One of the subconscious messages that I’ve carried through life is that if I’m not perfect, I’m not loveable or likeable. My gut reaction is to blame my mother. Although she’s probably largely responsible, other factors also contribute. Besides, playing the blame game doesn’t change anything anyway.

That said, I do believe that this is one of the top reasons that I continue to be a Miss Unavailable. In fact, instead of this issue fading, I sense that as I get older, the larger it looms over my life. Not only have I discovered that I hold myself to impossible standards, but I hold other people to impossible standards as well. Thus I am frequently disappointed. Really, who do I think I am, some kind of Tracy Lord? (Not to be confused with Tracy Lords, the porn star. I’m talking about the character, Tracy Lord, of The Philadelphia Story.)

My whole childhood was non-stop verbal bombardments from my mother and my aunt and other influential adults that if I didn’t look a certain way or act a certain way or be a certain way that either I wouldn’t have any friends or no boys would ever be interested in me. I was admonished for leaving the house without wearing lipstick, ‘Aren’t you going to put lipstick on? You look sallow!’ ‘Don’t eat that! If you get fat you’ll never find a man?’ ‘You’re just a bitch! How are you ever going to find a man to put up with you?’ ‘If you keep saying things like that you won’t have any friends.’ And on and on and on and on.

Everyone makes mistakes while growing up. Hell, even grown-ups make mistakes. Each time I did anything wrong as a child, my parents would withdraw their affection. They would stop speaking to me and I would be left with icy stares and endless silences for days and days on end. So I associate imperfection with withdrawn affection. Which has led me, in some ways, to be a chronic people pleaser. When I’m not judging and admonishing people for being imperfect, I’m doing my best to try to make them like me.

Well, YEAH! I’m messed up.

So how are all of my neuroses related to anything on Baggage Reclaim?

It took me years to realise it, but when I’m not feeling good physically, when I’m not feeling good emotionally, when I’m not feeling successful, when I’m not feeling beautiful, anytime I’m feeling less than perfect, I withdraw. I withdraw from my friends and I especially withdraw from my family. And inadvertently, I’ve withdrawn from men. Since it’s impossible to be perfect, and subconsciously I’ve always felt that I can’t be loved unless I am perfect, I’ve always chosen unavailable (read: damaged) men. Men with whom it would be impossible in any circumstance to have any kind of healthy and lasting relationship. If they were damaged in the first place, if the relationship with them could never last, if they were wholly unsuitable in the first place, then even if I were rejected by them it wouldn’t matter because it was never meant to work in the first place.

Suddenly this exercise is proving to be more frightening that I had originally anticipated. There are spooky demons lurking in the deep recesses of my mind.

Next week I’ll be back here talking about pride.

New York Moment’s column appears every week on Baggage Reclaim and you can also find her at her blog New York Moments.

FavoriteLoadingAdd to favorites