Perfectionism - A War on the Self

(2nd entry of a 4-part series)
    It’s important to know your roots.  According to Psychology Today, “Perfectionists … are made and not born, commonly at an early age.”
     I’m the first-born child of a tough army Green Beret solider who fought in Vietnam numerous times.  From before I can remember, soldiers were my images of strength.  When I saw Linda Hamilton’s perfectly muscular arms in the 1984 movie, the Terminator, it was my first exposure to female physical strength and since then I’ve idolized other warrior-like fictional characters such as Demi Moore in GI Jane and Jennifer Lopez in Enough.  Currently, although I’m not heading off to a real war, I may unconsciously feel that I need to ready myself for battle because we live in a culture of war:  the war on drugs, on poverty, on terror, real wars and gang wars, and threats of personal attack from in-home invaders and gunmen who go on shooting rampages.  Maybe I won’t be attacked If I’m tough enough, my subconscious may reason.  
     Unfortunately, when I’m building my muscles—to the neglect of my body, it’s a problem, perhaps even, a war on the self.
     So why do this?
     Our human instinct is to protect.  Although I’m not literally marching into battle, pushing past fatigue to build strength could be considered a shield against an imaginary attack; an unconscious response to the fear of being attacked.  For all of us, striving for perfection serves two purposes.  First, it takes the focus away from our fears.  Second, our subconscious perception may be that if we’re perfect enough, we’ll be protected from being:
  • questioned
  • ridiculed
  • criticized
  • rejected, or worse yet, abandoned
     These aren’t physical attacks, but their psychological and emotional ramifications still hurt us and threaten the survival of our psyche.  But our psyche, our mind, can’t be killed. It has the extraordinary ability to learn, reason, and change instead of die. 
     The present-day reality is that while it’s smart to be aware of your physical surroundings at all times, it’s even smarter to know your roots and be aware of your motivations and behaviors at all times.  This is a real measure of strength.