Doing Everything Wrong

Do you ever have days where you feel like you’re doing everything wrong? That despite your best intentions, you’re just a massive screw-up? I’ve been feeling that way lately. Feeling like I pretty much despise myself. Feeling like I do everything wrong, say everything wrong, that I’m just wrong, wrong, WRONG in every way, shape, and form.

I like to say that I don’t care what people think of me. But it’s a lie. A complete and utter lie. I want to be liked, to be loved, to be understood. The thought of someone thinking poorly of me destroys me. So I have this overwhelming urge to be perfect. Be such a great and wonderful person that no one ever thinks badly of me. That they’re never angry with me, never disappointed, never hurt, never frustrated. Guess how that’s been working out?

I know I shouldn’t be upset that I’m flawed. We all are. But I am upset. I hate that I’m selfish sometimes, that I can be lazy, unreliable, incompetent, jealous, or mean. I hate that despite my best intentions I may inadvertently hurt or annoy someone else. That I may put my foot in my mouth, let someone down, or make a huge mistake. I hate that I care so damn much. That I can’t live up to the person I want to be.

I’m so worried all the time that everyone I love in my life will leave me. That they’ll get frustrated or annoyed with my imperfections. That they’ll whisper to other people about what a screw-up I am. That they’ll just decide I am not worth it. It’s happened before; it might happen again.

I grew up insecure and needy. I thought I’d moved past that. That I liked myself for who I was. But I’ve realized it’s not completely true. I spend a better part of every day worrying about every little thing I do and say. Did that come out wrong? Is so-and-so mad at me? What did I do wrong? Are they acting distant? Do they think I’m a jerk, a liar, a fake? Did I sound judge-y or stupid? Do they think I’m rude or a bad person?

I second guess every action, every word, every thought. How could I have done that better? Why am I so stupid? Why am I such a failure? Why didn’t I do that better? Why can’t I do what I should be doing? Should, should, should. My life is full of WHYS and SHOULDS. Full of WRONG. Full of FAILURE.

And I hate myself for it.

Here’s the paradox: I accept imperfections in others. I forgive pretty easily and readily. Because no one’s perfect, right? But I cannot accept my own imperfections. I feel like I have to prove myself to everyone I meet.

When I was 19 or so I wrote “Tracie’s Theme.”1 It goes like this:

Too much pressure caving in
Too much stress on my mind
I must confess I’m a mess inside

Why do I feel/ the need to prove?
I feel like I’m constantly proving myself.

Chorus:
How long till I fall?
How long till I break?
How long till I break/And make the biggest mistake of all?

My greatest foe/is me I know.
I can’t seem to be who you want me to be.

I will never be/Good enough for you
Still I keep on trying every single day

(Chorus)

Bridge:
I’ll keep, keep on trying
I’ll keep, keep on fighting
I’ll keep, keep on trying
I’ll keep, keep on fighting
Until I’m good enough for you
Until I’m good enough for you

(Chorus)

Look at me, using poetry (songs are a type of poetry) again to explain my feelings. I'm like sensitive or something.

Anyway, I really struggle with this. Feeling like I'm good enough. Feeling like I deserve friendship, love, and other good things despite the fact that I'm completely imperfect. Feeling inadequate as a friend, mother, editor, wife, doula, etc. I doubt I'm the only person who feels this way. My question is how do you overcome this? How do you stop feeling like you have to prove yourself to others? How do you stop second guessing yourself? Stop stressing that everyone is analyzing every move you make and giving you a score of zero? How can I just let things...be?

1 My friends who know about song writing, music, music theory, and all that, please don't judge my song too harshly. I know it's not perfect and that I probably don't use meter, musical terms, etc. accurately. This was also the second song I ever wrote. The first one being laughably bad. :)

Comments

I don't have an easy answer for you. I do think it's an admirable trait to be conscientious of how your words and actions may affect others, but that can be taken to an unhealthy extreme, which is what it sounds like in your case.

I just look at it differently. I don't try to evaluate myself as a "good person" or a "bad person" because to me, those are meaningless designations. There are no good or bad people, we're all just confused and trying to do the best we can (or so I like to think). Doing a good thing for someone doesn't automatically make you good, just like making a mistake doesn't mean you're bad. It just means you're human. It's in our nature to help out and be nice just like it's in our nature to sometimes hurt each other.

So long answer to your question, basically you can't, and you just have to accept that. Or struggle with it and hope that the answer lies in some piece of wisdom you'll receive one day. You have to relinquish control and just let life happen to you sometimes, or you'll go crazy. Just say to yourself, "OK, maybe I do suck. Gotta keep trying anyway though, right?"
You're human, which means you're entitled to a few mistakes every now and then. If you don't like the way you are, then change the way you are. It's not going to do you any good dwelling on any regrets you might have. You have to learn to let go of things. I know I'm just spouting cliches here, but it's OK because I mean them. Your anxiety stems from your attempts at controlling the situation. If someone chooses to take something you've said the wrong way, it's their prerogative. You can't control everyone's reactions. You can only accept that they sometimes don't react the way you want them to.

