What to do when your perfectionism makes you put yourself down

arjai101 asks: Rereading my letter to you made me realize I’m self-absorbed and vain. And, a lot of that whining was coming from a place of just hurt and pain. I guess there’s just been a whole lot of keeping it all inside. I honestly need to get my head screwed back on. Firstly, I’m trying to fix my relationship with food. I’m so tired of obsessing over what I eat and feeling hungry and tired and my workouts sucking. And then I indulge once, and I feel awful, and I go throw up. And, don’t come at me with the, “Do you know how unhealthy and dangerous that is? Don’t be stupid!” Believe me; I know; I know; I know. I know exactly what I’m doing to myself, read all the papers, and all the articles. And most of the time, I think I deserve it. I think I deserve every single second of it. Honestly, ever since I came out to my mom, it’s been downhill from there. Also, I finally stopped texting ex-marathon girl. I get that we’re friends. I know she’s a straight girl with a boyfriend. I’m not dumb and stupid. But, I feel like she has no real regard for me. And, I know I know I can’t blame anyone but myself. She owes me nothing. But, it just hurts so bad knowing I care so much more for her, more than she ever will for me. Then, there’s this guy who became a great friend to me, we’d talk about girls together – he knew exactly who and what I am – and still one night he made a clumsy stupid groping pass at me in his car. And when I pushed it away, he started making dumb excuses not to meet with me anymore. So I don’t know. I’ve been thinking and thinking and thinking. And maybe, I deserve it all. Maybe, I deserve every little thing. Perhaps it’s all my fault. I mean, it really all is. I brought all of this on me. I brought that weird sinister dark look the passes over my mom’s face every time there’s a subtle reminder that I’m gay. I brought getting felt up by that guy. Everything. Everything has my name on it. Lately, I’ve been trying to channel it all into anger. But then, you’re still just reminded how you mean almost nothing to that beautiful girl. How, you were nothing but some conquest to that guy. How another friend I trusted is off living his best life with all of his friends and adventures and better things to do. How, your mom doesn’t want you to tell anyone what you are. And church. And family. And all of my other irrelevant unimportant issues because I’m an entitled brat. And I, I just exist in some vast void of boredom and nothingness hoping to grasp onto some rope and get the hell out, but realizing that maybe everyone must want me to stay in there or maybe they forgot about me, or maybe just learn to shut up and disappear better. And, can I really blame them? All I do is hurt people; I can’t even help it; I don’t even know I’m doing it. But, I know I do. I mean, I must be. I know I just need to wait it out. I’ll be at college, and it’ll be better. That’s what everyone keeps saying. But, what if it doesn’t? What if I don’t shine bright enough or my personality annoys everyone? And, it’s just me, desperate as hell. You know, I was watching this interpretive dance video done by Eugene Lee Yang. And, he goes through all these colors, each one representing a stage in his life. And finally, in the end, he gets to violet. He’s standing there in this stunning ensemble, all just crashing down around him. And, it looks like everyone doesn’t even know what the hell to do with him. But, he’s just standing there despite everything, with this look of determination, like “You can’t tell me a thing anymore.” And you know, I just was thinking…God I hope I get to violet. I really hope there is just light at the end of the tunnel and I make it there alive. You know, it’s not really my nature to fade away. But, I don’t know, these past few months I just don’t know what to do with myself.

Oh arjai101!!!!

Hasn’t anyone told you that it’s animal abuse to break a dog’s heart?!  And you SO break mine!

Nothing you’re telling me about your actual, objective, situations is all that rare.  A crush on a bland beautiful woman who can’t deal with your reality?  Half the guys I know have that same problem, not to mention the interesting ladies like you.  A young man who believes the nonsensical myths out there about how every lesbian is just dying to be “turned” by the right guy with the right moves?  Ridiculous and SO common.  And a mother who can’t accept her daughter being her full self, but won’t reject her either, just asks her to keep it all secret for “the neighbors’ sake?”  TIMELESS!

