I kind of wish more people knew how perfectionism is actually a really sad trait a lot of the time; that it’s rarely ever about being overly fixated on a sense of achievement; that it’s not really something you can control; that you’ll never be able to relax and feel comfortable openly making mistakes like other people can.
When I was growing up I functioned from an unspoken recognition that I had to be perfect. The things I did to be perfect were never things I felt good about or proud of and validated by; I was just deeply afraid of what would happen if I wasn’t.
The very rare times I’d get in trouble for something minor or receive the slightest bit of criticism I would start hysterically hyperventilating with guilt over how I genuinely felt like I was a horrible person. My brain thought of myself in binaries; I was either perfect, which meant something closer to ‘adequate’ in that it wouldn’t draw negative attention to myself, or imperfect, which meant completely and utterly unacceptable and deserving of hurt.
Not being perfect was incredibly dangerous; it meant there were things people could use to hurt me, reasons they could give as my own fault for making me cry.
Not being perfect also meant that bad stuff out of my control would happen. When something happened to upset my parents – even if I had nothing to do with it – a pattern of scary and chaotic things would end up happening in my life. There’s already so much to be afraid of in the world as a little kid, so when upsetting people leads to scary shit you become intensely afraid of upsetting people and will do absolutely anything to avoid it, including being much more perfect than one little person could reasonably manage.
Most people’s seemingly irrational fears come from very sad places.