February 4, 2013 By Haseena Fathima

Compelled to be Perfect


She sat in front of me; the dejection in her eyes mixed with something else – confusion, bewilderment. She still didn’t know where she went wrong, how she went wrong. She tried to do everything right, the way he wanted it. She tried hard, a bit too hard perhaps.
She had been married for two years. It was when her husband’s assaults failed to induce a response from her that he realized there was something wrong with her. Ironic. No matter what he did to her, how he treated her, she always strived for his approval, accepting everything he gave with submission.


As for religion, her father took extreme stand; he was a rigid authoritarian who dictated to his daughters how they should behave, dress, eat and even the subjects they should choose in school. Fun was a taboo word. He was a feared figure. She strived from her early days for his approval. She tried to be perfect in order to gain his acceptance. Her subconscious mind was molded into believing that she will be accepted by others only if she did everything she was told, the way she was told. But in actuality, it was her fear of her father that drove her to abide by his orders.

She was forced to take up a stream she disliked wishes by him when she reached plus two. She hated it, but didn’t say a word. She accepted it thinking it was the right choice for her. Unable to digest something she didn’t like, her pressure increased and she was hospitalized. The doctor prescribed tablets to deal with the pressure and anxiety, and she continued taking these for the next two years. She was sent for entrance coaching from where she came back unable to tolerate the subject and the pressure.

With the help of a relative, she joined a college. But even there, she was compelled to do well, to attain perfection. The internal dialogue within her was that if I did not do well, I would be rejected by those around me. But the external manifestation was that if I did not do things perfectly, I won’t succeed in anything. Hence, she was obsessed with perfection.  Slowly, this led to obsessive compulsive disorder in her. When she joined for masters, she found a teacher who accepted her and this helped her to relax a little. Due to this she didn’t realize that there was anything wrong with her. Her marriage took place during this time. Her husband exploited her sexually by forcing himself on her even when she wasn’t willing or ready. But she suppressed all her objections in fear of his rejection. Her compliance and silence puzzled him. He couldn’t find what was wrong with her though. Gradually, they separated and was legally divorced within two years.

Her treatment is being done at two levels. The first step is to make her believe that making mistakes is human. To reassure her that she won’t be rejected even she’s not perfect. Then there are prescriptions to help her relax and deal with her compulsion.

More often than not, emotional blackmailing children experience during their childhood tends to have serious afflictions in later years. It was her desperation for her father’s approval that manifested as an obsession for perfection and later into a compulsive disorder.

Posted in: Counselling