Today my friend and coauthor Cheri Gregory shares how Perfectionism is a lot like her Dog.
“Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.” — Mark Twain
When our first book released, Kathi and I discovered that women tended to have opposite reactions to it.
Some insisted, “Oh, I don’t need this book! I’m not a Perfectionist!”
Others demanded, “Why would I need this book? Are you implying there’s something wrong with Perfection?”
Either way, they took Perfectionism very, very seriously.
We agree that it’s a weighty problem. But we also know that humor can lighten our hearts when we’re dealing with heavy issues. Sometimes, what you need most is a serious dose of silly.
So here, for your edification and entertainment, are a dozen characteristics that the four Bullies of Try-Harder Living — Perfectionism and his three accomplices People-Pleasing, Performancism, and Procrastination — have in common with my dog, Shatzi:
Shatzi spends half her day inching into the kitchen so she can lick the floor. The bullies, too, are watching—always watching—so they can sneak somewhere they don’t belong.
When I get distracted, Shatzi dashes upstairs and eats all the cat food. The bullies are experts at seizing one moment of vulnerability to strike fast and strike hard.
Once a reinforcement error has occurred (see #2), it takes days, weeks, even months to re-train Shatzi. The bullies also assume that if you’ve given them free rein once, you’ll let them have it again; they just need to keep trying.
They leave messes for me to clean up.
I know I’m biased, but I think Shatzi is beautiful. And when she’s groomed all gorgeous, I forget about the piles she leaves all over the back yard that I have to shovel. When the bullies are on their best behavior, they look lovely, too: Perfectionism looks like excellence; People-Pleasing looks like service; Performancism looks like productivity; Procrastination looks like peace. Only when we look behind them do we see the mountains of mess they’ve left for us.
They make me lose my mind.
When Shatzi goes on a barking jag, I lose my mind. She knows that all she has to do is stand in the middle of the yard and bark at nothing, and I’ll open the door to let her inside. Same goes for the bullies. When they start yelling inside my head, I’ll do anything — ANYTHING — to quiet them down.
They shed like crazy.
Shatzi has three layers of fur; she doesn’t “shed” so much as disintegrate. Daily. Her hair is everywhere. We’ve opened brand-new cartons of ice cream only to find Shatzi fur already inside. Even when she’s nowhere in sight, she leaves evidence of her presence. Ditto with the bullies — they just shed fear, frustration, and futility instead of fur.
They love distractions.
Shatzi has zero attention span. She’s like the dog on UP: “Squirrel!” She’s here. She’s there. She’s anywhere but here and now. The bullies run back to the past, “Why on earth did you…?!?” and dash ahead to the future, “What will you do if…?!?” never wanting you to focus on the only thing that’s real: this present moment.
They bark more than they bite.
Shatzi barks ferociously at any unknown source of danger…as long as it keeps its distance. But as soon as anyone comes close, she tucks her tail between her legs. The bullies look and sound all big and bad until you approach them with the truth; then, they cower and whine.
They take me for a walk.
I had to quit jogging with Shatzi because I hate any form of exercise she’s a yanker. We don’t refer to “walking the dog” in our family; we talk about “being walked by the dog.” The bullies love to take the lead in our lives; to drag us along at their pace where they want to go.
When Shatzi lays across my lap, she acts all warm and cuddly. But after a while, when I need to get things done? She becomes dead weight and won’t let me go. The bullies give me an initial feeling of comfort but r-e-s-i-s-t when I try to leave them behind.
Shatzi has cost me more time and money than I will admit. So have the bullies. But unlike my loyal furry family member, they aren’t worth a second of my time or a single dime.
The next time Perfectionism, People-Pleasing, Performancism, or Procrastination show up looking adorable and holding a leash in their mouth?
Recognize that they plan to use it on you.
Tell them, “Bad bully! No biscuit!”
And always remember:
“A merry heart does good, like a medicine”
Proverbs 17:22a (NKJV)
P.S. While I no longer have Shatzi, the lessons she taught me remain.
Break Through a Perfectionist Personality With Our New Book Club!
Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory have a new book available for pre-order now. You Don’t Have to Try So Hard will enable you to break free from the bullies of perfectionism, performancism, people-pleasing, and procrastination.
Click HERE to find out more and to sign up for the Book Club so you can find freedom from a perfectionist personality.
Cheri is the co-author, with Kathi Lipp, of Overwhelmed and You Don't Have to Try So Hard. She's also the co-host, with Amy Carroll, of the Grit 'n' Grace podcast.
Cheri has been “wife of my youth” to Daniel, her opposite personality, for 30 years and is “Mom” to Annemarie (27) and Jonathon (25), also opposite personalities.
Cheri blogs about personalities, perfectionism, people-pleasing, and mother-daughter relationships at CheriGregory.com and life as a Highly Sensitive Person at SensitiveAndStrong.com