There is a woman in my ward who is convinced that I am sick because I am a perfectionist. (She says, “Because I was sick for years and finally found out through therapy that I had been making myself ill through unrealistic expectations of myself. And you’re just like I was.”) She is so wrong that it is laughable, but I didn’t feel that I could protest, because any protest makes me look more perfectionistic, doesn’t it? (Makes me look as if I cared so much about appearances that I would deny even this.) So I’ve been trying to think of just how a person would go about proving that she is not a perfectionist. Let’s see. There are all the outward things. There’s my dirty house. There’s my ridiculous yard and pitiful attempts at gardening. There’s my kids running around at church in hand-me-downs that are never ironed. And home-grown haircuts. There’s our dirty car. There’s me, sitting on the couch reading while there are dirty dishes on the counter. Sitting there with no makeup on and my gray roots showing, as well. (And we won't get into scrapbooking. Or homeschooling. Or COOKING!) And, of course, with all of this, there is me, managing to have a dang enjoyable life despite being aware of all these things.
Then there are the inward things—or, rather, THE inward thing—which is that, regardless of all the things I wonder about, one thing I am absolutely sure of is the atonement, and the fact that it makes it so that I can have joy and hope even while being aware of the ways that I fall short. I have not always been so sure about this, or about how it translates into my life. I spent some time as a teenager dealing with my misunderstanding of God (who seemed, at the time, a grim-faced, demanding judge continually rapping on a desk decreeing that I was not good enough). But I worked through that, became converted, revised my image of God and what he thinks of me and wants for me.
There are still some things that I am rather perfectionistic about, such as being unscrupulously honest and hating to be late. But I don’t think those things make me a perfectionist, do you?
How do you go about proving that you’re not a perfectionist?
And why does it bug me so much that she thinks I am one?
It’s not as if she’s the only one in my life who is convinced that I suffer from something familiar. My friend with Lyme disease is sure I have it; my friend with celiac is sure I have it; my friend with chronic fatigue is sure I have it; my friend with allergies is sure I have it; my friend with imbalanced hormones is sure that that’s my problem, my friend with under-corrected hypothyroidism is sure that’s my problem—there’s even a woman in my ward with MS who is convinced that I am pre-symptomatic MS. But this one woman, the “post-perfectionist” one, is the only one that bugs me. Maybe because perfectionism is more of a fault of will or character (or has seemed to be so, in my own judgmentalism), and the other illnesses are things people can’t help.
Which brings me to something else. What is it that makes people prone to believing that others have their same problem? I think I know. A big part is, of course, sincere and selfless desire to prevent or curtail suffering in others. Also, part of it is a not wanting to be alone. And some of it is a desire to make sense of your own affliction. Because if I have an affliction (say, chronic fatigue) that has made me miserable for years but for which I have managed to find something that helps, if I can manage to help someone else out who is suffering from it, I can take comfort in believing that maybe part of the reason I suffered was so that I could help others who suffer in the same way (by suggesting a certain herbal remedy or doctor, for example). It’s deeply satisfying to find what might be a reason for your past suffering.
All of those motivations are worthy. I feel only love from people who want to show me that my illness is just like theirs. So why am I irked more by the woman who wants to help me recover from perfectionism? I should see through her misunderstandings down to the depths of her soul, where there is a sense of loss about her years of struggle, and also there is a true desire to help me to avoid pain. I should decide to see only her love, and not her judgmentalism of me. I will try to do that.