What do you think when you hear of perfectionism? It makes me think of uptight moms that have perfect lives, It makes me think of celebrities that are flawless and it makes me think of Facebook with the sharing of pictures, people smiling, parties, traveling, all the posts about the new job and finding love. It’s not about the shameful life associated with perfectionism. I am a prisoner of perfectionism to some degree.
I didn’t grow up wanting to be perfect, I didn’t know what perfect was let alone hate or despair. I was innocent, care free and my hair could’ve look like a rats nest and I wouldn’t shudder at a thought about it. I don’t know when it actually took a hold of me but I do know it was when I was around ten years old. Growing up Mom and Dad would go out and at that stage in my life it never bothered me really cause I didn’t know better and they didn’t just leave me and my brothers alone by ourselves, they got babysitters. I still remember most of them but I don’t remember how old they were just old enough that they were able to look after us.
I do recall how much after a night out that my parents would stumble back in the house, argue, laugh, fight, dance. Their emotions would jump around erratically, I knew that this was not normal behavior when I was that young. I didn’t even know if my brothers were up to hear the arguing and bickering that I was witnessing. Everything would simmer in time, they would go to bed eventually and we would get up early like we’ve always done to watch cartoons or get to school. I know that what I had heard or witnessed was something I would never talk about outside the house because I didn’t know how people would receive me or my family. I kinda thought it was normal for every kid to go through behind closed doors at their house so that was another thing why I never talked about it. What I did know is that the longer I didn’t want to talk about, the easier it was to be quite, that we were a perfect house hold with normal difficulties.
Forwarding ahead a little more I was an adolescent and it was more apparent that I was well on my way with perfectionism. I had crushes in late grade school, early high school like Loretta that I had known since grade 2. I wanted to be presentable, I wanted to smell nice, I wanted to be cool enough to be liked. I had no idea how much of a little dork I was, young and impressionable with friend and their influences. It didn’t matter what was going on inside or at home, I just wanted to look flawless outside and I started to change myself by the way I dressed, the way I communicated, the way I walked and who I talked with. I was always the one that never quite made it to the cool people inner circle or picked first for games and I thought it was because I wasn’t smart enough, athletic enough or I wasn’t sophisticated enough. What ever it was I had a lot of changing to do still and because of all these feelings when I was younger I became and overachiever by any standards at my age now with all the dysfunctions behind it.
Early high school was about drastic changes and still dealing with the home issues, covering them up or not talking about them. That was really dysfunctional now that I think about it. I had seen my fair share of mom and dad fighting and the drinking got out of hand at times as well. This was early high school so I also started to indulge myself with alcohol cause I thought I was old enough. I had to know what the hype was about. The not talking about what I was going through was starting to take off on an upward direction. I didn’t want anyone to know what was going on at home at all while still trying to be cool at school. Still I thought this is what everyone was going through in their home.
I’ve lied before this point and knowing I took it to another level in my own little world with being perfect. Everything at home was going great! No fights, no over drinking, no sibling rivalry, we were the epitome of a perfect family because I loved my family. I still love them to this day and that has never changed but I lied about a lot of things I was ashamed of people knowing about us. I’m not saying it was so dysfunctional that I’m lucky to be out of that house hold alive. We of course had amazing times and heartfelt memories growing up but as we choose in being human, we remember memories, we choose to remember the low points, the heart-aches, the fights we witness and the ensuing brawls that happen. We weren’t perfect, we were normal because this stuff happens from time to time. Dads lose their jobs and moms lose their cool. (my dad never lost his job, I was just saying that it happens and my mom did lose her cool at times, who hasn’t, she raised three boys, she wasn’t a saint)
I was self indulged with being perfect. I was also drinking and these do not go together. I drank cause I wasn’t perfect and I wasn’t perfect cause I drank. I would think I was perfect because I was drunk though as retarded as that sounds. I drank to numb that perfectionism into me. I would also act like a piss head, I would argue, rant, rage, belittle, condescend, fight, lie, cheat, steal with my parents and brothers, family and friends. I pissed myself a few times, I woke up next to girls who I had no idea who they were, I fought with others. I was no better than my parents growing up. Sometimes when I would wake up the next morning I would go about like nothing had happened at all. Shame had its grip on me, shameful for all I did the night before that I could remember or didn’t remember. I woke up not knowing a lot of stuff I didn’t do and that became common, it was those black out drunks that were so common that I always started to wonder what I did and didn’t remember every time I drank. Shame and Perfectionism didn’t go hand in hand and I learned that if no one was as perfect as me then I had to shame them into being perfect like me.
