Part of the military mindset is that "we can do anything" - you can survive weeks or months without dad, you can pick up and move every three years, you can make new friends, etc...
Combine that with an attitude toward my cancer in which complaining, or being sad, or resisting any tests or procedures was met with "Yes, honey, I know, but this is how it is." Afterwards, anyone who ever said to us, "I don't how you managed it", received the reply, "You do what you have to."
My whole life, I have never had permission to fail. At anything. I had a 4.0 GPA in high school, and a 3.6 GPA in college. I hated myself for that college GPA. Still do, really.
I was raised with the idea that if anything in life is remotely worth achieving, one should buck up and summon all one's willpower, moral courage, and physical effort to accomplish it.
I cannot count the number of times I have heard, "You're so good at everything you do, I know if you just put your mind to it (being more organized, losing weight, keeping the house cleaner, studying, etc...), you would do wonderful at that, too."
I will never wear my mother's wedding dress. I could weigh 80 pounds and still be fat. I will probably not score in the 95th percentile when I take the GRE this fall. I chew my fingernails. I keep too much "stuff." I reward myself with food. I have not read nearly as many books as I planned during my internship. I am not a "lady." I walk like a freak. I hardly ever wear skirts. I say "yeah" instead of "yes". I sleep late.
These are among the many moral failures in my life.
I put so much pressure on myself to be 100% perfect, tops, the best, most amazing person ever at everything I even contemplate attempting. If I say, "I'm not very good at __________" I immediately follow it up with, "but I suppose I could be if I tried." This applies to everything from losing 20 pounds to running a marathon to becoming a desert hermit ala Anthony of the Desert.
I would love the freedom to fail, except that if I had that, I wouldn't even know what to do with it. I don't really like rural ministry. But I could do it, and be good at it, and rural people need pastors, so maybe I should just suck it up and plow forward and do it, because I can.
I can live a lonely life without friends or family to love, or talk to, or engage with intellectually, because, you know, God is all I need.
I should get a PhD because I would be good at it, and we all know my intellectualism is about all I have going for me, so there's no stopping until I get to the top.
I don't know how to not be a perfectionist, but I need to. I'm going to give myself a heart attack by the time I'm 40.