Secret Project

Shhhh — no one in my house knows what I am doing.

Actually, that is true most of the time, and it includes me.

But I have a secret mission for myself for the next 31 days: No Criticism.

Is it possible? Is it desirable?

I figure 31 days of my best effort will tell me. And, even if people truly need a good criticizing now and then, they can live without mine for that long.

Ground rules:
1. This extends only to my immediate family. I can’t be expected to extend this to everyone.

2. Rhetorical questions generally count as criticism. Here’s the test: Does the question make more sense when you end it “dumb ass” or with a sincere “sweetheart”?
Why did you leave your socks on the coffee table? (dumb ass)
Is that the way your piano teacher told you to practice it? (dumb ass)
Aren’t you just the cutest thing? etc.

3. Instructions are OK. Instructions that begin, ” I TOLD you” are not OK . . . dumb ass.

4. Perfection is not required, either from either the subject or objects of the experiment. (Not sure whether I am a subject or object in this case.)

I’ve stacked the deck in my favor a bit, as we’ll be on vacation for part of the next 31 days. Much easier not to criticize under those circumstances.

Both my girls are such terrible perfectionists, and there is no question from whom they inherited it. (That would be both of their parents.) As Violet gets older and approaches adolescence, I see the toll it is taking more clearly — the increased self-consciousness, the frequent apologizing, the “I’m so stupid!” I am learning to hug her and tell her, “Being a kid is hard. I bet you feel like you can never do enough, like no one will ever be satisfied.”

“Uh-huh” she says, between sniffles.

Can I fix that for her? No, no more than I can fix it for Victoria, who is learning at the feet of not 2 but 3 Masters of Perfectionism.

But I can stand with them and let them know that I know it’s hard. Like most perfectionists I know, they’re well trained in finding fault with themselves just fine without any hints from me.

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8 Comments

Filed under Oh Mother, Schoolday Doings

8 responses to “Secret Project

  1. What a great idea! More power to you!

    I’ve got some perfectionists as well here. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if these guys knew that there was one place they could turn that wouldn’t be critical of them? Sort of a safe haven.

    That’s a terrific goal. I wont join you in your 31 days, but I’ll sure be thinking of you when something less than supportive flies out of my mouth.

  2. inneedofchocolate

    This is a wonderful idea. I criticize far too easily, often in a tone that comes across much meaner than I meant it to. I hope your experiment goes well! I may do something similar myself.

  3. Molly

    Brave, ambitious soul! I may secretly join you if you don’t mind. I have a little budding perfectionist myself (to go along with the two full-grown perfectionists who live here). I think the ground rules are helpful. Good luck and enjoy your low-criticism vacation.

  4. Oooh, this is my Lent decision. I will look to you for inspiration…(oooooh, the PRESSURE!).

  5. Lent is just so *l o n g* — I thought of that too.

    I read this idea somewhere in a book a long time ago, well before I thought I could be excessively criticizing my perfect, sweet babies.

    But I am trying not to jinx it by letting anyone in the house know — especially my husband. (Yeah, I’m pretty confident he’s not reading this.)

    We’ve made it through 2 days so far — I can see that my daughter’s clothing choices are going to take a special degree of forbearance. 🙂

  6. Mariposa

    Best wishes. Sunshine should help and vacation. But what you really are writing about is making a new response a habit, and that is quite an undertaking. More power to you.

    We have perfectionism here, but what bugs me is the comparing my daughter learned at school. She does it more now that we have her teenage cousin here doing online public school, and some studies with us as well.

  7. Angela

    Wow! This is an amazing challenge. Will we get daily posts? (that is a sweetheart question, honest!)
    I struggle with this greatly.. but I know everyone around me does much better when I am not playing judge and jury.
    You give me inspiration!

  8. What a great idea! Good luck with this. I bet you are going to learn something really interesting.

    I have done some secret projects like this too. I am inspired to try this one, although I am only going to try it for today.

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