Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Uncomfortable State of Giving myself Credit

Day 143/365
So it's been two weeks since I wrote my last post on perfectionism which resonated with several of my readers, and I have been avoiding writing another post since then, because my perfectionism says, "Ok, that post was helpful, so the next one better be even more helpful." Perfectionism raises the bar so that satisfaction is never possible. I am also realizing more and more how uncomfortable it is to give myself credit for what I have accomplished in dealing with my OCD, and that this too is a manifestation of perfectionistic OCD. This is often accompanied by my feeling on trial by my OCD.

So what is it that I fear will happen if I acknowledge the work I'm doing?
  • Even more will be expected of me
  • I will fail
  • This will prove that I am a worthless human
  • I will discover it's not possible to be perfect, and that small steps are acceptable, and I will be faced with a flood of sadness about all the time I've lost to perfectionism
  • I won't be able to survive the sadness, because it will haunt me every minute
I am learning to make room for affirming of myself, but the remnants of all the old stuff cling stubbornly. I also know that there is a deep sadness about the missing years, but that the more I flee from the grief, the more it ensnares me. I also know that I respond much better to self kindness and compassion than to self denigration. At one point this is all I had to go on, in faith, that kindness worked, and even if it seemed crazy to be kind to myself, that if I wanted to heal, I needed to take the risk and be gentle, even if it was with gritted teeth.

If you are struggling with perfectionism, please know that it is possible to learn how to exist in the world without a constant striving for the perfect, that happiness is possible. Perfectionism can feel like a sticky film that refuses to be washed off, but it is not invincible. To write something that helps others with OCD is one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had, and although my OCD clamors that I'm not feeling the gratification "perfectly right and sustained", I can still claim the moments of clarity, of being enough, of being myself.


  1. Great post! One of the fears that I have of acknowledging my accomplishments (I'm still horrible at this skill) is that I'll become "lazy" or "complacent". That I'll start becoming OK with meciocrity. Or - what if something bad happens because I didn't try hard enough?

  2. Goodness! Thanks for this post. You have iterated very well things I have experienced myself and am only being to recognize. Sometimes I struggle to relate to some of the things I read about OCD, because I feel like I am supposed to hate the intrusive nature of my thoughts and the compulsions I make myself perform. I feel like I am supposed to want freedom and reprieve, and yet I am attached to my compulsions, because even if I am wasting my time, it feels like I am doing something "right," something "perfect." It's a constant battle - realizing that what I want in the future can't be obtained while I continuing on my current course, and accepting that being able to live life as I want to means also making the mistakes that come with living that life.

  3. Pure O--I get the "what if I get mediocre" questions--and I remind myself that my old belief of needing to be perfect is not based on actual achievable reality, and that we are all worthwhile by virtue of being human.
    Fellow Sufferer--accepting that I will make mistakes was very hard, and yet, I was already making mistakes, but spending huge amounts of energy "undoing" them with compulsions. Exposure therapy cuts out the middle man, and mistakes are far less grueling.