Posts Tagged ‘perfectionist

27
Sep
19

Are You a True Friend/Ally or ‘Expectator’?

****

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!?!

This…is…Spart–  Oh, wait.  Wrong movie.  But, it did deliver the same impact-ful question/vibe.

Are you a spectator or the leading role receiving your fill of expectations?…or both?  Or, maybe you just don’t care, either way; your life is a combination of labor and minimal social entertainment, routine and not worth thinking on this level…you’re basically a pack animal.

I had this thought, this morning.  I have received plenty of expectations from people over my lifetime.  I’ve been told how smart and talented I am and what I should do with my life more often I can count.  But, I can probably count on my two hands how many “angels” I’ve met, people who really stepped up to be a friend…however tragically short that time with me was.

And, that, ladies and gents, and boys and girls of all ages, is what my life really boils down to…my productivity has been lacking due to a lack of support, acceptance and assistance.  If you get by without much of that, then maybe I’m just not like you.  Or, maybe you don’t realize what you have.  I know what I have…I just don’t feel it’s enough to make me live nearly up to the expectations I receive.  I live my life, feeling like a disappointment, no matter how I pitch myself…until I tell myself to turn a blind ear (and eye) to those who pitch expectations and just do my own thing…but doing my own thing hasn’t exactly been fruitful because it’s very lonely.

And, all introvert-ish thinking aside, all my ability to work alone and keep myself busy aside, I need people.  I need friends.  I need to know I am good in and out and acceptable, not just tell myself I am okay as I am.  It’s not superficial or looking in the wrong direction for emotional support.  I think it’s just (my) human nature showing its true colors.  But, lacking any adequate social skills, other than knowing how to speak bluntly (which isn’t always an asset…), and occasionally being a good listener (used to be more often, when I had more heart left to share)…I don’t see the means to bringing more people into my life.  And, what I keep finding isn’t filling the “job slots.”  I feel like I’m sitting in some tiny office, expected to hire a company full of subordinates, and I get no callbacks or resumes worth getting a response.  [If that makes sense; if it doesn’t I really don’t care much, anymore.  The old perfectionist, misunderstood me would be up in arms, right about now, tossing papers and fuming…and then collecting those papers because I was once a “neat freak.”]

It’s even more apparent when I try some online games…or, rather, games you can partake online (or offline) and have some kind of interaction…when there’s hardly any interaction.  Do I have to “add 100 friends” just to get a ding or a whoop?  Am I falling short by trying to pick a half-dozen people who I consider up to the task of being a cooperative player?…versus being one of the countless drones who just click LIKE and REPOST buttons in this blog-verse?  [I think, ever since I started bitching about the LIKE button, I’ve received far fewer LIKES; so add one more detail to the “this sucks” pile…not that I cared about LIKES…just, in a sad case when you get no other response…anyway.  Meh.]  Is it all just processing the day, or do people actually care about each other?  Are there ANY genuine friends in this world?  Or, do I just hear stories, like fiction on the wind?  Am I being teased with fantasy and lil wizards who have dead parents?…plenty of the convenient dead parent stories.

When I was a kid, I was “the quiet one.”  I didn’t have automatic friends show up looking for a pal.  I didn’t know how to interact with kids while staying as safe as all the adults wanted me to be.  I was afraid of getting hurt/hit; so sports and physical games were essentially out of play.  When I finally found a friend…and I am not sure how that even happened, other than two guys (and one rare girl) making some joke on the playground which broke the crucial ice…we had to talk the relationship over with our parents; I had to get an Okay to visit or have them visit me.  I had strict rules about phone calls that fluctuated daily, so I never knew where I stood; nor did the friend know how to deal with my parents.  It was a torture-some game of hit and miss time together.  So, to be fair, I couldn’t expect much.

But, there WAS that one girl…the diamond in the rough…who put up with it all and stuck by me.  And, though I didn’t actively support all of her interests…which made me a bit of a spectator but not an “expectator”…I felt I did a fair amount of being there for her…until peer pressure, I suspect, got the best of us.  Having to say, “We’re just…friends,” when your heart is saying “I love this girl, I think,” is rough.  And, the more I denied my feelings or slighted her, the worse I felt.  And, I think, deep down, she knew and felt something, too; or she was just the most loyal friend I’ve ever known.  And, we were not even in the same interest circles, other than maybe video games.  She didn’t draw.  And, I didn’t do gymnastics or think much of forestry…though I’ve grown to enjoy state parks and exploring nature.   But, we got along so well…and I adored her, madly.  She wasn’t the prettiest girl in the class, but she had more class than most; she earned my respect, and then some.  [I’m pretty sure I’ve written about her before; so I don’t want to repeat myself or go on too long about this.]

