I learned very young that I only got daddy’s approval when I was perfect. At least his version of perfect.
To him, it meant never missing a question on a test and definitely never missing enough to get a B. I got my first less than A grade in college.
To him it meant being built like a supermodel. As I went into middle school and high school, there days I ate nothing except 1 piece of fruit or a few crackers. I was terrified to cross that 100 pound mark, fearing it would mean I was fat. I recall being shocked that a basketball star in my school told me she weighed 120 pounds, and I thought she was gorgeous, but I did not change my eating habits.
To him it meant earning my own money. I began babysitting at age 13. I began working 2 jobs plus babysitting at age 15. My daddy had me forge a birth certificate using a computer scanner so I could work a year early. I’m still afraid someone will figure that out someday and put me in jail for working at the pizza place underage. I bought my own car, from my grandma, and paid my own insurance/gas/repairs. And although the car was the color of banana milkshake, it was really a lemon.
To him it meant keeping our house perfectly clean. I remember turning down offers on a Saturday to go out with friends to stay home and neurotically scrub our house.
To him it meant never expressing anger/sadness/grief/happiness. I was supposed to becalm and cool at all times.
To him it meant never dating, since he felt I belonged to him. He made some rule that I could only date the same boy for 3 months. I think he thought that wasn’t long enough to form a connection. He assumed I had sex with every boy I saw, and called me a whore every time I left for a date.
My Senior year of High School I opted to go to a community college instead. I took a full course load, worked 3 jobs, and volunteered at the hospital. I got straight A’s, weighed 103 pounds, spent my own money on lunch/clothes/car. I had no boyfriend. I was perfect.
Except that I needed a bottle of Tums every week to survive the pain in my stomach. I had an ulcer from stress at age 16. I took myself to the doctor and got on a long regimen of pills that I had to buy myself. Dad said strong people did not need any pills. He already made fun of me for needing an asthma inhaler and would blow smoke at me then get angry when I coughed.
I take care of myself a bit better these days, but I still have trouble with perfectionism, feeling stupid or weak with any tiny setback. I get burned out easily and often as I try to go go go and do do do. And then my worst fears are confirmed – I can not do everything. I fall behind, I forget things, I have a messy house, I misspeak, I misspell, I have pumpkins on my front porch in December. I accept that I am trying to do my best, and I put on a happy face, but deep down I am ashamed of all my imperfections. I know it isn’t rational, but it is still there.