The Recovering Perfectionist is delighted to welcome Amanda Warfield in her first guest post for us! We connected through Instagram, so you should definitely take a look at her feed! It is beautiful, fun, and thought provoking.
Growing up, I always had a streak of perfectionism inside of me. Usually, it only came out occasionally and I could tamp it down pretty easily. I’ll never forget though after 3rd-grade state testing results came in, I received an average on the science portion and I cried about it. I was so disgusted with that “average”. I didn’t want to be average. I didn’t even want to be above average. I wanted perfection. In 3rd grade. As an 8-year-old. As I got older and life got harder, that perfectionism came out more and more often.
In 2016, things got infinitely worse.
Early 2016, my husband received orders for Washington state. We were currently living in South Carolina, our home state, where I had lived my entire life. Where Russell had lived for the majority of his life. We were excited though. We knew this was only a temporary move, as his contract in the military wouldn’t last forever. We wanted to see another part of the country, travel, and experience new things while we were young and had that freedom. So in May 2016, we packed up and drove west.
Oh, and what an adventure it was! It took us 9 days and we drove through 15 states-stopping in all but one (we had already visited) and visiting somewhere in each one. We got to Washington over Memorial Day weekend and it was beautiful. Sunshine, a little chilly but not horribly so, and beautiful evergreens everywhere.
We had a really warm summer that year. Since then, we’ve discovered that June is typically pretty gloomy, but that year there was none of that. We had 80-degree heat wave warnings multiple times, we had tons of sunshine, we were loving it. I can remember us laughing about how we hadn’t seen any rain despite everything we’d ever heard about Washington.
Then, Russell was deployed in August. Being a teacher, the new school year hadn’t started but was quickly approaching. I was still trying to figure out my job situation. I had no friends yet. I was lucky to have found my home church our very first week in Washington, and I had made some connections, but nothing super solid yet. I wanted to be one of those wives that was super productive while their husbands were deployed. I wanted to prove that I could hold it all together. Do it all myself. I was fine. Totally fine.
Except I wasn’t.
My expectations for myself, my avoidance of any examination of what I was truly feeling beyond “fine”, and the constant “just stay busy to make time go by more quickly” advice wore me down very quickly. Despite the beautiful summer weather, or maybe because of it, we had a really rough winter. Constant rain, wind, and cold. Multiple snow days, which aren’t common in the part of Washington we live in. I’m a Southern Belle, and I was straight up miserable in that nastiness.
I spiraled quickly. My anxiety was out of control. I couldn’t sleep. I barely ate, and what I did was not nourishing. But worst of all, my perfectionism was at its worst. It fed off of all of the chaos I had invited into my life. I was working 3 jobs (teaching two classes at one preschool, teaching a class and being the director of another brand new preschool, and working in a dance studio office), I was at youth group every week and for every special event, I helped at every church event I could, I showed up to all of the meetings with the other military wives-hoping for some sort of news of what my husband was up to. If someone asked-my answer was yes. I never said no. I literally never had time for myself-I didn’t want it. I didn’t want to think, to feel. I just wanted to zombie through until my husband was home. And my perfectionism expected me to do it all.
Things didn’t change when Russell came home.
If anything, it got worse, because now there were two of us to manage. Two times as many messes to clean up. His schedule varies greatly each day, which throws my schedule out of whack. I was a sweater with a snag, and each task, each day was pulling that snag further and further. I was going to sleep each day beating myself up over not completing these impossible to-do lists that I created-with things on them that didn’t really matter. I was waking up and hitting snooze ten times because I didn’t want to get out of bed and face the day. I had to be perfect though. I had to do it all. I had to show everyone I was capable.
My best friend was home, and I was overjoyed, but we had a rough transition. At the time, I blamed it on the deployment. Every fight was just an adjustment from the deployment still. Then, as we got farther and farther away from the deployment, I knew in my heart that it wasn’t the deployment. That there was something else, but I couldn’t really admit that to myself. Because if it wasn’t the deployment, then what is wrong with my marriage? I didn’t want to be a failure. As a perfectionist, I didn’t want to admit that I did anything wrong. Of course, it must be that Russell is depressed and hates his job. That’s it. Of course. Not me. Never me.
We fought, and we fought often.
More often than not, the fights were about my ridiculous standards. My need for perfection and control in every aspect of everything. Russell would point out how ridiculous my standards were, I would close myself off-not being able to handle the criticism, he would get frustrated at me shutting myself off. It seemed like a never-ending cycle that we couldn’t get out of. I was truly worried about my marriage. I wasn’t sure what to do, how to fix it, and I was still convinced that our issues were from the deployment.
I wish I could say we resolved this quickly. I wish we had. It was the end of 2017 before I finally figured out I was the issue. My perfectionism was the issue. Thank goodness I was starting to feel overwhelmed by the clutter in our home and felt the need to purge. Which lead to me doing more research on that, which lead to me finding out about decluttering, then minimalism, and then intentional living.
Intentional Living Saved Our Marriage
It helped me to see that what I was putting on myself, on my marriage, was not because any of it had a purpose. I didn’t need to finish watching this TV show, even though I no longer liked it, just because it was nearly finished and I had watched the rest of the seasons. I didn’t need to deep clean the entire house, just because my cleaning schedule said to, if the house wasn’t dirty. I was doing it simply because I wanted to be perfect. That isn’t possible though. We are all imperfect humans. I can’t do it all. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to say no.
I realized that I had been the one that was depressed. I realized the power of no. I realized that there’s only so much that I can handle in a day. I learned to start finding my why. I learned to only put things, tasks, people, in my life that align with my purpose and my priorities. My marriage has never been stronger, and it’s all because I am finally attempting to shed that perfectionism within me. It still rears its ugly head from time to time, but now I know. I know the signs, I know I struggle with it. When Russell points out what I don’t see, I can handle the criticism. I can see that he’s right. I can go back to my why.
Are you looking for ways to kick that perfectionist mindset? Check out Amanda’s amazing, FREE resource!