Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Unrealistic Expectations and Perfectionism

{It feels like I spend a lot of time talking around my past, or referring to it in a general way. I was reminded yet again that talking about the specifics matter. It's a struggle, because there are so many specifics that either I don't remember or else I don't have access to those memories yet. I have ALL THE FEELINGS, but very few specifics.  It's frustrating for me and feels very backwards in my healing to not have the facts and details that seem to be there for everyone else.}

I learned perfectionism as a way of life. The expectation of my as a child and especially as a teenager was that I would be perfect.  I would have perfect grades, keep my room perfectly neat, and would do everything in my life to the point of perfection - and until I reached that point, I would keep trying and improving. This meant that a 98% wasn't good enough.  The focus was on what had I gotten wrong. I rarely heard good job, or well done. When I did, there was also a but attached.  Good Job but you still need to work on.... or Well done except for... My best was never good enough.

Of course in the middle of this, the standard for what was perfection from my behaviour constantly shifted.  One day it was enough that I had tried and given it my whole heart.  The next day, doing the exact same thing with the same effort and focus, I was told that trying didn't count.  What counted was results.  Effort without results was worthless. It was crazy-making to live in that world.

I was naive when I left to start life on my own.  I thought that I would be free of that perfectionism and unrealistic expectations now that I was no longer under my father's thumb. I didn't realize that after 22 years, it was engrained into every fibre of my being.  It goes with me wherever I go.

This learning to let go of being perfect and embracing my humanity is a process. There are places now where I don't expect perfection of myself {yes housework and cooking I'm looking at you right now}. I don't expect myself to be perfect in my writing.  I can accept that I am flawed and loved.  That's huge.

I was surprised this week when another unrealistic expectation reared it's ugly head.  I still expect that one day I will be fully healed - that I can be the person I was "supposed to be" if all the abuse hadn't have happened, and my personality hadn't split into hundreds of pieces.  Ouch. I'm still holding this expectation, this idea, this false hope that one day I won't have the scars, visible and invisible from what all happened.  This false hope keeps me from the grief work.  It creates a barrier in my healing. I know there's redemption and I'm counting on it.  But my idea of what that looks like is going to need to shift.

This side of death, there won't be a day when my past won't be part of my story. Really that's what this is about. I don't want to have lived what I lived.  I don't want to be this strong because I survived hell. I don't want to be able to empathize with every type of trauma because I experienced it all.  I don't want to be stuck in this label of "the woman formerly known as a victim". Yes I'm aware that there is a balance that has to happen here.  But I'm realizing that I've been holding onto a faulty picture of what healing looks like.

My therapist pointed out to me multiple places where I currently have influence in people's lives because of the abuses. I get it, I do get it. I just don't want it. I don't want for this to be my life. I look around and wonder if this was always God's plan or if we're on plan M by now. My unrealistic expectation is that in doing the healing work I will get a do-over. That somehow, I'll magically catch up to my peers, that I'll stop being so unique with such a difficult life story.

There will be more balance - every May I mark my Freedom Day and that number is only going to go up, not down. One day the years that I've been free from abuse will be greater than the number of years I spent being abused. I don't want to pin everything in my life on that though. I need a new idea, a different idea of what healed looks like for me. One that isn't just theory. It's all part of my word for the year still. To become, there must be these shifts in my thoughts and attitudes. Here's to shedding one more layer of flawed expectation and learning to embrace what is, even though it hurts.

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