As I became a teen and adult, after a shocking sex-education class, I had far less luck with friendships and finding allies.  I had plenty of hecklers, jesters, shapeshifters and all-around-lackluster faces around me who had more fun being pests than anything friendly, especially if I didn’t approve of something they chose to do/say.   I get it…and it wasn’t exactly new to me…people changing and turning on me…but I was hoping ONE in the bunch might be as nice as that girl was.  Nope.

In the “working world,” I’ve grazed paths with pretty faces who just couldn’t find a way to fit and guys who’d rather talk sex, sports and music, of which I know less, I guess, and am not particularly into discussing.  I get a rare “We should do something together” offer which goes nowhere for whatever reason; either I can’t get ‘there’ (to where we are to meet) or the other person never follows through with an “Okay, let’s do this; when is best for both of us?”  I have gone on very few dates which all ended badly.  I’ve been a spectator to a number of sour relationships which usually involved quick sex I did not need to hear about the next day.  It’s not exactly a social-friendly atmosphere or sustaining life experience.  It kinda makes this rabbit want to eat in a different pasture; ya know?

And, breathe.  No mas.  ‘Kay?  That was a rather personal explosion and old would I just visited.

So, looking at yourself, on a regular basis, are you a spectator or avid ally/friend?

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28
Feb
17

My Response to “Achiever Mom” (Carolyn Hax)

*****
You can find my response to this and other letters on the designated page. But, while you’re here, have a read.  [You may find a loose end or two as my response kept evolving over a few days.  I finally just decided to post what I had.]

Achiever Mom is concerned about her son who is twelve years old, not exceptional in sports or academics and void of any interest with which she feels able to relate. She mentions her husband as a socially anxious under-achiever and highlights a moment in which her son supposedly chose to forfeit a spelling bee due to a lack of interest in winning/trying. Claiming she grew up grasping at every opportunity she could, this incident made her angry at him for not being more ambitious to achieve greater status.

Carolyn Hax does a decent job of asking Mom to accept her son as he is and let him find his own way. But, Hax seems to be making the assumption the son bailed on the challenge, knowing it would irk his mom, making the son appear more devious than he may be (which could have a negative impact on what the mother does next).

While overall content with the article/response, I felt there were a few details missing, details that might need light shed upon them to better understand and direct the situation at a crucial stage. This case also touches on a personal one, which motivates me to speak out. Thus, the following response is more about my experience and how it may be related to the situation at hand than added advice.

————–

Achiever Mom, you be careful with that boy. I don’t want to scare you, but soon, he will be entering high school, that tumultuous stormy sea between Scylla and Charybdis that tests youth’s metal. He will face temptation, heavier work loads and peer pressure like he has never known. He will be torn between convention and rebellion, between practical and unorthodox. And, if you so much as twist his wrist in an effort to tell him “how it’s done” or fail to teach him how to accept defeat, you could scar him and the connection you have for life.

If you don’t mind reading a novella, I’m content to sit down and discuss this with you for the moment. Getting all of the thoughts out and answers we might benefit from is a tad hard to achieve in half of a newspaper page. Why don’t you make yourself comfortable, take a deep cleansing breath, maybe fix yourself a calming drink and have a go at this.

[FYI, I speak from experience; I was a boy much like your son. I had a father who (without any “inheritance”) boasted military experience (in “peace time”) and a mother who was the self-proclaimed ruler of discipline and organization (as well as the queen of denial). But, I didn’t bail on the spelling bee. I simply fell short and discouraged myself from trying, again, because I had been built up to think I was smarter than I performed and acknowledged for a skill I must not have valued much (until I was older and learned to care more about the full use of words than just spelling them). I made one mistake and didn’t have the nurturing I felt necessary to continue or didn’t see the logic in trying, again. I had no “failure coping skills,” no interest in being less than the best and, to be quite honest, little to no interest in glory from spelling.

There were many other instances in which I had gut instincts to go one way and my parents insisted I go their way. And, in short, because they only accepted doing things my way after it was too late (after I paid the price of going against my gut feeling) or after lengthy protest and stressing out, a rift gradually grew. In just a few years, it grew to the point I lost sight of the childhood love I had for my parents. And, to this day, that love is razor thin; it’s an obligation and an oath, not a comfort or treasure.

