My whole adult life I’ve been dancing on the stage of perfection, trying to get that 5-star review and a packed house every single night.
Like a desperate actor, I am hungry for the applause of another.
Only when someone approves my ‘performance’ do I feel accepted and loved.
But what do you do when the house is empty?
As I look back at my vast array of relationships, I see that they all had one thing in common.
No, not an ongoing prescription to Zoloft; my insane need for perfection. From others, to be sure, but mostly from myself.
If I cry at a cheesy TV commercial, I feel like a weakling. If I get angry because someone was an hour late and didn’t call, I feel disappointed in my lack of emotional control. If I turn down a date, I feel like a cold-hearted bitch. Like a blackjack player in Vegas, I am assured of losing every time.
Years of loitering in the self-help section of the bookstore has taught me that A) this aisle is the match.com for broken spirits and head cases, but, more importantly, B) my need to be perfect is merely the ante-room of my belief that I am not good enough. Something is fundamentally wrong with me that I have to tap dance, juggle plates, swallow swords—anything just to earn a place in a guy’s heart. Or even pants.
But the problem with needing another’s approval in a relationship is that this need never really gets filled.
Oh sure, the boyfriend compliments my outfit, my witty repartee, my detailed plan for robbing a bank and living out the rest of my years on tropical island—but I will progressively need more and more of his approval until I suck him dry (get your mind out of the gutter; I’m speaking spiritually). It’s as though I were a dope fiend, requiring an ever-increasing hit of my drug just to get the same high. And here’s a secret: boyfriends (or anyone for that matter) don’t want to be my syringe. When they see me tightening the emotional tourniquet around my arm with my teeth, they’re right to back away.
The question is, can I be ok with my own imperfection and still know that I am good enough? To paraphrase Mark Twain, “A woman cannot be comfortable without her own approval.”
So I’ve started applauding my own achievements. Literally. And while it may be a little awkward after making love, or cause my coworkers to jump, at least I feel like the leading lady in my own life.