What Not To Say to a Recovering Perfectionist

I am asked if I am a perfectionist. I figure, if you have to ask, then the answer is probably “yes”.

For example, no one asks if I am a runner.

I consider myself a Recovering Perfectionist.

Years ago, I was such a perfectionist that I did not understand why it was a bad thing. I mean, if we were ALL perfectionists, wouldn’t the world be a better place? The thing is, Control Freak is a synonym for Perfectionist and that I get– Control Freak is not a compliment.

So I began to inventory my perfect controlling ways and make some changes. Some are easy. I mean, so easy it is really RELIEF. It’s like holding a huge basket of bricks and someone says, “Oh, you can put those down now.”

Really? Thank you! Whew! That feels so much better.

Other tendencies are harder and require practice and mantras and the occasional cocktail.

And there are a few habits I kept. They are small and not that noticeable, but they make me feel better and I am not giving them up. Like my blue pens. I only like blue pens and forms that insist on black ink only feel like a challenge to a duel.

One time, someone took a bunch of my blue pens and replaced with them with black. I had to go for a walk and do some breathing.

But with recovery, there are still triggers. I have identified a few. So, if you could help me out:

1) Do not ask “What are you going to do about <insert name of person here>?”  I will obsess over this for days until I figure out that no one else is my job. That the correct answer is not a chronological, alphabetized plan, but simply, “He’s not my job to do anything about. I’ve got my hands plenty full with me (and Little Sir).”

2) Do not ask if I want to be in charge. Of course I do. But I don’t. Not really. Being in charge also creates anxiety, so I really would only prefer to be in charge in my natural habitat (my job or my parenting or my personal life….well, and my house. And…just kidding).

3) Do not ask “Do you like this?” Given my perfect controlling opinions and extrovert nature, I will tell you. I will be as tactful as I can, but I am going to tell you. So if you did not expect a truthful answer, it is better for both of us that you don’t ask.

4) Do not ask “What do you think I should do?” Again, this is similar to number one. It will be days before I realize a perfectly appropriate (and accurate) response is “I have no clue. But I can fix you a damn good martini. How’s that?”  I will offer my extensive perfect controlling opinion on your best course. Until I call you three days later to say, “I don’t know what I was talking about. Want a martini?”

5) And never ask me if I want to use your black pen.