‘Tis the season to be jolly? NOT! For a lot of people this holiday season is particularly not a happy one with pandemic lockdowns, masks, unemployment, physical hunger, and the threat of being homeless. Millions are emotionally drained; extroverts who depend on being around people to get their energy (55% of the population) are particularly hard hit.
But there is one group of people who are being affected even more: perfectionists.
I come from a lifelong struggle with perfectionism in myself and in many of my relatives. We want things to be ‘just right.’ We don’t like chaos or upset…we just want to make people happy by carrying on with traditions as they always were.
In this way perfectionists feel better about themselves, as if they are living out their life’s purpose. Yet, perfectionism is a perverse kind of superiority complex, whereby perfectionists absolutely know better than others what is right, proper, and appropriate. They are willing to argue their case to the last breath. Perfectionism is also a means to counteract an unconscious, hidden feeling of inferiority, of being ‘less than’, ‘not enough.’
Whatever the origins of perfectionism, they drive themselves and others a bit crazy going after something or someone to control, in order to be happy and feel validated.
Which brings me back to this totally unique holiday season. Most people hopefully will do what’s necessary to quell this pandemic. It ought to mean no traveling, no gatherings outside the household, no restaurants/bars, no partying, and lots of mask-wearing. Many will kvetch and complain. But perfectionists may experience a deeper existential gloom…the feeling that the holidays are not ‘just right.’
If you are a perfectionist and becoming increasingly depressed I have a suggestion.
- What if you were to list, in order of importance, the values, traditions, rituals, and other elements that have always made this season ‘bright’?
- Take the first two or three on your list and think about how you can go crazy with just those elements.
- Use your imagination and adapt the value behind that activity and do something safe. Instead of a big family feast, what if you created a virtual family gathering, complete with favorite foods and drinks and spend an hour enjoying each other in front of the computer screen?
- What if instead of sending cards you made personal phone calls or emails to everyone on your list? Book in a virtual online visit!
Perfectionists are great at solving problems and using their imaginations. Let loose this holiday season and let go of the ‘perfect celebration’ in favor of sanity, safety, and virtual celebration! For just this one year…please?
© 2020 Michael Parise