Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The FlyLady Teaches Me About Perfectionism

One thing that I'm starting to realize about myself is that I have some perfectionist tendencies and they get in my way. This perfectionism does not take the form of "I will work myself into a frenzy and my stress level will go through the roof to do this task perfectly," but rather, "I don't have the strength, time, motivation or resources to do this task perfectly, so I won't do it at all. In fact, I may just do the exact opposite of this task. But don't worry, I won't enjoy myself, since the task I am avoiding is hanging over my head the whole time."

One of the things that sold me so quickly on the FlyLady's book was her understanding of this whole mindset and how it affects something as simple as cleaning the house (simple for you, maybe). Here are some of my favorite things she says about it:

FlyLady: "I have found over the last 2 years that perfectionism is the main reason our homes are in bad shape... Perfectionism is the reason we are depressed and perfectionism keeps us from making things better" (14).

PotatoGirl: Intriguing possibility. (evil voice: Handy excuse, too.)

FL: "What!? You are not a perfectionist! As strange as it may seem, I will guarantee that you have traits that those so-called perfectionist, Born-Organized People (BO) have. There is a fine line that separates you from BOs and it has to do with where we measure up on the perfectionism tally. BOs tend to be compulsive about getting it clean and keeping it that way, while some of us won't even start a job unless we have enough time to do the job correctly. So we do nothing! Or we are trying to do too many things at once and nothing ever gets finished so we just give up and say, 'What's the use?'" (16).

PG: [Nodding in agreement about doing nothing, giving up, saying "what's the use?"]

FL: "You may have picked up this book in your never-ending struggle to find the magic formula to fix your family and your home."

PG: I can't count how many books I've read on this topic.

FL: "But, sweetie, the problem with your home has nothing to do with idleness on your part."

PG: Really? But don't you find it problematic that instead of working on that pile of dishes in my kitchen, I am sitting here on the couch reading this book? That seems like idleness to me.

FL: "I hear what you hear over and over again--the reason your home is trashed is because of your laziness."

PG: This woman is reading my thoughts. "Lazy" is one of my favorite mean labels for myself.

FL: "I know for a fact that I have never been lazy and I will wager the same about you."

PG: That is kind of you, but I'm not so sure...again, look at me sitting here reading this book, ignoring the disaster that is my kitchen.

FL: "Your problem is that you don't know what to do first and when you decide on a course of action, you are continually spinning your wheels and unable to finish anything. By the end of the day you are exhausted, the house is still trashed, and you have accomplished nothing."

PG: [Somewhat stunned]. This is exactly how I feel. FlyLady and I are the same person! I feel like a chicken running around with my head cut off most of the time. I feel paralyzed by the chaos and by the thought that no matter where I start, I won't finish everything that needs to be done, and in the meantime, the kids will be messing it up more. I find myself walking into the kitchen, determined to face it, taking one look at it, turning around, and going back to the couch and my book, completely overwhelmed yet also disgusted with myself.

Okay, well I'm tired now and I need to go to bed. I'm sorry to leave you right here in the pit of my perfectionism-induced despair, but stay tuned for a hopeful ending!


Suzanne said...

Love your kids. Until there's vermin coming out of the sink -- who cares! Load up the car, and let's go to Burger King!

LL said...

Finally - a book that helps instead of just creating guilt and self-loathing!

You're awesome! Love you and miss you!!!

Naomi said...

Look at your cute short haircut! I love it. Great family picture. I also enjoy the FL website. In the past, the whole "Somebody might stop by" was a huge motivator for cleaning my house, and really the only way I could make myself sweep the floor. But now that I am well into my thirties, I care so much less what people think, and I find myself with a real problem on my hands!

Melinda said...

Very interesting post. I remember that when I was a kid and my mom would send us down to the basement to clean up the toy room, the job would be so overwhelming that it would take all day. Years later when I was nannying, the kids had the same problem and I discovered I could help them by giving them small specific tasks, like "pick up all the blankets and let's fold them up and put them away," and then "now pick up all of the stuffed animals and put them in this bin," and so on. I also discovered that this technique of breaking jobs into very small self-contained projects helps me as an adult. Sounds like FlyLady is really on to something. I'd like to read her book.
And PS: I'm glad you wrote so many posts this weekend--thanks!

Carolyn Hansen said...

Your post gave me plenty to think about. Thanks!
I'm so happy that you are blogging again! I'm also totally bummed that we missed you on your tour across the states... :(