In pursuit of perfection

For years I have wasted my life in pursuit of perfection in every area of my life. Although now in my forties I have suddenly woken up to the fact perfection doesn’t exist, my dogged pursuit of it haunts me and I can’t escape it.

 In my teenage years I berated myself for not having the perfect body. It didn’t matter at the time I had a BMI of 22, something I would consider perfect now. The fact that all my friends were smaller and daintier than me, made me feel like a heffer beside them. I wore a size 14 whilst these 5ft nothing teenagers with child like bodies, proudly moaned about how fat they were whilst tugging on their size 6 waist bands. This was in the years where vanity sizing hadn’t taken place. Despite the fact my weight was healthy, my body wasn’t perfect. I wasn’t thin enough, good enough or perfect.

Truth be told I was probably an eating disorder waiting to happen. I wont lie I have made myself sick after eating, I have starved myself and binged as a consequence of being in pursuit of perfection. However my flirtations with purging were short-lived, I couldn’t do it properly or I just didn’t see the required results.  It makes me so sad, when I think back to the hours I used to spend late at night as a teenager, drawing with a marker pen on my skin all the areas I would have liposuctioned when I was older. There in my bedroom, I would stand in my underwear looking into a full length mirror, highlighting all my perceived imperfections. Its taken me until now to realise perfection can not and will not be achieved in any area of my life because it simply doesn’t exist, for anyone.
So why do I still strive so hard to achieve something that only exists in my imagination? It’s not just about my body now, something I have given up on. EDS may have given me a wrinkle free face (apparently I can pass as ten years younger. I would be happier with 15 – perfection raises its ugly head again) it has scarred my body with stretch marks that I have had to carry with me from the age of 8. I am not perfect, no one is. Models and TV stars aren’t, they are photo-shopped and airbrushed into versions of themselves that even they don’t even recognise.
The problem is that now I have had to admit my failure, realised that my body will never be perfect, my pursuit of perfection has found other avenues to explore. Some of this I think is to do with not having the distraction of going out to work. My health simply doesn’t permit me to, it’s not a lifestyle choice. I have now set myself up to fail as the perfect housewife, I feel that as I don’t contribute with going out to work, I must ensure our home is perfect. (I must state here that my husband doesn’t expect me to do anything.) Despite the fact I know that perfection doesn’t exist. My house must be clean at all times, even if I almost kill myself achieving it. Energy I could spend enjoying myself is spent fretting over is the bathroom clean? do the carpets smell of dog? are the shelves dusty, is the washing machine door clean? My health always throws a spanner in the works, so I can not achieve the tasks I set myself and if I did achieve just a fraction of them I would have to pay the consequences – pain, syncope, pre-syncope or bedridden. I just can’t leave it alone. I think it is a form of self-torture. I have to see the bad, the incomplete, the uneven, the fault, the flaw in everything around me. I rob myself of happiness.
I can’t accept praise, I never have been able to, it feels false. However I am more than ready to accept criticism even if it is only implied. I can see criticism where none exists. I will replay conversations from years ago, where I have done something wrong, hurt someone unintentionally and appear to revel in the hurt I cause myself. I can go over and over conversations picking them apart to find the hidden meaning. The hidden meaning invariably being a criticism of me. Why is my mind so fixated on perfect, the thing I can’t achieve and why do I have to torture myself over it? I accept that other people make mistakes but I don’t allow myself to. When my husband talks negatively about himself, usually calling himself stupid, I immediately step in and tell him to stop it. I tell him he isn’t stupid and it hurts me when he negatively talks to himself but he has no idea about the battle raging in my head telling me I am stupid, imperfect.
Sometimes I am unable to write my blog because the gods of perfection have stepped in. Before I have even touched the keyboard they are screaming that I can’t write, it’s crap. I am paralysed by self criticism, nothing I can write will ever be good enough, perfect. I may get comments, Facebook messages, tweets from people who have enjoyed what I have written, it doesn’t matter because in my imperfect mind they don’t mean what they say. Lets be honest there will have been times in everyone’s life that you have paid a complement and not meant a single word of it or said something you knew the other person wanted to hear. My crazy, f**ked up mind lets me bask in those compliments for about a millisecond, then lets me come crashing down to earth by saying “they didn’t mean it, the post is shit”. 
I can only compare it to having an evil twin sat on your shoulder who revels in your misery and continually robs you of any happiness. The evil twin negates the good feelings you have about things you have achieved. There have been times in my life when I have been too busy, too happy to hear the voice of the evil twin. At the moment he shouts at me as if I was hard of hearing. It is not only the negative self talk I hear but it colours the way I look at the world.

 

Why when I am so sick and have only just spent the last three days able to get out of bed do I care? Why am I a slave to this impossible pursuit of perfection? Why do I set myself up to fail. I wouldn’t set myself the goal of running a marathon, I know that I am not physically able. So in my current state of health why do I set myself these comparable targets?
If the rational, logical part of my mind can see that perfection simply doesn’t exist why doesn’t the rest of me? This pursuit of perfection only leads to unhappiness and a sense of failure yet it’s getting worse. I sometimes wonder if it is linked to my (currently) declining health? My need to control things that are out of my control? I am certainly suffering a great deal physically at the moment and mentally as well. I suppose with a chronic health condition, even though we live with them daily when an extra spanner is thrown in the works it can change your perception of everything.

 I still get enjoyment out of everyday life and pursue happiness at every possibility. I just can’t seem to control the invasive thoughts that I am not good enough. Although I challenge them constantly it wears me down. I am exhausted by it all as the demands of being in pursuit of perfection in every area of my life, seems to haunt me constantly.

Writing about this relentless pursuit has helped me challenge it over the last few days and freed me up from the constant need for perfection. I know when things feel like they are spiralling out of control health wise my inner demons come out to play.

