This week, the smell of school – that disinfectant floor smell mingled in with sweaty cloakrooms and school dinners took me right back to being young again.
Some old fears came to the surface, just by being back at school this week and working with the kids at Coaching Club. Right there, I had a little moment with myself as I remembered.
The little girl who wanted to be perfect
As a little girl, I developed the knack of finding things that weren’t quite right and making it my mission to adjust them to perfection. When I made my dollies tea, every teacup had to have a saucer and when I was colouring in, I had to start from scratch if I went over the edges.
Being in a classroom where erasers were banned was my worst nightmare!
You could say it was borderline OCD but actually, we call it something very different in our house: RMS or ‘Rattly Mudguard Syndrome.’
Rattly Mudguard Syndrome
RMS (Rattly Mudguard Syndrome) was discovered at an early age and came from an ongoing saga with the back mudguard on my bike. My idyllic cycle through local woodland to school was muddied by its constant rattle. It was a daily joke with my Dad who on my return home from school would repeatedly shake his head and laugh. ‘Nope, it’s not right. It’s rattling again!’ I would tell him and every day, he would shake his head, laugh and tighten the screw to fix it. Despite my careful mastering of the smoothest path to reach school; avoiding potholes in the road and anything that caused the rattle to kick in, the rattle never went away. My obsession with the rattle did not fix it but frustrate me further.
Perfectionism – it works for me
I’m laughing out loud right now as I share my silly story with you, but to this day when things aren’t quite right in my life (and I still work hard to make them so), my Dad refers to my ‘RMS – or Rattly Mudguard Syndrome’. As a child I always believed that this peculiar little characteristic was my fatal flaw but it has also been a massive contributor to my success as an adult. I have the tenacity of a bulldog. I don’t give up easily. Although it is a relief that as an adult I’m learning when it’s time to quit! I have high standards and I want the best out of life. Although, at 37, I set myself achievable and more realistic goals that don’t obstruct my path to happiness and fulfilment.
I thank RMS for helping me embark on a Life Coaching career. Wanting to help others create the life they want and to be the very best they can be. My very real and practical experience of solving problems and helping others is so apparent. The desire to have this for myself is a burning one, so imagine, how that is converted into energy, passion and motivation for my clients. I’m completely ecstatic when I see them overcome their challenges and achieve their goals.
Almost perfect = failure
Of course, nothing in life is ever perfect. The mudguard was never truly fixed but it became my focus. Worrying stops us from getting things done and also from enjoying life. Perfectionists tend to set high goals and work hard toward them. However, a high achiever can be satisfied with doing a great job and achieving excellence (or something close), even if their very high goals aren’t completely met.
Perfectionists will accept nothing less than, well, perfection. ‘Almost perfect’ is seen as failure. Nowadays I don’t believe in failure. There is only feedback. Learning from what is missing or imperfect or what we don’t want helps us to see what we do want and can be used wisely to initiate change.
RMS, is it cured?
To be honest, my life can still be exhausting in a quest for perfection. However, I now have an awareness of it. I simply catch myself in the moment, smile and gently adjust my thinking from ‘all or nothing’ to being kinder to myself and allowing myself to learn. It didn’t happen over night but it’s better. So my RMS is not completely cured. I’m Not P.E.F.E.C.T! Who me?! But I can almost, nearly, sometimes not perfectly live with that!!