I think it's an admirable trait to be conscientious of how your behavior affects others, but it can be taken to an unhealthy extreme. Rather than focusing on being a perfectionist, you should be focused on loving who you are -- including the flaws and everything. So what if you let somebody down. If something like that is so important to you, you need to question exactly what makes it so important. Is it because you care about the person so much that you only want to make them happy, or is it because you can't live with the thought that another person might still value and care about you not in spite of but because of your flaws? If it's the former, you CAN'T care about someone without hurting them every now and then, so you might as well learn to live with it. If it's the latter, stop and realize how lucky you are before it's too late.

I left a really long comment here earlier but it disappeared. This one is a bit more of a ramble. Sorry about that.
Aside from the fact that you are ten times the writer I am, I feel like I could have written this myself. I have had those feelings often, and they can be all-consuming. A few things that have helped me (not that I am at all an expert)might be applicable to you as well.

First, I have to remember that my self pity does nothing for my family. Most of my guilt comes from feeling like I don't serve them well enough and therefore don't deserve them. However, when I remind myself that those feelings do nothing to bless my family, it can help me force away the gloom (until night time at least). Try to keep in mind that when Mama aint happy, aint nobody happy.

Secondly- pray. Pray like crazy. Tell Him everything you are thinking and feeling. Take out your sorrow on Him before you take it out on your spouse. I still need to vent to Ross often, but using god as a conduit to reduce my misery helps a lot.

Thirdly, listen to President Uchtdorf's talk from the women's session of Conference last Saturday. I have listened to it every day and I made Ross watch it with me. It was so poignant and spoke straight to my soul. Quite possibly my favorite talk of all time (for now at least). Not only was the council and message wonderful, but it helped for me to realize that clearly I am not the only one who needed it. I am not alone in these feelings.

This is so long- sorry. I hope this helps.
Anonymous said…
Read more Pema Chodron. That's helped me. But I still have to keep working on it; I am sure it will always take a certain amount of work.
Anonymous said…
Um, that was me, KristenSaysNo
HayLee said…
You need to read or listen(I say listen) to Elder Uchtdorfs talk on forget me nots that he spoke at the General Relief Society broadcast a few weeks ago. Best talk I have ever heard. So inspired and directed to women who feel those feelings you also feel. I still pray for you to relize your worth, the way God sees you. You are his daughter, and he loves you. Go back to him Tracie. That is the way to happiness.
HI Tracie-

First of all- everyone has days of feeling like this, even your big ole sister.

I just wanted to say that this is the adversary trying to beat you down. He has the power to bruise your heel, but you have the power to crush his head.

It's very important that you realize this, then lift up your foot as high as you can, and bring that foot slamming down as hard as you can.

Then you go about doing the best you can with the tools given to you over your lifetime: the gospel guidelines, the fact that your family DOES love you no matter what, your relationship with your family you've recently created in marriage and having children, your temple blessings, and your relationship with Savior.

Love you. Keep trying and it will get better as long as we don't give up.
Wendy McMillan said…
You have to learn to live without the approval of others. Remember your previous post about Morgan? You are his mom and no one can tell you how to be a better mom to Morgan. Just like no one can tell you how to be a better wife to Austin. Even if people were judging you as harshly as you judge yourself, which they most surely are not, they do not have an x-ray machine for your brain and heart to make a fair assessment anyway.

Hopefully this is just a temporary mood. I don't know if things have been building up and you just needed to explode or what but the Tracie I know is all like "this is me, take it or leave it" and if you try to fit in with everyone, you would probably lose important unique parts of yourself and your life would turn to beige. How boring is that?

Anyway, one thing I have tried lately to is to stay off of Facebook. It's not that I don't care about people, but I find I am prone to weird thoughts and assumptions about what people think when I spend too much time "keeping up" with every little thing people do. Make time to do things that make you feel good and stay in touch with the people you really care about in non-electronic ways to avoid miscommunications. Your time and energy are valuable and limited so spend it on the people who matter most to you, with yourself always at the top. If you don't take care of yourself first, the stress and exhaustion will overpower your rational thought process and make you feel unloved which you hopefully know to be completely bogus.
BrItTneEanN said…
Hey Tracie, I think I'm back. But anyways I read this and thought that I feel that way sometimes too. Especially during the Baby Blues.

I think the only thing I do that may or may not help is to pray hard to love yourself. There is a scripture somewhere that states that its possible to make weak things become strong if you pray:)

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