The Vine: October 7, 2009
I have a quick question for you and the readers. I've had two performance evaluations at work recently, with two different people. Both of them said essentially the same thing; that I'm a hard worker and good at my job, but that I'm a perfectionist who beats herself up too much when she doesn't meet her own high standards.
This isn't news to me, and it's certainly not the worst flaw to have, but it's a heck of a thing to live with. I've been making an effort to let the mistakes go, learn from them and move on. But I can't seem to stop dwelling on them, picking them apart, rationalising, excusing and obsessing over every aspect.
It's exhausting, and I hate it, and I was wondering if you or your readers had any tricks or strategies for making the internal self-abuser Just. Shut. Up. I'm willing to try almost anything.
Trying To Accept That Not Being Perfect Is Not The End Of The World
The inability to incorporate mistakes rationally and move on from them isn't the end of the world either; a lot of people have this problem and lead functional lives.
It's exhausting living as a control freak, though — I speak from experience — so you might want to try a couple of things to help you let go of mistakes and disappointments more easily and quickly.
First, surprise surprise, is therapy; a few sessions with a counselor may help you unpack why you obsess over mistakes, so that you can obsess over the root cause for a few weeks, then let that, and everything else, go.What exactly do you fear from making a mistake?What is your negative fantasy of what will ensue from a poor, or even imperfect, performance?Maybe it's an abandonment issue, maybe it's a control issue — a therapist can work with you to figure it out.
Second, use psychological tricks to manage your anxiety here.I'd suggest a sort of closure cheat, similar to sweeping up your apartment every night to symbolize the tidying up of the day just past: writea report on the mistake, which includes everything that you could have done differently and everything that you perceive as your fault, but also everything you did right in the situation, everything you couldn't have controlled, and so on.Make a short list of "what I have learned" conclusions at the end, and file it — literally.
Maybe you'll find that effective because your performance anxiety (hee) centers around your work; maybe it sounds contrived.But it's worked for me, because it does give me something to do, something to control about a mistake that, really, I can't control because it's done with.It lays out in black and white that my anxiety is usually not rational or helpful.And it does suggest different strategies at times.
I'd pair both strategies — talk to a counselor, and write reports in the meantime — but the general idea is to accept that this is your nature, and not beat yourself up about it, while also not letting it take too much of your time or energy.
I'm a senior in college, and I'm about to receive my degree in English. With the economy being so bad, I'm so worried about finding a job with an English degree. Plus, I never left home. Part of it was my decision, and a big part of it was my parents telling me I should stay home. Now, they're talking about how I'll need to get a job and move out once I graduate. Don't get me wrong, I knew it was coming, but it's just happened so fast.
To top all of that off, I haven't done as well as I wish I had in school. My grades aren't terrible, but they're very average. I've still got two semesters to bring them up to something respectable, and I hope I will.
But I just feel so totally unprepared for the real world, and I feel like my parents and others I know look down on me because I haven't established any real independence after three years of college. I've had a job pretty much since I was a sophomore, but they're usually menial jobs. I don't know really anything about moving out and paying bills and all that. I feel embarrassed by that.
So, I guess my question is, what advice would you give to help me out at this point in my life. I'd ask my parents, but it's hard to talk to them, because they put up this wall of sorts, where they just talk down to me almost. I have a few friends, but they're not exactly going through what I'm going through, so they can't relate. I just need help because I feel so lost.
You should talk to your parents — if only to clarify why they kind of undercut your attempts to be more independent, but are now turning around and saying that the deadline for you to grow up is totally inflexible.I mean, yes, you should get a job and move out, but you might have done that if they hadn't suggested you do otherwise.
You should also go to the careers office at your school and get signed up for any services they can offer you: career counseling, résumé-building, and so on.They can point you in the direction of those fields that tend to hire English majors; they can also learn what you'd like to do, and tell you how to do it.