I had a hard time talking with my parents about nearly every concern on my mind. And, there were plenty in my early teens. Certain tasks or challenges were deemed too dangerous or unfit for me before I could even attempt them. Where I wanted to try was not always approved. The more often I quit, the less my parents approved of me; and the more I disliked myself. Yet, I could not see any merit in continuing what discouraged and/or hurt me, as well as what seemed “too hard.” I was told I was a good student, but that didn’t seem the case when it came to learning from/with my parents. Confusion does not make a good foundation. And, when later asked by others why I couldn’t do something, I felt too embarrassed to say no one never taught me or that I was afraid to learn. Nor could I easily take what others taught me and apply it at home without my parents objecting strongly.]

Your last little paragraph kind of says it all. You are a tightly wound violin string ready to snap at the kid for a “mocking bow” and potentially never succeeding at anything. You may say it was so, but I don’t know and doubt he was mocking. Nor would I be so harsh to assume he will never succeed at anything; that’s just devastating talk. Get that junk out of your head, doing a weekly sweep if necessary.

[That reminds me of a time when my mother thought I was “faking” weakness/illness/injury. I was actually physically, mentally and emotionally hurt; and she thought I was faking. I don’t remember her saying so when I was in the moment. But, hearing her thoughts, decades later, hurt almost as much as they would have had I heard them as that kid. It explains why I felt so abandoned and helpless at the time, left to fend for myself like a baby bird that fell from the nest. Yet, I didn’t do so well fending for myself. Had I been a bird, I probably would have died or been eaten.]

Whether or not you shake your head at my earlier assessment, let me ask you a valid question (or two). How successful are you, really? [That might have shed some light on the situation.] Are you the “breadwinner?” Are you at the peak of your career path? Or, are you “content” with much less than you yourself could have had yet wishing–as many do–for your children to “have a better life” while losing sight of what you experienced?

Understand that some things never change; but others do. Tools that were available when you were his age are not the same now. Opportunities you had then are not necessarily available now. Others you did not have are. Circumstances are slightly different.

———
This next portion is going to sound much like what Carolyn said with a few different words. You might find a few new perspectives. But, you can skip past it, if you prefer.

Instead of focusing on the word “succeed,” right now, put the phrase “stimulate the happiness of others” up over your work space and do everything in your power to guide your son toward what makes him happy (not what makes you happy). In time, I would guess (I mean, what do I know?) this will turn into success once he feels good about what he can do before assuming he can or must be successful.

Teach him a lesson my parents had a hard time–if not failed at–grasping: how to experience failure and deal with it. Don’t teach him to fear failure and fear trying things you feel he isn’t fit or right to do (like laundry, cooking and other household chores), just because he doesn’t do them your way or makes a mess. [Maybe there’s a reason he doesn’t follow directions well; and it doesn’t have to be a “disability” or “attitude problem.”]

The scariest part of the coming years could be letting him do what he chooses and being ready to cushion any blows that come from those decisions, not letting him take over your house and lifestyle but allowing him to mold himself rather than have you pick the shape he takes. If there is competition, let him decide to enter or avoid it. Encourage him to discuss what is happening in his life without framing the moment with past experiences and assumptions/predictions. Then, if you see an opportunity for him to take a chance with good odds, kindly nudge him.

Say something like, “Hey, you’d be good at that. Why don’t you give that a try?” And, leave it at that. Or, provide the tools/supplies without any pressure to use them. [If you must, try a little negotiation. Say you’ll do ____ for him if he does ____ for you (for himself). And, don’t cave if he resists. But, don’t deprive him of necessities, either. Don’t take away his ability to connect with friends, regardless what he has done (and not from what he MIGHT do).] If he turns away from the challenge, don’t fight his decision. [However, if his life takes any scarier turns, if he withdraws so much from interaction, chores and challenges that his life seems in jeopardy, other action will become necessary.]

———

The first line of your letter that jumped out at me was where you mentioned your son being nervous and not wanting to be there. [Actually, the first was his saving grace, his sense of humor. I seem to have survived this long with that little life preserver, myself.] While nerves and refusal may be signs of weakness one could halt by pushing the weakling into the fray of battle, it might also have been an area of achievement he had little interest in pursuing. And, pressure to do something we do not instinctively favor could be unnecessary pressure, like peer pressure. Just because our peers tell us we’re uncool for not doing what they do; that doesn’t mean we can’t choose to do things differently.

