend, I was not sure that this accurately described my personality. She replied, “Oh no, that is you to a T.” That was one step in hundreds I have taken over the years to understand myself better, to embrace the good and learn to work with the inadequate.

I am a perfectionist. A people pleaser. A hard worker. Sometimes I wear these titles as badges of honor. Being known as a person who can be trusted to strive for excellence in all I pursue is central to my core values and is where I derive most of my worth as a good human being. I hold myself to a high standard, and the quality of the work I complete is of a similarly high quality.  I like  my name associated with phrases like:

“strong work ethic,”

“integrity,”

“giving 100%,”

“reliable,”

“trustworthy,”

“won’t let you down,”

“Can-Do,”

“Productive,”

“Gets the job done, right.”

Perfectionism for me is about creating an image of myself that I share with the world so that I might gain value.

Kryptonite. I am ruthlessly self-critical. Forgiving myself when I make a mistake is nearly impossible. I feel the need to drag an anchor of guilt around my neck as a reminder to do better next time. When I slip-up, it is like a tag of graffiti all over the mural of “Who Jenni Is” that I have been working my whole life to perfect. I am desperately looking for balance but can’t find it. The scales tip wildly askew as I strive for perfection in all areas of my life at the same time.

As I look at all of the things around me that are not up to my standard, I see a mess. I can’t win. I can’t keep all the balls in the air.

What does this inability to juggle all these balls say about the image of myself I am trying to convey?

I can’t do it.

I’m a failure.

I have no value.

That makes me angry.

That anger compounds when I think of the ways I have sacrificed living the life I want by trying to find security and value through perfectionism. Living life as a slave to perfection is unsustainable, and a flat-out lie.

Perfection is more like a jail cell rather than freedom. Being trapped by looming unrealistic standards can only be tolerated for so long. Eventually, I either resign in defeat and depression, or I explode in anger at the situation and try to do something to break free.

This series is my journey uncovering and responding to the anger caused by my propensity toward perfectionism. I hope to reveal some of the motivation and underlying causes that lead to desiring perfection, how procrastination leads to anger, and what happens if perfectionist tendencies remain unchecked. Ultimately, I hope to discover how to dismantle a control oriented mindset and find a way to free my real self.


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3 thoughts on “I’m a Perfectionist

  1. Oh! I’m just catching up (because all the energy and time goes to writing this month) and I’m excited! I figured out a couple months ago that I’m a 2 with a 1 wing, so this rings true for me, too. (Amusingly, I accidentally stumbled into pulling apart my proud helper tendencies as a 2 as I write about my various failures this month.) Excited to keep reading!

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