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.
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.