I never considered myself a perfectionist. I am the queen of "good enough" when it comes to work products, house cleaning, etc... (ask my husband). I'll put in the 50% of the work to get to 90% done quickly, maybe add another 5% (if I have time) and move on. Some call it half-assedness. I call it efficiency. Its how I get everything done and still have time for my family, exercise, hobbies, and sleep.
My therapist disagrees and thinks I do indeed hold myself to very high standards and get anxious at my inability to meet them. I was skeptical for a while. But thinking through how weird I've gotten with the budget thing...which by the way is exactly how I got weird with the calorie counting thing...which is similar to recurring patterns of similar behavior throughout my life...I had a thought.
I don't know if its called "perfectionism" or something else, but its about control. When other things in my life get out of control, I seize on small areas that I can manipulate. And I get a lot of satisfaction from "winning" at these things. Staying in my calorie count, saving $100 off my grocery bill, logging 20K steps a day...little boost to self-esteem that helps motivate me in meeting bigger goals.
There is a huge undercurrent of stress in my professional life right now, with uncertain funding, and papers rejected, and experiments disproving hypotheses. I'm not sure what's going to happen to me next July when my current funding runs out. I don't actually want to talk about this, but its a background. This situation is in many ways out of my control. Yes, I'm trying to write grants, papers, modify experiments, find new areas to focus on...but whether or not its going to work? I can't say with any certainty. I recall feeling this way during our infertility and way before that when all (I mean ALL) my friends were pairing up and I wondered if I'd ever meet a partner or be the 5th (7th, 9th, 11th, 19th...seriously ALL my friends) wheel forever.
So I turn back to the things that I can modify. And when it works---when I'm meeting my standards of frugality or nutrition or fitness, I feel good about myself & can translate that into productivity and creative thinking. But when it backfires---when I slip up and eat something "bad" (ugh) or my pants are tight or we go over budget---I feel deflated, unworthy, like a failure. And THAT translates to wanting to give up, what's the point, I'm never going to succeed, etc...
Areas that I think I tend towards this perfectionism/control include but are not limited to: money, food, fitness, body image (I could write a whole post about this, I thought I was over it but I'm decidedly not), parenting (not yelling, feeding healthy foods, no screen time, planning activities, etc...) and even my attitude (this is the one my therapist picked up on---I get down on myself for being negative/ungrateful/pessimistic/etc...). I rotate through one or two of these and get really hung up on them for a while, and then I get exhausted, give up, and move on through the cycle.
I like holding myself to high standards---it motivates me to improve--but I also realize that I need to keep things in perspective. Spending $50 more on a self-imposed budget shouldn't lead to self-flagellation (or worse, husband-abuse) nor should 200 extra calories. My kids get over it if I yell at them, and an extra movie or ice cream won't doom them to childhood obesity. And my body...well, absent some serious plastic surgery, the wrinkly belly pooch is here to stay.
Is this really perfectionism or something else? Isn't it normal? If not, is the answer something sappy like "be kind to myself" or "give myself grace" (ugh).