Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Credit where Credits are Due

Last night was movie night. The credits rolled, and baby Princess asked if we could "listen to all the songs" by which she meant that she wanted to keep the DVD playing until the end of the credits. This is a pretty common request, so Hoopdaddy and I have learned quite a bit about the various contributions that get a credit in a movie. My favorite is when they include the accountants or the legal department, but sometimes I see jobs that I didn't know existed. 

So I didn't think it was strange when Hoopdaddy said, "What does a 'Perfectionist' do when they make a movie?" I squinted at the screen. "I think that says, 'projectionist'" and we both laughed.

"Too bad," Hoopdaddy chuckled. "That would be a great job for you."

It's true--I have many years of experience with perfectionism, although I am trying to get out of the business. My perfectionism takes the form of trying to keep up an illusion that I never make a mistake and have total control over everything in my life (including Eric's autism) so that I can have the approval of everyone around me. So far, I've been stopping short of putting happiness ahead of approval. I've used the Dialogue, but so far keep stopping at a question that (more or less) Barry Neil (Bears) Kaufman asked me months ago during Calm Amid Chaos. The question he left me with was, "Why is approval from other people more important to you than happiness?"

That's a great question. Particularly because satisfying the need for approval of others is the payoff for the perfectionism. If everything I do or say or think or eat is perfect, then everyone will have to approve of me. Who wouldn't approve of someone who was perfect? 

Such a good question. I love that question so much that I keep coming up with more answers for it every time I think about it. The first answer I came up with was, "Approval of other people isn't more important than happiness. I know happiness is a choice." Unfortunately, that was a big ol' fat lie.  A very comfortable, useful, familiar lie that I told myself frequently. I crave approval of others and I wasn't ready to admit it. 

Another time, the answer I gave myself was, "Approval of other people is important to me, but needing approval isn't interfering with my choice to be happy."  What I meant was, it wasn't interfering too much with my choice to be happy. Need for approval only interfered when someone else was unhappy, which was never more than 2 or 3 times an hour. 

Okay, maybe it interferes just a little.

Still, the need, the craving for approval nibbles at the edge of my thoughts. Have I done enough at work today? (The stack doesn't seem any smaller.) Is the house clean enough if friends drop by tomorrow? (Depends on which friends.) How many hours do I have for the playroom this week? (Not enough.) I know what the next question is, but haven't yet been willing to ask myself: what do I think would happen if I didn't believe that I needed the approval of other people? 

Then again, maybe I could land a gig as a Perfectionist for the next big Hollywood blockbuster. I could get a credit right above the accountants and the person who makes the latte run. Otherwise, I'll have to answer Bear's question.

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