When it comes time to move out and pay your own bills, you can ask a friend for advice on banking or movers; you can do research online, and comparison-shop for furniture; you can handle it.Moving is a pain in the ass, but it almost never kills anyone.Paying bills on time is quite easy, thanks to internet banking, and if you do it every two weeks, you'll be fine.People learn to do these things all the time, and there isn't a handbook, but you seem to think that everyone else sprang fully formed from the heads of their parents, factory-installed with knowledge about Things Grown-Up, and it's not the case.You learn as you go.
The main thing you need to do on all these fronts is get some more information.You don't know what you want to do for a living (or, if you do, how to go about doing it), you don't know how your grades will turn out, you don't know what your parents want from you or how you can give it to them…you just don't have any information, so everything seems much more intimidating and undoable than it actually is.Talk to your parents, talk to a career advisor at school, and try not to panic yet.
You answered my question several years ago about my dad hating on my interracial relationship.You were right, and six years later me and the boyfriend are still an item.In fact, we just moved in together.So of course I have another question.
I have wedding fever.And I need to cool it off.The boyfriend and I have agreed that marriage is in our future but for me, the future is now.I find myself surfing Offbeat Bride, watching "Say Yes to the Dress" marathons, and even having dreams about my wedding when I sleep!
The rational part of my brain knows this is not the time for us to get married; we've only been living together for about a month (after being long-distance for the past four years), we have to save up, I'm getting a new freelance career off the ground, etc., etc.
But I'm almost 33 (the boyfriend is almost 29) and I feel like I'm getting older by the second.It's not a question of needing to get married to have kids, because neither of us wants them. It's just that I feel ready to take the next step and, after watching what seems like all my friends and family get engaged or married during the past couple of years, I feel like I've hung in there for so long and now it's my turn.
The boyfriend and I talk sort of half-jokingly about "our wedding" ("We'll never play the 'Electric Slide' at our wedding!") but that can hardly be counted as a proposal.And I don't want to have a wedding just for the sake of having a big party and getting all the attention; I want to spend my lawfully wedded life with THIS GUY.
Over the past six years we've famously taken things slow (if we had a nickel for every time a friend or family member asked about marriage plans we could pay for the wedding already) and it took my boyfriend awhile to acknowledge that maybe he was actually the marrying kind.I don't want to push (I hate those women that demand a ring and give deadlines for a proposal), and I don't want to spook the boyfriend since we're still getting used to living together (although it has been going great).
So what can I do to keep the bride envy in check and let the rational girlfriend rule the roost?
No "chicken dance" allowed, either!
Dear Celebrate Good Times, Come On,
The wedding stuff probably comes from a fundamental insecurity you're feeling right now, which I imagine is a result of recent changes in the relationship (moving in together) and your career.A wedding is fun, it's a celebration, it symbolizes a permanent union, you get to be the center of attention and the focus of everyone's good wishes — it's a perfectly understandable "happy place," as these things go.There's cake.Enough said.
As long as you aren't pushing your boyfriend, or passive-aggressively leaving magazines open to diamond ads, I don't really see anything wrong with it, unless it persists for months on end.It does seem like a normal response to some chaos in your emotional life elsewhere, even if it's not a rational one.
With that said, if you want to get married and it's important to you that you make the commitment legal at some point — and not the kind of "at some point" that lets your boyfriend postpone it indefinitely, but an actual specific point — then you should tell him that, because it's the truth and he needs to know."I want us to get married someday — a day before 2013.I need you to know that because if we're not on the same page, someone has to adjust his/her expectations here, and it's better to know that now."
And you can always propose to him, you know.But this isn't about bringing him around to your version of the fairytale, so much as you worrying that some of the fairytales you have told yourself won't come true or don't have happy endings.And sometimes they don't, but I wouldn't worry about the bridal-industry gorging you're doing right now.Just don't substitute it for doing real thinking about what you want, or real talking about it with your boyfriend.
Tags: boys (and girls) Kool and the Gang workplace