When Really The Most Perfectionist Thing to Do Is to Be Less Perfectionist

I mentioned the other day that one of the contributing factors to my depressive dip was what we might term a mini-breakup. There may be more entries about this, as it has been an overall confusing experience that is requiring some processing. I will say that though the experience hasn’t been exactly enjoyable, it has reinforced my confidence that I have good taste in partners. Pretty much all of the communication and emotional processing that has occurred between the girl in question and myself has been incredibly practical and mature.

In any event, the long and the short of the story is that we briefly experimented with a casual thing, and there were some Complicated Emotional Responses that caused it to end fairly quickly.

There is a part of the conversation we had when it ended that I keep thinking back to. I was expressing some frustration, and while I generally think I did it well, and without placing blame, I don’t feel like I can be absolutely sure of that. As a result, that part of the conversation has been sticking in my brain, and I’ve been analyzing it for signs that I in any way spoke in bad faith or with intent to pressure. I don’t tend to assume, in circumstances that are emotional, that I always have a complete understanding of my motivations for saying or doing any particular thing, and consequently these sorts of analyses are not uncommon for me. In the grand scheme of things, though, I’ve decided that I probably shouldn’t be focusing on it.

I’m slowly getting better at recognizing the difference between Conscientious Mitch doing the self-analysis that’s necessary for being a decent human being, and Absurdly Perfectionist Mitch berating himself for maybe, possibly not being 100% perfect all the time. Absurdly Perfectionist Mitch is the type to spend way too much time on, “But what if there’s something I did that I should be feeling bad about that I’m TOTALLY FAILING AT FEELING BAD ABOUT?!”

Which, when you say it out loud, it becomes a lot more obvious how stupid a mental pattern it is.

Relentless perfectionism is a difficult affliction to combat, but in cases like these I’ve come up with a thought pattern that does the job decently well. My motivation for being hyper conscious of everything I could ever have possibly, maybe done the slightest bit wrong is that I want to be a good person, and a good friend to people. Being this obsessed, though, isn’t really mentally healthy, and effectively contributes to depression when it gets out of hand. In light of this, I try to remember when I’m obsessing that looking out for my own mental health is also a vital part of being a good friend, and it’s a much more important part of it than making sure that I never, ever make the slightest mistake.

It’s possible that in the conversation the other day, I didn’t do everything perfectly. However, if my goal is to be an excellent friend to people, I have to weigh the Good Friend Value in focusing on that against the Good Friend Value in the maintenance of my mental health that comes from not worrying about things like this so much. I’ve come to understand over the years that I generally overestimate the value of the former at the expense of the latter, and that this is probably not a good thing. I think a happier, less obsessively perfectionist me is probably a better friend, on the whole, than a more depressed me who maybe makes one or two fewer mistakes. After all, not making my mental health a high priority counts as a pretty big mistake in and of itself most of the time. This perfectionism thing is a Monte Carlo problem where I’ve been accepting too much cost for not enough increase in certainty.

Food for thought.

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One comment on “When Really The Most Perfectionist Thing to Do Is to Be Less Perfectionist

  1. Definitely food for thought…there are so many things in my life that I just don’t do because I am afraid I won’t do it well enough, this promotes depression and stagnates progress. Thanks for a great post!

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