Some adults might recall being kids pushed to take up musical instruments but, later, giving up these lessons to take up medical or financial jobs. They might look back and question their parents’ pressure to take interest. [Or, if they are so fortunate, the former kids might integrate those lessons into adult life and be some amazingly, envy-worthy, diverse people.]

[I personally was adept at math because I had a brain apparently gifted at absorbing equations. But, would I pursue math contests? No way. Too boring. I’m a creative spirit. There is no creativity in math, other than creating problems and, later, solutions. I don’t mind problem-solving. But, I guess I have little to no interest into imagining problems in terms of numbers and variables. My mind is more geared toward seeing social, arrangement/composition or regulation problems around me and figuring out solutions.]

One other thing about your letter that sticks in my mind: You briefly mention the husband being socially anxious and an under-achiever who struggles to get jobs. Yet, you love this guy; you married this guy, right? [That may be a tiny weight off my shoulders, an ounce of hope.] But, how much do you love him? And, could it be your marriage is merely another challenging opportunity you took upon yourself? Did you enter this family structure like a school contest, hoping to work your way up the ranks from district to state, mold the members like clay sculptures until they won the blue ribbon at the county fair? In other words, do you love your husband (and your son) for who he is, for being part of your life? Or, do you see them as works in progress you just haven’t been able to fully improve to the best of your ability, yet?

What would you say or have done had your husband not “inherited” any money? Would that have any impact on you marrying him? Was the money or family status a push toward the thought of a stable future/home?

I wonder, how does your husband feel about you (and the kid/s)? Do you have more than one child? That too could be a big factor in this pressure-to-achieve situation. For instance, how does this son get along with his siblings? How “successful” or “driven” are they? Might this son feel pressured to be like them when he is not?

[I knew a few “only childs” and saw how their parents treated them like pet projects, like singular rockets filled with hopes of greater success than any family of six or more could achieve.]

How would the husband feel being labeled an underachiever? Does he accept this like a healthy bowl of bran cereal to stabilize his diet? Is he comfortable not doing as much as some, accepting that some people are tortoises while others are hares? Or, do the words cut a little deep, leave him a little less eager to try?

———
Here comes some more advising verbiage. Again, breeze past it if you’d rather read more unique material.

At twelve, your son is at a crucial time of development, sure. [Heck, every year between birth and whatever number you want to use for labeling adulthood is crucial.] And, you could fortify this by giving him a swift kick into some regimen like boarding school or a “balanced diet,” and trust this will keep his back straight, his shoulders back and his elbows off the table. But, what is more important is a trusted family member fortifying him with experiences, both good and bad.

He needs to be free to try things, learn how to do them both your way and his own way and experience failure to learn from his mistakes. You’ve probably heard similar advice elsewhere. It just might not have stuck with you or found purpose. Well, I’d say the purpose has been found. It’s your son. And, he needs his mother to still catch him when he falls but to let him fall, as well, and learn what comes with failure, including the steps to recovery.

A parent who is driven by only success and grabbing every opportunity might not be relaxed enough to say, “It’s okay if I don’t have any interest in ___. Maybe I’ll give it a try; and, if I don’t like it, that’s fine. I’ll do better at something else.” You might get upset if you take on a crossword puzzle and leave half of it blank. You might cut interests out of your life because you did not excel at them. Or, you might think you have to be good at everything.

———

Which brings me back to the father in the picture. What’s his input with the son? How does he nurture the boy? Is his method annoying to you? If you answer the last question with some form of “yes,” that says plenty. Maybe a lack of desire to compete and excel could be directly or subtly linked to an unhappy union in which two committed lovers–role models for the boy–are anything but encouraging images at the finish line. The boy might not want to complete the race because the prize at the end of the road is not worth his time/energy. [Or, maybe, it’s not you he’s looking at but other families falling apart.]

———
One last push to sound competent and professional. These moments just pour out of me like a leaky boat. It’s the chatty therapist in me.

Get to know your son and his interests. [If at seventeen he still likes the cartoons he watched at five or keeps a stuffed animal on his bed, don’t harp on that being a bad thing.] Let him decide when it’s time to keep or part with something. Don’t assume his decisions or ways are bad ones. Teach your son how to pick himself up and try, again. Don’t insist he must continue or be smarter or more successful than he feels fit/able. Or, live with the possible failure of staying connected with your son; accept that he will likely cut ties with you or resent you if you push too hard or fail to fill in other gaps.

You can’t guarantee success no matter what method you try. You, too, must be able to cope with “failure” and still find happiness, contentment. Otherwise, this life is a miserable one.

