Saturday, August 19, 2006

Most of My Subs Are on Strike


Have you ever worked for a boss who demands perfection and no matter how well you perform, it just isn't good enough? That's what it's like to live with a dominant perfectionist subpersonality. The Perfectionist requires that everything be done perfectly, that I never make mistakes, that I never rock the boat, and that I never do anything that might make someone else angry or uncomfortable. As you can see, there is also a bit of the Pleaser wrapped up in this subpersonality.

I spent much of the last year working to understand and control another subpersonality (my Inner Critic) -- another kind of manager, which is the role the Perfectionist plays. I've had some success with the other sub, but now the Perfectionist has been trying to run the show for the past few months, especially since a minor meltdown back in early July.

The result is that I have to be perfect at work with my clients; I have to be perfect in my relationship with Kira; I have to be perfect in how I post here on my blog; and I have to perfect in how I interact in the pods at Zaadz. The topper of all the toppers is that many of my clients work with me as an integral coach, so I feel even more pressure to be perfect with them.

The downside is that my other subs are fed up with the pressure, and they have gone on strike. My posts here have been shallow and very impersonal, which goes against my intent. I avoid other people as much as possible. I procrastinate everything (I recently bought more clothes to avoid doing laundry -- it was easier). And I have avoided picking up new clients at the gym even though I have openings.

All the other subs seem to have said, "Yo, Perfecto, you want perfect? Do it yourself." Since that sub only has the power to push me toward perfection and not to actually follow through (it's a manager, remember), I'm stuck with all my other subs walking the picket line and no one wanting to do any work.

I didn't realize this was what was happening until this afternoon when Kira initiated "a talk" about why there was a lack of emotional continuity in our relationship lately. After I got past being defensive and quieted the Perfectionist a**hole that insisted it couldn't be him, I was able to see what was happening. Gotta love having an observer self.

One of the great and awful things about relationship is that there is nowhere to hide. Kira sees me in ways I sometimes don't want to be seen. She may not know what is going on, but she knows that something is amiss.

Anyway, for the year that I was in therapy, my therapist kept pushing at my Perfectionist, asking me if it was exhausting to always have to be perfect. I was very intellectual about the whole thing, and thought, "Yeah, I guess it is kind of tiring. But that's the price I pay to be good at what I do -- no matter what it is." All ego and no emotion. That's the manager that got fired and made room for the Perfectionist to take over.

Today, for the first time, the emotion kicked in and I FELT how exhausting it is to live with that voice inside my head. How exhausting it has been to live with that voice ever since I was a small child and learned that my father would love me more if I didn't make mistakes, if I always got good grades, or if I was always the best athlete. But then he began to expect all that and stopped acknowledging it, so I had to work even harder to deserve his love. Like a dog chasing its tail.

I'm sure many other kids had similar parents and aren't whining about it on a blog. That's great. But this is one of the things blocking my path to being a more integrated and healthy person, so I am determined to fix it. Now that I know what is happening, maybe the Perfectionist will sit down at the bargaining table with the other subs and hammer out a deal that works for everyone.

I know the Perfectionist is just trying to ensure that I don't embarrass myself and that other people will see me as competent, which keeps my ego happy. That behavior doesn't serve me well anymore, however, so I need to find other ways for the Perfectionist to get its needs met -- and to remove him from his manager role. I'm not sure which sub is best qualified to run the show, but we need new blood at the top to get the others back on the job.

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