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4 thoughts on “In pursuit of perfection

  1. I seem to remember a young student, who looked fit bright and curvy, ins and outs all in the right place, but that’s just me from the level of a wheelchair and not knowing about the insecurities that you tabulate above. Still you never seemed to have any problems projecting yourself during those 3 years. You were and are a funny lass, caring, empathetic and smart. So you should never have been worried about body image. It is indicative of a society that has it’s mores, if you’ll excuse the vulgarity, “arse about faced” which is as close to describing [accidentally on purpose] the problem as one could get. Considering the work they can do in “Plastic Surgery” given the funding. Unfortunately, the great “Size-0” debate provides great wadges of the folding stuff to attract “Bright” young doctors whilst the NHS provision of GPs is in Crisis. Why has it come to this and what is the grand outcome for the majority of those youngsters who see fame for fame’s sake as the “Pot of Gold at the End Of the Rainbow”

    It seems to me that those who aspire to have so-called “Size 0” bodies face a life of continued chronic drug-misuse [legal and illicit] discomfort, difficulty keeping weight off, binge-eating, ill-health, reported cases of Bulimia, Anorexia and other “Eating Disorders”, problems with reproduction, including multiple miscarriages, Penile Dysfunction and inability to produce swimmers [Spermatozoa for all of you pedants out there] due to shrunken Testes. So, you get my point, it’s not a problem that is restricted to just females. More and more males are joining the aspirants to having a “Size-0” body. There are moves afoot to ban smoking, criminalise Sugar intake, yet the Slimming and Dieting industry makes these seem like a century out of date.

    We are living in an age where the sexualisation of children at lower and lower ages, bra’s and french knickers for under 5s for goodness sake, on sale in major stores, images in magazines, boy and girl bands being screamed at by young girls and, to a lesser but not restrictively, boys. Where will this end do you think?

    It’s sad to see young women and men with serious mental health issues aged less than 25 who are afraid of their own shadows and should they get beyond 25 oncoming serious physical ailments due directly to adverse effects of weight loss and drug misuse, sometimes even death before reaching the age of 30 either in hospital or suicide due to severe mental health difficulties.

    It is a sad reflection on this society of ours, the post-Thatcherite revolution of win at any cost including human lives, the cult of celebrity. No skills just famous for being famous. I’ve not even mentioned surgical procedures to alter a body that most of us would say was unnecessary. Why do doctors whose first duty under the Hippocratic Oath is do no harm carry out procedures for breast enlargement, plastic surgery to the face, to various other body parts that is at best unnecessary at worst malpractice and they do them by the thousand for the almighty Pound or Dollar. Not because it’s needed for a justifiable health risk but to meet the dictates of a media that has lost its’ reason.

    Why can’t the time and funding that goes into such procedures be used to improve the treatment of those who are ill and require treatment due real and sometimes life threatening conditions. If surgeons spent their time working with their NHS patients rather than on Private patients for elective procedures that pad their wallets rather than the NHS.

    I’m sure that there will be many who will vehemently disagree with the above but, like anything that we suggest the “Nanny State” should stay well away from, I don’t care what they think. If I’ve sowed the seeds of doubt in just one young mind then what Rachel describes above will be a quickly disappearing problem in the rearview mirror of life for that one person, then I’m a happy chappy.

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    • Morning David!

      I don’t think I have laughed so much with your description of me at University in ages. It is nice to know that the mass of insecurities that I was (and probably still am) didn’t outwardly show to those who I interacted with. Thanks for that, it was very kind of you.

      It is a terrible mess that society has got itself into. Women aspiring to be so thin that when they turn sideways they disappear. I sometimes wonder if this cult of now the double size 0 ( size 00 and yes it really does exist) is there as a way to subjugate women to make them disappear and to take back the ground that was won by women after the progresses of feminism and the introduction of the Equal opportunities act. However to just say this effects women would be to deny the male sufferers of eating disorders who are striving for this cult of perfectionism.

      Body image is the tip of the iceberg, the seeking of fame without having any particular talent seems to be another crisis. I don’t think it is down to laziness but the realisation that fame is the only way to be socially mobile and that the young working class in this country have so very few opportunities to better themselves. The top jobs are pretty much sown up by the old boys network, where who you know is much more important than any actual talent you have.

      Don’t get me started on doctors. It is my firm belief that after we the tax payer fund their education they should have to work for the NHS for 15 years after they have qualified before they are allowed to do any private work. The Pandora’s box of plastic surgery has already been opened and don’t believe that will ever be closed whilst their are people around who feel they need it and can afford to pay for it.

      Thanks again for reading my blog and taking the time to comment on it.

      Rach x

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  2. Some of us are born and raised to strive for perfection. Also, I think this drive gets worse with chronic illness because we want to control SOMETHING, ANYTHING. .. just to feel normal. Often we are knocked down day in and day out, only choice is to accept what fate has dealt us. But that leaves us open for wanting and needing to make everything feel right in what we feel we can change, no matter the consequences. We fight guilt and pain and doctors and life. It’s only fair for me to have some form of success somewhere, at least in my mind anyways. But like anything, there’s costs. And I hope in time I can learn to let go, knowing I don’t need to dictate my life – I just need to actually live it.

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    • Hi,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog and leaving a comment. It is very kind of you.

      I agree wholeheartedly with what you say. It does seem to be an innate drive within some of us to try to achieve perfection and control our environment / lives, especially when it spins out of control in the case of chronic illness.

      It is very hard to let go and I think it will always be something I battle with. No one holds me to these standards that I set myself, no one really cares (immediate family / close friends) so why do I?

      You are so right, life needs to be lived.

      Thanks again
      Rach x

      Liked by 1 person

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