- People who dress in colors or styles that clash
- The word “hubby”
- People who drive 5mph below the speed limit
- Creepy guys who hit on married (and pregnant) women*
- Certain slang terms including “ya’ll” and “fixin”
- Those who don’t know the distinction between “interior decorator” and “interior designer”
- Crooked picture frames (especially in public places like restaurants)
- An improper usage of grammar, punctuation and spelling (Example: there is a store near my house named Movie’s Etc. To this day, I have not figured out what an etcetera is or why the Movie owns one.)
- And many more.
Calling them “pet peeves” makes it sound harmless. It’s a normal thing. Everyone has pet peeves, right? But some time ago I realized it went deeper than that. You might call it a standard of perfection. Basically, it’s an excuse to judge.
The Bullies Who Haunt and Taunt
First of all, I have a confession to make. It may shock many of you, my ever- faithful readers. (Whether or not it surprises those of you who are first-timers to the blog, I cannot say…but I CAN say that you will look at me differently after I disclose this secret.) Here it goes [deep breath]:
I am not perfect.
I know, shocking, right? Not really. I mean, maybe I somehow (by some stretch of the imagination) had you fooled. But I’ve never believed I was perfect. Or made that claim for myself. And yet, when I have high standards for others, it necessitates that I have those same standards for myself (if not higher).
The problem is, I don’t always have perfect grammar, punctuation and spelling. I make mistakes. I’ve erred in ways I would never admit on a blog. I fail to measure up to my own standard of perfection. Daily. And when I fall short, my own “standards,” those big fat bullies, come banging at my door, throwing my own words in my face. “Hypocrite!” they scream at me. And escape is impossible, it being my own mind.
Perfection and Fear
Tosca Lee has mentioned the effects that perfection and fear have on a writer on her blog. (She also wrote a great post about inspiration here.) Perfection can produce a fear of failure. And fear can be paralyzing to a Creative (or to anyone else, for that matter). The Perfection Bullies are constantly in my head. “How dare you write a blog on the Internet for everyone to see? What if you make a mistake?” They are jeering at me, even as I write this. Every time I share one of my stories with a friend or family member, they show up, like the two Muppet critics. “Ha ha ha, Loser! You think your story is good, but they are going to be laughing behind your back!” Every time I write a single word the Bullies remind me that there are better-qualified people out there and that maybe they see my flaws with unspoken disdain.
The Perfection Bullies haunt me daily with reminders of my past mistakes. If I listen to them it will wreck my purpose in life. I’ll be a depressed lump of a person. And I won’t create anything. (Which will pretty much be the end of “me.”)
Maybe you’ve been tormented by the bullies, too. Maybe fear of making a mistake or failing altogether has you confined to a cage of mediocrity. You might be holding back or squelching your talents. But consider this: you are your own biggest critic. Others may judge your faults, but never as hard as you judge yourself.
Escaping the Bullies
The solution? Give yourself a break. Stop judging yourself. I know, easier said than done, right? But there’s another side of the equation. Try giving others a break and maybe your own Perfection Bullies will back down. Basically, what it comes down to is this:
When I have mercy on others’ failings, I am allowing myself grace as well.
What do your Bullies say? How have you overcome them in the past? What do you need to do in your present situation to shut up the inner critics?
*Yes, I actually did get hit on when I was pregnant.