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The Times
  • Loretta LaRoche: Pursuit of perfection is a 10 on the stress scale

  • When I was younger, I was such a people pleaser. If everyone else was happy, then I could be happy. I was also a perfectionist. Everything had to be done by me. Everything was done from scratch. I used to clean everything, cook everything, make everything. There wasn’t anything I didn’t do or try to do perfectly.

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  • When I was younger, I was such a people pleaser. If everyone else was happy, then I could be happy. I was also a perfectionist. Everything had to be done by me. Everything was done from scratch. I used to clean everything, cook everything, make everything. There wasn’t anything I didn’t do or try to do perfectly.
    People would come to my house and say, “Oh, I love your drapes,” and I’d say, “I made them myself.” Or: “I love your walls.” I’d reply: “I painted them myself.” “I smell bread.” “Baked it myself.” “Are those your children?” “Yeah, I made ’em myself.”
    I think of the silly things I said back then, such as, “You could eat off my floors.” Now isn’t that special? Imagine sending an invitation to come over and eat off my floors.
    I was also a slave to rules. I did things and didn’t even know why I was doing them. I was cooking a roast beef, and I cut the ends off and threw them away, as I always did. It occurred to me to wonder why, so I called my mother. “Why do we cut the ends off?” “I don’t know, ask your grandmother.” So I called Francesca. “I did it because it didn’t fit in the pan.”
    By now I am so done with trying to win an award for doing everything perfectly. It sets you up to feel consistently unhappy with everything you do because you are convinced you could do it better. Relaxation is almost impossible. You have to do everything yourself because you know no one else is as capable as you are. This often leads to frustration and anxiety since perfectionism is an illusion. It can also lead to depression. It’s hard to feel good about what you’ve accomplished if you’ve convinced yourself that you’re imperfect.
    I realize that there are certain situations where reaching certain goals means raising the bar to achieve them. I imagine that elite athletes have created very high standards for themselves. But having to make a bed as if you were in an Army boot camp is totally ridiculous.
    What perfectionists don’t realize is how difficult it is for the folks they live with. They know that you are similar to Sherlock Holmes always seeking evidence to catch them doing something wrong. There are definitely techniques to help perfectionists downsize their expectations. But I’m convinced that getting older really makes the biggest difference. I don’t have the energy to keep checking to see that everything is perfect. More importantly, I discovered that you can strive for excellence, which is more satisfying and a more evolved concept.
    Author, humorist, PBS star and Fortune 500 trainer Loretta LaRoche lives in Plymouth, Mass. To share your pet peeves, questions or comments, write to The Humor Potential, 50 Court St., Plymouth, MA 02360, send email to getalife@lorettalaroche.com, visit the website at www.stressed.com or call 800-998-2324.
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