Irrational Inherited Beliefs

I start­ed think­ing about shoulds after doing some read­ing about Ratio­nal Emo­tive Ther­a­py and irra­tional beliefs. This first one is the irra­tional belief that is most dif­fi­cult for me to shake.

Okay, I gave up on express­ing them as shoulds and sim­ply wrote down the rules that I inter­nal­ized while grow­ing up. These aren’t MY guide­lines, but the tox­ic ones I’ve attempt­ed to shake.

Any­thing worth doing is worth doing well.
A per­fect­ly rea­son­able guide­line, right? Until it turns into “Any­thing that is worth doing, I must do well”—perfectionism. I won’t do it unless I can do it well. Right. Cor­rect­ly. Com­pe­tent­ly. Per­fect­ly. I am a fail­ure if I don’t do every­thing that is worth doing perfectly.

Where’s the bal­ance? I’ve heard some­thing like, “Any­thing that’s worth doing is worth doing well or poor­ly.” I have a vis­cer­al neg­a­tive reac­tion to that state­ment, but I know, ratio­nal­ly, that it is true in many ways. A kitchen cleaned poor­ly is still bet­ter than one that has­n’t been cleaned at all. A child com­fort­ed some­what is bet­ter off than one who is still terrified.

Decent Peo­ple hold down at least one full-time job and often have oth­er income-pro­duc­ing enter­pris­es on the side, are involved in their com­mu­ni­ties and extend­ed fam­i­lies as well as being par­ents and hav­ing good mar­riages. If nec­es­sary, they also go to school full time and make good grades along­side the rest. Decent peo­ple do not live in apart­ments or rent houses—they own their prop­er­ty, which they improve steadily.
That’s the stan­dard I’ve inher­it­ed, any­way. I feel like a fail­ure because I can’t keep up with it. It makes absolute­ly no allowance for chron­ic ill­ness, and if you don’t fit the “decent peo­ple” stan­dard you’re prob­a­bly sick because you’re bad. Now that I look at it, there’s no allowance for rest­ing, hav­ing fun, or being creative.

A Good Moth­er stays home with her chil­dren. She is mar­ried to her chil­dren’s father, who is a good provider.
Note how this is incom­pat­i­ble with the “decent peo­ple” rule? Yep. Women aren’t quite “peo­ple,” you see. Good moth­ers do not get divorced, and they are not mar­ried to men who can­not sup­port a tra­di­tion­al fam­i­ly. They just aren’t. Divorce means that you can­not be a Good Moth­er. It’s mar­gin­al­ly accept­able in some cir­cum­stances for Good Moth­ers to be wid­ows. Some­times. If their hus­bands died in accept­able ways and pro­vid­ed well enough for their sur­vivors so that she does­n’t have to go to work.

Good Women are always respon­si­ble for the appear­ance and behav­ior of their hus­bands and chil­dren. They antic­i­pate and pro­vide for all prac­ti­cal needs their hus­band or chil­dren might have.
It does­n’t mat­ter if their hus­band is in a hunt­ing blind many miles away from her and has been gone for a week—if he’s hun­gry, she should have packed more food for him. If his shirt is miss­ing a button-even if he lost it today—she’s not tak­ing good care of him. If her chil­dren are dirty because they were play­ing in the mud at school, she feels shame because she should have raised them to know better.

Good Women cook every­thing from scratch. They nev­er buy any veg­etable that could be grown local­ly because they gar­den exten­sive­ly and can/freeze/preserve the pro­duce. They sew for their fam­i­lies and homes.
They are, in short, per­fect homemakers.

Good Women nev­er for­get to rec­og­nize birth­days, anniver­saries, and oth­er impor­tant occa­sions for any mem­ber of their or their hus­band’s extend­ed fam­i­lies (as well as neigh­bors, chil­dren’s teach­ers, school staffers, church mem­bers, sports team mem­bers, etc.). They make all gifts for such occa­sions themselves.
They are also incred­i­ble social direc­tors and craft factories.
I actu­al­ly man­aged to keep this one up fair­ly well dur­ing my first mar­riage.

Good Women have homes that are always spotless.
Even if she has been in the hos­pi­tal for a week if the house isn’t per­fect she’s to blame.

Good Wives do not “let them­selves go” (get fat, fail to style their hair and put on make­up every sin­gle day, allow any gray to show in their hair, etc.)
A woman who “lets her­self go” dri­ves her hus­band to infi­deli­ty, is a bad exam­ple to her chil­dren and prob­a­bly does­n’t keep house well either. There is no “let­ting him­self go” con­cept. Men are not expect­ed to adhere to any guide­lines regard­ing their appear­ance out­side of church atten­dance and for­mal occa­sions such as wed­dings (for which they are dressed by their wives).
Again, I kept this stan­dard fine dur­ing my first mar­riage. It did­n’t actu­al­ly help, as my hus­band decid­ed that I “just (was­n’t) pret­ty any­more” anyway.

Good Men keep their homes and vehi­cles in good repair and appear­ance and main­tain envi­able lawns.
Using any kind of repair per­son for any part of a home or any­thing with­in it los­es Man Points. Ren­o­va­tions and expan­sions can­not be con­tract­ed out. The advent of com­put­ers in vehi­cles has, how­ev­er, made it accept­able for Good Men to use mechan­ics for repairs. They may use body shops only because they prob­a­bly don’t have access to body shop equip­ment them­selves. They must have enough under­stand­ing of auto­mo­biles to judge which mechanics/body shops are good and which are not, and main­tain some sort of per­son­al rela­tion­ship with said mechanic/body shop pur­vey­or. Good Men do not, how­ev­er, allow any­one else to change their oil. That must be done per­son­al­ly. If a man fails to be a Good Man, it is prob­a­bly for lack of a Good Wife. If, in fact, a man isn’t main­tain­ing the house, the lawn, and the vehi­cles, a tru­ly Good Wife will do so her­self with­out let­ting any­one else (includ­ing her chil­dren) know that her hus­band is not doing those things.
I can’t tell you how long it took me to get rid of the notion that testosterone=mechanical/handyman skills.

Chil­dren from Good Fam­i­lies do not have prob­lems. They make good grades and excel in sports and extracur­ric­u­lar activities.
They don’t make or get into trou­ble any­where. They don’t need or see men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als. Their par­ents nev­er receive phone calls from their schools. They do not have notes sent home from church or school about mis­be­hav­ior. They cer­tain­ly don’t threat­en sui­cide, exper­i­ment with drugs, alco­hol, or sex, or evi­dence any dis­sat­is­fac­tion with their par­ents’ val­ues. Of course, if any of that occurs, the child obvi­ous­ly isn’t from a Good Fam­i­ly, and that’s prob­a­bly due to the lack of a Good Moth­er. In fact, their moth­ers prob­a­bly aren’t Good Wives/Good Women.

Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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