A ‘Perfect’ionist living in a non-Perfect World - Nancy Zarriello

Home A ‘Perfect’ionist living in a non-Perfect World - Nancy Zarriello
29 Jun 2019 1 nzarriello

This particular blog got moved from pole position #8 to blog post #2, due to the upcoming  election, which makes this topic somewhat relevant. The world is not perfect, we know this, but when you have a child who is an overachiever and strives to be a perfectionist, let’s just say it can be challenging at times. While it’s a very honorable goal, it often goes unnoticed and unappreciated.  Instead of commending her persistent hard work, I had a friend say she wasn’t “normal.”  Insulted at first, but then I guess she was right because the rest of her circle did not operate like her. Which if you’re judging by numbers, would be the norm. So what is normal? Because when one operates within a structure of following the rules and timeliness and expects everyone else to operate that way too, there are often disappointments.

This reminds me of an incident years ago when my daughter was just 4 years old and waiting her turn patiently in line at the pool’s edge amongst her little playgroup, waiting for her turn to jump in the pool (with floaties intact). Another child steps out of the line, purposely runs in front of her and jumps into the pool, just in order to beat her to it. Well, as you can imagine, this did not sit well with my daughter and a total melt down ensued.  But then again you are talking about someone who was following the rules and someone who was not. Don’t we all know adults who don’t follow the rules?  This is almost too easy, in light of these looming elections, we have two presidential candidates who don’t seem to follow any rules (and I’ll just leave it at that).

Another memorable moment (yes, I am being facetious) was the ‘sandwich’ episode.  My daughter is a planner. She plans for everything she does in life.  Maybe it’s her attempt to control some part of her life, in this crazy world. So here’s the sandwich story. She had gotten a sandwich from a local gourmet deli that she only ate half of.  She purposely was saving the other half for the next day’s lunch (remember she’s a planner). She informs my son that evening not to touch the sandwich that she was saving.  Well the next day, my son strolls into the kitchen, is hungry, obviously forgets the “warning” and gobbles up the sandwich.  Well as you can now imagine, this started WW3 in my house.  My daughter just couldn’t fathom that he ate the sandwich and he just couldn’t understand “what the big deal was, it’s just a sandwich!”  Well I could understand her perspective and I could get his too. Was it really worth it to get so upset over a sandwich? There was not enough alcohol or xanax that day to cope with the fallout. Two different people with two totally different perspectives and opinions.

Then there’s her punctuality which actually caused me to get into 2 accidents before ever leaving the driveway. Yes, you heard that right.  In elementary school, which by the way was a 3 minute drive from our house, she would flip out in the morning and rush me into the car in order to ensure that she wouldn’t be late for school. Well, I got so nervous I slammed my foot on the gas pedal while in reverse and plowed right into my other car on the driveway.  So I thought I was smart and solved that problem by parking my other car elsewhere. Well, the second time I slammed my foot on the gas pedal and again plowed right into another car, but this time it belonged to my husband’s colleague. His car wasn’t supposed to be there, but I guess I forgot to clue my husband in on my  new-found solution.  Oh, and just in case you are wondering, my daughter was never late to school her entire scholastic life!

When you’re a ‘Perfect’ionist, society doesn’t always fall in line. However, after a recent trip to Tokyo, I realized a perfectionist would fit in very nicely there.  In the Japanese culture, timeliness and following the rules are the norm and valued.  For example, embarking on a tour in Tokyo, we were told by our tour guide to meet in the lobby at 8:38am, not a minute sooner or later. Talk about punctuality. Then we wanted to check into our hotel and it was 12:57pm and we were told by the front desk to stand aside because check-in did not start until 1:00pm.  We literally stood there for exactly 3 minutes and then they hurriedly flagged us over to check us in.

Following the rules also takes place quite noticeably at the famous Tokyo intersection, Shibuya Crossing.  At any one time up to 3,000 people are lined up ready to cross the street. What is amazing is that not one of them crosses against the light.  After looking both ways and with no car in sight, our feet edged off the sidewalk daring to take that first step, while every else stood like statues waiting patiently for the light to turn green. Unfortunately our hesitation caused us to get  caught up in the mass exodus crossing the intersection, as soon as it did.  Just as quickly, the light turned red and everyone froze again.  Talk about rule followers!

Back to my daughter and her perfectionism, I would not change a thing.  Because of who she is and all her extremes, she has accomplished many things that have made us very proud. She was president of her class,  straight As, graduated with top honors from HS, started a foundation with her friends fundraising for kids with cancer,  raised money for Hurricane Sandy victims, finished college  with exemplary grades and a masters in five years, landed her dream job, never forgets a birthday or special occasion, always creates the most thoughtful gifts for people and yes, you can always count on her being on time! Just don’t ever eat her sandwich!

So we all can agree the world is not perfect, and when we are facing an election where one might say that these two presidential candidates are certainly not perfect, it’s also safe to say that they do not always follow the rules, but the two things we can borrow from this election:  “When they go low, we go high” and in turn if everyone followed this rule, maybe, just maybe, we could make “American Great Again.” (sorry just couldn’t help myself).

So if you’re living with your own ‘Perfect’ionist, you might find the Calm Breathing exercise below, quite helpful in times of stress. Call it the Perfectionism/Election Survival guide:

*courtesy of AnxietyBC

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Category: Children Book



Date: November 3, 2016 at 2:17 am


Wow! Think you just described me. The rule follower! Don’t like when my rule following gets disrupted.