It is not easy to keep up with Miss Perfect. She’s so so bloody perfect, after all. Not that she actually is, she just sets herself standards which make it seem that way. To herself, and to others. It’s exhausting and it’s daunting and it can be quite destructive. Perfection is often a stick which those who have always felt ‘never quite good enough’ use to beat themselves up. Why? Because it allows them to avoid the disappointment they assume they will inevitably earn, and they do it by always trying harder, by always reaching further, by always being better.
Often other traits go hand in hand with a desire for perfection; a need for control which comes from careful and thorough planning and a sense of order through a well structured routine, for example. These things can allow the perfectionist the ability to push themselves further, take on more, and achieve at a level that allows them to work to their own high standards. There is a problem there, however, in that it means they are never really able to attain their goal. Perfection, as we all know, is not attainable.
Usually with this sort of approach will come a period of burn out, although how that looks will vary from person to person. Some sort of emotional melt down, a physical ailment to force them to stop, a mental slowing down or opting out? Being honest, our Miss Perfect has probably used all three when things have become impossible. And hence the disappointment, ultimately in herself – the self-fulfilling prophecy means the cycle is complete. Nothing more to do but wait until the drive to try again but do it right this time comes. So, off we go again.
Living with a perfectionist is hard. Not only is nothing they ever do good enough for them, it feels that by implication nothing you ever do is good enough either. Being compared to an unattainable standard is not just about little Miss Perfect trying harder, but it makes you feel that you need to try harder too. Obsessive planning means that she is often one step ahead – if not one, then three or five beyond the discussion you thought you were having. It not only exhausts her, it also exhausts you. And suddenly the standards and strategies that work well for you are called into question. Yes, she is not easy to live with at all.
But you want to, of course. She is capable, efficient, clever and you can stand a little in awe of her really. You like her creativity and spark and the way she gets things done. But more than anything, you know that she needs you. You know that she needs to stop and you also know when. You can see her slowly unravelling and as she spirals out of control, your solid, safe, achievable standards are just what she needs. So you wait, catching her and never allowing her to fall. She is her own worst enemy, and you are her greatest friend.
But one day you realise what your little Miss Perfect needs. Enter, Mr Dom. What she needs is not for you to catch her, but for you to stop her from spinning before it gets to that point. And so you set about doing just that. It means setting up limits for her of course, and it means a certain amount of laying down the law – your law. And you need to be strong and take control so that she can let go. So, very slowly it begins to happen and things begin to change. You change, and because of that, she changes.
You work together towards shared goals, observing reasonable limits and employing self-care. You make sure she stops to ask; often you say ‘yes’ but sometimes you say ‘no’. You help her with the things which matter and help her move on from the things which really don’t. She is free from her usual self-constraints and the only restraints that matter are the ones you use to protect what is yours. And above it all, you make sure she always knows that she is good enough. She is good enough for you. In fact, she is perfect!