(Of course, the first two of those apply to us pooches as well!  Handsome’s had girlfriends I wanted SO BADLY to love me and just couldn’t win over; and while I’m not a lesbian, I was spayed early, so share your complete disinterest in males’ sexual desire for me.  If you haven’t read my story about that, go to AskShirelle.com and type in HarrietteS in the search box, and read my story about this fellow at a dog park who makes Albacore look like SUCH a gentleman!  But the situation with your mom – yeah that’s only humans.  And I’m awfully AWFULLY sorry about your having to go through that one)

And I’ll do what you ask and not get on your case about the eating issue.  But there’s another issue I am going to COMPLETEY get on your case about.  And that’s the way you spend this whole letter BEATING THE DAYLIGHTS OUT OF YOURSELF!  And you know what I’m going to tell you about it?  You might recognize the words:

“Do you know how unhealthy and dangerous that is? Don’t be stupid!”

Arjai101, I’m going to trust that you’re able to healthily deal with your – yes, stupid – eating issues.  But this letter is SO FULL of self-loathing and blame…

MY FRIEND YOU ARE DOING ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG!  How would you be if I blamed myself for having been placed in the dog pound?!  You’d say I was crazy, right?  It’s not your fault a beautiful girl is straight (or boring), or that a guy is too horny for his own good, or that your mother is too concerned with social customs. 

Now is it true that you don’t fit in to a lot of situations?  Yeah, and I relate to that a LOT!  You’re ME!  And yes, that’ll be an issue as long as I live.  But I don’t blame myself – I really LIKE the way I am.  And when some people can’t handle that?  Well, that’s a difficulty for everyone concerned.  But I’m not changing who I am, or asking them to change who they are.  We’re all fine, just as we are.

But when you say that you’re lonely? 

Well yes.  I relate fully, and that situation STINKS.  And yes, I’m one more voice saying that I believe that’ll get better at college.  And then it’ll get better and better, the more you’re able to openly be yourself (which maybe you can’t while you’re living with your mom, which isn’t fair at all). 

But what I’m calling STUPID is your perfectionistic view that you’re somehow at fault for this.  That there’s something wrong with you.  THERE’S NOT!

But your letter reminded me of something.   Something I haven’t thought about in a while.  A few years ago, I helped to

sponsor an event that was all about building self-love to fight eating disorders (yes, it’s true!).  It was mainly speeches and handouts and stuff like that, at a big street in a shopping area. 

But the other part of the event was a flash-mob dance.  Now I wasn’t there (I would have just gotten stepped on a lot!), but Handsome was… and even I, who idolize him, will tell you, he’s no Bruno Mars!  And what was particularly funny was that most of the other people involved, who were dancing in the street, had two things in common – a history of eating disorders, and GREAT DANCE SKILL!  Because, yeah the cliché is true: professional dancers, or people trying to be professionals, often develop anorexia or bulimia.

And what this also means is that Handsome, and his two left feet, were out there with a bunch of PERFECTIONISTS, who did every step perfectly… while he… um… didn’t.  He was clumsy and stiff and went the wrong direction half the time… 

And everyone there loved him.  You know why?  Because he WAS imperfect, because he WAS clumsy, because he WAS wrong half the time.  Which was everything the event was pushing people to allow in themselves! 

So, my dear friend, right now your social life is kind of like Handsome in the dance training studio.  It’s really off.  Nothing’s going right.  You’re not the star, and you feel like you shouldn’t even be there.

But just like him then, you’re wrong, you’re SO wrong.  You’re vital.  And there’s going to come a time when all your qualities – those that seem strengths right now, and those that seem weaknesses – will be completely correct and right in tune. 

I’m eager for that day to come, though I’m sure you’re way more so.

But you simply HAVE to stop putting yourself down.  Or you won’t be ready for it when it shows up.

I’m sure you’ve heard the famous quote from Franklin Roosevelt, that “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  Well my version of that, arjai101, is that the only flaw you have is your belief that you’re so flawed!  Because what I see in you is someone so brilliant, so loving, so thoughtful, so full of passion and desire, that I think most perfectionists should be spending their self-critical time trying to be… MORE LIKE YOU!

With all my love,


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