Social Media was another tactic I used or learned from. I’m writing a story about that in a few weeks. What I can say is that there were pictures of good looking girls and guys all over Facebook, unrealistic versions of men and women that made me feel like I wasn’t good looking enough, like I was far from perfect. I would compensate this by new hair cuts, new clothes as often as I could, doing what ever was cool at the time and even copying friends that I knew that were cooler than me. If they said a word different I would do the same. I stole identities and tried to make them my own cause of this perfectionism.
I have done perfectionism for so damn long now that I don’t know what are my qualities and what aren’t. I know some are obviously mine like the way I smile, that’s just me and how I can be quiet at times because I get into my thoughts and take them to another level. I’m working on loving myself, being my own hero, looking in to he mirror and saying I’m good enough. I’m learning that I’m authentically unique to this world because I bring something no one else can – Me.
That brought a lot of shit to the table about my drinking as well. If I was too hungover I would dress myself presentable enough to make it to a liquor store to grab a bottle and straight back home to drink off my mood and feelings until I felt like I didn’t care how I looked which was really horrible I’m not gonna lie. My ex I had a daughter with took off on me with my child and that effected me a ton as well, I wasn’t good/perfect enough to be with. I had to be cool and buzzed enough to talk to women at the bar but by the time I had the liquid courage I needed I was already beyond drunk to act approachable. I had to know that a girl really liked me before I continued courting her and even then, my guard was always up. If she didn’t show any interests, I wasn’t going near her. Personally I have no idea how many girls were too shy to come up to me and talk cause they thought I was outta their league and vice versa.
By starting to love myself a little more, I realized I’m not the ugliest guy out there in public, in fact I’m pretty damn handsome. I always just down played it to myself saying I was only me, only Nathan, only insignificant ole Nathan that was like everybody else and in that way I was perfectly like the others around me. I still wasn’t perfect and I knew that, I’m always hiding behind filters and fake smiles in selfies on Facebook, I’m just like everyone else showing a side that doesn’t exist. The need to be perfect.
It wasn’t until I came out to everyone that I was 3 months clean and in recovery. I started started to tell people my vulnerabilities with drinking. How I lived in a mens shelter and that got me sober. How I went to treatment and started to share about how trauma and addiction went hand in hand and that you didn’t have to drink or drug to be have addictive qualities. I was becoming imperfect in ways and still holding on to core qualities about being perfect. I am starting to realize that by doing these things that are perfect in my head I am driving people away from me, if they can’t live up to being perfect in my eyes than I need to shame them into doing so or manipulate them. This has been an on coming epiphany in a slow way and I need to let go of this quality that is sooooo damaging to my character, that you can say is a defect of quality.
I held a lot away from what I wrote before and that won’t happen anymore, I’m not saying it wasn’t true I just withheld facts that didn’t make a story more impertinent to what it was about. With all being said you know I do want to acknowledge my parents because even though we were raised the way we were and we never went without food or a roof over our heads, we were always loved and brought up with morals and chivalry — open doors for others and respect woman. Our childhood was just what it was. I know they did the best to their knowledge and I would never take that away from them. Hell, they’re doing better than I am with my daughter. I still haven’t seen her in over 12 years so I’m doing worse. That maybe not entirely alright but I was dealt with a hand of cards and I can only play with what I was dealt with like my parents.
I am not perfect, I can’t love until I can learn to love myself first, I grieve for my daughter and I’ve also grieved for the alcohol I quite for a time. I burnt bridges and I use filters to hide the fact I’m not perfect. I hide behind texts and messages so people don’t hear the hurt in my voice at times, I don’t post that I am going through hard times in my life cause I’m afraid that people will think less of me. I’m even having doubts about publishing this piece online because people will ultimately think less of my recovery and it’s hurting right now as I write and proof read before let it go. These are some of the things I am going through in my recovery. It’s not all blue skies and smiles. It’s baring teeth and praying I’ll do better tomorrow and that I won’t drink today.