———

Phew! And, breathe. [This is just the tip of the emotional iceberg for me.] If you manage to find my lengthy thought process here and wish to continue, feel free to contact me.

06
Feb
17

My Response to C (Carolyn Hax)

*****

You can find my response to this and other letters, now available for your viewing and opinion, on the designated page

But, while you’re here, have a read.

C, a man–young or old, I don’t know–is being torn apart by his girlfriend and her parents (not literally). It’s a case of “micromanagement” in which every little thing the guy does seems to be wrong and any attempt on his part to counter the accuser(s) is returned with denial.

Carolyn Hax reasonably has little in the way of advice to offer this seemingly dire situation. She does make one good point about filtering what C allows to happen/direct himself. I opt to inquire about a possible missing piece to the story and propose my own strategy for a final effort.

——-

C, from your account of the situation, I’d be inclined to hit the EJECT button and get as far away from those people as possible. I know those people.

However, a tiny voice inside my head presents a hint of doubt. Why, if you are so happy together, would you even need to suggest ways to improve anything other than in self-defense of this “micromanaging?” Could you be coloring details in your favor? Hearing the situation in her own words would definitely improve comprehension.

You DID say you two have had “many happy times” and are “quite compatible in most fundamental ways.” But…ummm…can you explain those terms? Fundamental ways? What are we talking about here? Your body parts fit together nicely? You can share a bed without discomfort? You have great sex but define this as “functioning well together?” You get along while washing dishes by hand?

If she goes so far as to take action when you’re not around, invading your personal space and attempting to alter your lifestyle choices, then there is no getting around this. You either stand up to her or evacuate.

If every detail is as you describe it, understand that you will not likely ever be friends with her parents and should consult your girlfriend about how much time she intends on spending with them, if any. [Sometimes, a safe distance from a source of negative radiation can ease the tension and reduce the impulse to nag.]

Regardless, I will offer a few desperate strategies to stay “in the fight.”

Strategy #1: Be like water. Maybe you could try letting her demands slide rather than confronting her. The next time she corrects you, just nod or say, “Yep. Sure. You’re right.” And, walk away without giving her the impression she has bothered you. Don’t undo what you did or correct it. Let her do whatever makes her happy. If this begins to leave you short of breath or if she goes one step further, take a deep breath and tell her this ends now.

Strategy #2: Redirect the negatives into positives. Think of a martial artist catching a flying fist and redirecting it away from his/her body, wasting the opponent’s energy away until the desire to fight is gone. Maybe some of her suggestions aren’t so bad. If there’s any chance you could say, “Hey, that could work. Thanks for the tip,” you’re one step closer to resolving the obstruction in your relationship. However, if she’s poked you so many times, already, that you’re nerve endings are sparking or dead, you’ll likely compare this to drinking bleach.

Strategy #3: Confront the bear in the woods. What is that wild animal survival guides say should be confronted by making yourself look big? Maybe you have been a limp noodle so long that people like your girlfriend and her parents make mince meat out of you. Perhaps this upheaval is a wake-up call to “grow a pair” and defend yourself. Do not fence with them. Do not simply retaliate with “their own medicine.” This might be a case in which two wrongs definitely don’t make a right. But, maybe by displaying a backbone and not backing down–similar to what Carolyn said toward the end of her response–you will dazzle the gal (and her parents) with your resolve, and the claws will retract. Be confident in your choices (unless you are just as likely to be guilty of obsession, addiction, etc.). [If you are defending a desire to stack beer cans in a living room, then she has every right to fuss.]

Strategy #4: Play the therapist. Seize an opportunity to discuss her childhood in a comfortable setting. Perhaps you two are reading the newspaper while relaxing in the living room. Inject a question. “Honey? Were your parents exceptionally strict with you?” See where that goes. Follow up with one or more of the following. “Did they expect perfection? Is that why you find fault with the smallest of details? Do you aspire to be like your parents?” Of course, phrasing is touchy at best. Your choice of words will definitely affect impact. And, this could go the wrong way, easily. But, if it does–if she bristles and counters–calmly end the session and either continue sharing space quietly or excuse yourself by saying, “I’ll be (where?). Come talk with me when you’ve calmed yourself down.”

[A fifth strategy that comes to mind would be a scheduled period of separation to see if she softens when confronted with your absence. But, if she really is such a “control freak,” I doubt this would have any impact other than showing your desire to retreat. Even my first strategy is a form of resilience in the line of fire.]




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