The Curse of the Perfectionist

By Alison May 23, 2019 8 Comments 6 Min Read

Hmm. Two conversations. Both with men. Not necessarily rational themselves but at least willing to offer opinion where it has almost certainly not been invited.

The first with Ste. One coffee in to our morning ritual of two cups of tea and two cups of coffee over the couple of hours we spend together before the day starts on a feast of caffeine and discussion about the state of the nation. Me in floral pyjamas, him ready for work in a perfectly pressed shirt.

Him: (Looking at me in a mildly worried fashion). So what happened to writing in your red book?

(I had been starting my morning contemplating life in one of Brendan Buchard’s most excellent “High Performance Planner’s” and the ritual of book-ending my days with a specific type of very bossy navel-gazing had been doing me the power of good.)

Me: Well… (wholly aware that what I was about to say next would sound ridiculous). The last time I completed a page was on a Thursday a few weeks ago and then I had to give it up because I was too busy to write on the Friday and Saturday and a person can’t just jump in and fill in a Sunday and the week’s review if a person hasn’t filled in the entire week, now can a person?

Him: Yes. Or a person simply moves on to the next week and pretends all is fine and dandy and hops straight back into a ritual that was both soothing and useful for her.

Me: (Looking at him aghast). No. I can’t do that.

Him: Why?

Me: The week isn’t finished. There would be a GAP!

Him: (Laughing). So?

Me: What is WRONG with you? There would be a gap!

Him: So you would rather just give it up altogether because life got in the way and abandon something that mattered to you because there would be a gap no-one but you would know about?? You could even start on Friday and just fill in the gap, and then do your week’s review as if a month hadn’t passed.

Me: (Feeling discombobulated. Horrified at his nutty ideas. Worried that I have signed my life up to a MAD MAN.) Gosh. I can’t do that.

Him.: Yes. You really can. You are going to do it tomorrow.

Me: Ok. I will try it tomorrow. (I won’t. Obsv. I love him but I’m not crackers!)

Conversation two. With Mark. Father of my child. Part of my life for thirty years. Over the teeny cups of tea he makes for Finn and I when he calls in, because a mug of tea might be extravagant and thus not to be encouraged. (Or else the man simply gets bored pouring water over a teabag and abandons it half way through, so as Finn says, offers us half a cup of tea should he find that I have hidden the small cups to mess with his mind).

Him: So I hear you are thinking of cutting your hair a bit and letting it go grey?

Me: Well yes, because I’m fed up of dying it myself and the grey is starting to appear faster than I can keep up with it.

Him: So why can’t you just add some highlights at the front like other women do and go lighter over a gradual period (all but holding himself back from saying LIKE NORMAL WOMEN DO).

Me: Well because I can’t afford to go the hairdressers at the moment. (appealing to his inner, more understanding, stinge).

Him: So, you are giving up being who you have always been because you are obsessing about being peri-menopausal, have decided you are ancient and will not put yourself first? What is it that you teach the women you work with Alison?

Me: You are bald. (off-setting an adult response with a childish insult to distract a man who speaks not a lot, but speaks the truth).

Finn: Yup, Dad. That’s what she writes about. How bald you are.

Him: Frankly I think this is the worse idea you have ever had. By all means cut it a bit shorter, but don’t go grey because you can’t afford to have it exactly the way you want it. That’s ridiculous.

Me: You are ridiculous.

Him: You can’t just give up whenever it strikes you that something isn’t perfect!

Me: You have been wearing those trousers since I bought them for you about ninety-five years ago.

Him: What has that got to do with you deciding to be an old woman?

Me: Just staying Mark. Just saying.

So from these two conversations I have learned a few things: I am very badly behaved when confronted by my own ludicrousities (Yep, I made that word up). That perfectionism is ruling my life to such a degree that I go merrily along the way, making decisions other people find utterly preposterous, because I simply cannot cope with things not being EXACTLY the way I want them to be, and thus would rather abandon them altogether than deal with that which isn’t – to my mind- what it should be. And that I am wholly more agreeable with Ste, than I have ever been with Mark, who has been taking my insults on his metal-plated jaw for longer than either of us care to remember.

