A Eulogy for my Perfectionist Child Syndrome

*Pro tip: if you ever delude yourself into thinking you’re so far along in your healing journey that you’re running out of things to address say, out loud, to the Universe, “But what would I even talk to a therapist about?” And just wait. It’ll come. Like a goddamn dump truck.

*Based on a true story.

Today, in a partner meeting in which topics of budgeting and cost saving procedures were brought up, I felt my anxiety spike. SPIKE.

Was the blame placed at my feet? No. Was pressure to solve the issues put on me? Nope. Was anything brought up in any way that could be considered remotely accusatory? Also no. None of those things. And I have been begging and pleading for budging for…ever. For always. I am the cheap partner in a bougie triad. I should be joyous. Busting out the excel spreadsheet and entering data sets to my heart’s content.

Instead, I was forcing myself to breathe without hyperventilating. Why? I took the time to ask myself. Why am I feeling this way? This is what I wanted. Changes proposed would actually take things off my plate, reduce my stress, and pad the budget.

If you must know, the answer seems to be two fold. The first is due to Perfectionist Child Syndrome. This comes when your parents are so stressed (or other things, for my parents it was stress) that if your parents notice you, it’s because something has gone wrong. No attention means you are doing well enough to not break through their other stressors. Your teachers tell them how wonderful you are in class. You have straight A’s. When you’re at home you keep your head down, and eat what is given to you, and smile when you are looked at to reassure them that all is well.

If they bring something up, or want to talk, or need to show you something – it’s negative. Grades need to be better. Manners need to be minded. Rooms need to be cleaned. Something is not good enough.

So when *anything* I do, or have a hand in, is brought up to be changed in any way, my immediate reaction is “if this task/pattern/chore/emotion is getting noticed, then I have done it poorly” which brings intense anxiety.

A less than helpful problem solving response.

This brings us to the second part. Namely, my ability to blow shit way out of proportion based on irrational and crippling fear. Because if I am doing something poorly enough to be noticed, then what value do I bring to the relationship? And if I have no value, will they let me stay?

I am secure in my partners love, and so I thought that I was wholly secure. Turns out not. Turns out I have deep insecurities about my value. I know my partners love me. BUT. But if I keep the house clean, if I make elaborate meals for dinner, if I homeschool the children to excellence, if I single handedly maintain the budget, if – if – if – then they won’t leave me. Then they will decide I am worth keeping around.

And let’s not mince words: I am wholly dependent on them. I bring in not a single dollar to our bottom line. Oh, don’t bother quoting me the math. I am well aware. We would bleeeeeed money if I were to try and work outside the home. Childcare, increased car, food, and clothes cost. Increased stress for all parties. In no scenario do we gain money by having me work outside the home. If anything, it can be considered that for room and board, I am a 24/7 nanny, decent housekeeper, and quite a good chef while also being an errand runner, laundress, grocery shopper, personal assistant, teacher, and bookkeeper. Which, based on industry averages, is a HELL of a deal.

Yet. Despite all I bring to the relationships, I feel deeply inadequate. Like I have to earn my place in the home, a seat at the table, and the privilege to homeschool our children.

And to be extra-ordinarily clear: my partners say, if not daily then multiple times a week, that they see me, and what I do. They see the effort and the work that I pour out. That they value me and appreciate me. In no way have I *ever* been made to feel as if my place was precarious, my value dependent on my cleaning lady/chef/teacher output. This is something that I wholly put on myself because I have drank deeply of the poison of capitalism. I have gargled that stank until I reek of it. And I hate it. I can rail against it until I am blue in the face. That no one should be broken down into only what they can provide in monetary worth. That productivity is not the golden standard to what is or is not worth my time. That everyone has a place at the table, regardless of their ability to bring tangible gifts to it. And that emotional labor, child rearing, house work, and general life maintenance are valuable labor and deserve recognition and inherent worth. And turn around, look at myself in the mirror, and feel terror that I haven’t done enough today.

Maybe it’s because the fear of god (literally) was put in me as a child and I feared for my eternal soul if I didn’t do enough to prove my faith to a god who watched me all the time to judge my every thought.

Maybe it’s because we live in a society that literally drowns us in messaging that the most essential labor (and therefore laborers) are replaceable and therefore not worth living pay, basic human consideration, or any kind of meaningful recognition. Let alone dignity, honor, and contentment.

Maybe it’s because only women are ever asked if they will choose children or careers while it is an assumption that men can have both, because their partner will shoulder the extra burden – for free.

Probably it’s all of that and an (un)healthy dose of trauma passed down by ancestors and a (not) fun glitch in my brain that requires a daily dose of prozac.

What matters is that I name it. And then strike a match and, much like capitalism, the patriarchy,  and the idea that America is a Christian nation, not stop rooting it out and burning it down until there is no trace left.

What matters is that it stops with me. And my kids do not toss at night wondering if they did enough to earn their place in this world, or their home. As if a place in a home is something to be earned. As if love is a currency to be traded on.

What matters is that I tell myself a truer story – that I am worthy. Of love. Of a home. Of safety and security. And then I tell everyone that truer story.

So here it is, this is the match struck: I am safe. I am worthy. My value is not dependent on my output. Period. I’d say may my perfectionist child syndrome and irrational fears rest in peace but fuck that. Fuck that hard. Let’s burn those bad boys to a crisp and then piss on the ashes. Let’s dance naked around the grave, shoot silver bullets into casket, and let out a string of curses that would make my racist grandmother blush and my gypsy ancestors proud. Let’s show them a full moon full of glorious cellulite as we twirl, sexually satisfied and shameless about our jiggle, while swearing oaths that those who come after us will never see the fears we conquered.

Let’s just… live.

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