This is, as I confessed to Ste this morning, something I have long known about myself. It is actually, at the very core of what I feel is wrong with me. Why I struggle here at Brocantehome because I simply set aside that which doesn’t feel perfect to me: that which displays the disparity between how I imagine something should be and what actually manifests itself from my typewriting fingers. It is also why I am such a dreadful friend: because I convince myself that my company isn’t enough, I must also look fabulous, feel tip-top and offer gifts and if I can’t do that, I would rather stay home and hibernate, than put them through the ordeal of dealing with me.

Awareness though, and public acknowledgement like this though is a good thing. It means I am seeing. And listening. And where once where I would have brushed the opinions of others aside, as they simply didn’t understand, I am now more willing to listen to other people’s (mad) ideas and to consider the merit in them.

She says, as she brushes a grey lock behind her ear, tucks the the High Performance Planner away in the writing bureau where we can all forget it exists and does her best to ignore the work mounting up behind her because she feels so very incapable of offering it her best and wisest self right now.

Ouch. Bloody men and their bloody mouths.


  1. lazy h says:

    Hmm, I recognise myself a bit here… 🙂
    Can I just say that I stopped dyeing my hair (also did it at home myself) two years ago and I feel wonderfully liberated! My hair was very, very grey so I did go to the hairdressers and have grey streaks put in once at the beginning so I wouldn’t get that awful margin as my hair grew out, and honestly I have never looked back and I am completely happy. And if I stop being happy, I can start dyeing it again.
    So do whatever you like.
    (Although twice in the last six months a teenager has offered me her seat on the bus, so there is that.)
    (And maybe you should go back to the high performance planner if you like it, or start a new notebook and pretend the gap never happened…)

  2. Barbara says:

    I too am at the tipping point of letting the “grey shine thru”. Been dyeing it myself for years and am now finding that the “me” of today has things that are more important than a grey free hairdo. My life has shifted. The bonus being that I’ll save loads of time I previously spent on my hair and maybe get lucky like Lazy H get a seat on the bus.
    On the topic of perfectionism….the imperfections are what makes life so much more interesting don’t you think?

  3. Kathryn Jaggard says:

    Damn men, so annoying when they might be right! Lol

  4. Laura_Elsewhere says:

    You do know, Alison, that quite simply you are ace, don’t you?
    Just checking… 🙂
    Go gently on yourself…

  5. Helena says:

    While I can relate to the need to not have a gap in the planner, can see that Ste’s suggestion of just filling it in and carrying on might have some merit. Just don’t dwell on it too much. 🙂 Also, please know that we your readers are not expecting you to be perfect, nor sitting in judgement of you for not being so. Lord knows we all live in glass houses… Hope you continue posting, I’m loving your rediscovered writing style.

  6. Marie says:

    Started going grey in my mid-20’s…. 52 now….long brown hair with an off-center part….so, YES, dealing with a solid grey strip down the center of my head is no shades of fun!! I color my roots at home every 2-2.5 weeks because I am unwilling to get a layered cut or go blonde. I am just not “there” yet in terms of letting it all go grey… maybe in my 70’s. However, if you do decide to stick with coloring, I highly recommend a powder to touch up your roots…rather like filling in your eyebrows. This usually holds me over for 4-5 days until I stop procrastinating and color it.
    p.s. here is the one I use….it comes with a handy brush.

  7. Marie says:

    Wait….I just realized that you are considering going grey AND SHORTER at the same time….WHILE you are unhappy with your weight! This sounds like a recipe for depression. Women who switch up their hair all the time might not understand, but if your long brown hair has been one of your constants, then maybe consider not doing both at the same time. Those grey fox beauties we see online are generally thin, have excellent wardrobes, and spend quality time at the salon to keep their grey coiffs in tip-top shape. The rest of the women just join the ranks of the unnoticed. If that is what you want (because I imagine there is some freedom in that) then proceed hence.
    Of course I could be totally wrong and sweeping change is exactly what is called for. As always, you do you 🙂

  8. Alison says:

    Call me a traitor to my gender, but I’m siding with the fellas. LOL!

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