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Quill

Musing about Perfectionism vs. Excellence

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4 minutes ago, OKBud said:

 

What happens when you aren't perfect, or the person you want to be perfect isn't perfect, is probably the distinction between healthy and not. 

Like, what does it MEAN when someone says something along the lines of "I don't accept anything less than perfect outcomes." What do they do? Do they start ruminating on suicide? Do they get irrationally angry? Do they feel bummed, tell a friend about it, and move on? Do they start pulling out a strand of hair for every mistake they think they've made? Do they just go clean the bathroom because they really like it to be exactly the way they want it and it's something within their control? Do they practice for an extra fifteen minutes a day?

I'd assume that one person's healthy response is inevitably going to be someone else's unhealthy response because that's just the way it goes. 

Right. I think your last line is why I start getting confused when someone talks about weight and body image on here. One person will say, “weighing oneself every day is just heading to crazy-town,” while another person thinks, “well, I weigh daily and I don’t feel crazy...” (I weigh daily, BTW, so I wonder about this whenever it comes up here.) 

The social approval thing is obviously a big deal to me. I make a mental collection when I notice that someone got “caught” in a criticism for something they failed to notice or plan for. And then, those thoughts enter my mind when I am preparing for something similar because I don’t want the same fault to be perceived for my thing.

One time, I was at a Christmas party at a friend’s magnificent, beautiful, immaculate house. We were sitting at the gorgeous built-in bar and another guest near me noticed there was a spider web on the top of the light fixture. So in my mind, I go, “SEEEEE?! People do notice the one tiny flaw! So everyone who tells me as I obsessively prepare for a party ‘nobody is scrutinizing your light fixtures for cobwebs’ is wrong!” Now, whenever I plan for a party, it enters my thoughts, “Light fixtures above reproach? Check...” 

Sometimes, I can decide I don’t care if someone finds a cobweb, but this is a relatively recent development - within the past 5-8 years, say. In my early twenties, I would actually not have a party because my mental collection of all the things I had to do correctly was too long and I would avoid instead. 

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10 minutes ago, Quill said:

One time, I was at a Christmas party at a friend’s magnificent, beautiful, immaculate house. We were sitting at the gorgeous built-in bar and another guest near me noticed there was a spider web on the top of the light fixture. So in my mind, I go, “SEEEEE?! People do notice the one tiny flaw! So everyone who tells me as I obsessively prepare for a party ‘nobody is scrutinizing your light fixtures for cobwebs’ is wrong!” Now, whenever I plan for a party, it enters my thoughts, “Light fixtures above reproach? Check...” 

 

Noticing isn't necessarily reproaching, though 😉 In fact, almost never is reproach because you can't help BUT notice.

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5 minutes ago, Quill said:

Right. I think your last line is why I start getting confused when someone talks about weight and body image on here. One person will say, “weighing oneself every day is just heading to crazy-town,” while another person thinks, “well, I weigh daily and I don’t feel crazy...” (I weigh daily, BTW, so I wonder about this whenever it comes up here.) 

The social approval thing is obviously a big deal to me. I make a mental collection when I notice that someone got “caught” in a criticism for something they failed to notice or plan for. And then, those thoughts enter my mind when I am preparing for something similar because I don’t want the same fault to be perceived for my thing.

One time, I was at a Christmas party at a friend’s magnificent, beautiful, immaculate house. We were sitting at the gorgeous built-in bar and another guest near me noticed there was a spider web on the top of the light fixture. So in my mind, I go, “SEEEEE?! People do notice the one tiny flaw! So everyone who tells me as I obsessively prepare for a party ‘nobody is scrutinizing your light fixtures for cobwebs’ is wrong!” Now, whenever I plan for a party, it enters my thoughts, “Light fixtures above reproach? Check...” 

Sometimes, I can decide I don’t care if someone finds a cobweb, but this is a relatively recent development - within the past 5-8 years, say. In my early twenties, I would actually not have a party because my mental collection of all the things I had to do correctly was too long and I would avoid instead. 

 

When I visit less than immaculate or even fairly messy (though not unsanitary) homes I feel tremendous deep gratitude to not have yet another Jones I can’t keep up with and another reason to berate myself for imperfection. I would probably notice a cobweb or spiderweb and I would probably be feeling grateful for a spiderweb ... or several cobwebs.  

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1 hour ago, Pen said:

 

When I visit less than immaculate or even fairly messy (though not unsanitary) homes I feel tremendous deep gratitude to not have yet another Jones I can’t keep up with and another reason to berate myself for imperfection. I would probably notice a cobweb or spiderweb and I would probably be feeling grateful for a spiderweb ... or several cobwebs.  

I know this is true for many, but it also easily becomes marching orders in my head. If I knew this about you, and you were coming to my house, I would leave some ordinary messes so you would feel more comfortable. But if I’m hosting lots of people, I do feel I must bring my high-A game to that task, because of that spider-web spotter or some other person in my mental collection. 

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2 hours ago, Quill said:

Sometimes, I can decide I don’t care if someone finds a cobweb, but this is a relatively recent development - within the past 5-8 years, say. In my early twenties, I would actually not have a party because my mental collection of all the things I had to do correctly was too long and I would avoid instead. 

 

My MIL would notice and help the host clean because she is from a patriarchal family where wives are supposed to keep a showroom worthy house. Knowing that emotional baggage, I am not affected by any comments about mess in my home.

My mom was an NICU nurse for decades. She would notice but she would just pretend not to see. It’s just an occupational hazard for her to notice specks of dust and everything else.

My husband was a people pleaser but not a perfectionist. When he realized that people just makes use of him being a people pleaser for their own gains, he learn to start putting his foot down. His first work place also has people taking advantage of perfectionist to do all the work and then take all the credit. He wise up.

Where I am on the perfectionism spectrum depends on what “activity” it is. There are things that I can totally slack and there are things I am extreme about but can put up a casual veneer/facade to it.

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A few disjointed thoughts:

This is interesting.  It sounds like the author has set up a false dichotomy here- there are many things between "Oh well I tried" and "I'm going to jump from the bell tower because my tarts turned out ugly".  

In my mind, perfectionism has a little hint of OCD in it.  

I saw the movie The Last Samurai (Tom Cruise) in the theater when I was in college.  After leaving, I was discussing it with the person I'd been to see it with.  I said something to the effect that I wished I lived in a time and a place like the Japanese village, where every undertaking is done with an attempt at beauty and perfection.  And he said, rather bluntly, "There's nothing stopping you from doing that here, and now."  At the time, I felt that was very profound, and it has stayed with me all this time.  

When I do something, I do it *darned well*- and because I happen to be a pretty competent person, it tends to work out great.  But I have served many an ugly dessert (still tastes good!) with absolutely no embarrassment because I don't mind appearing imperfect (because I am!).  

I can't say I've mastered the Japanese village thing.  I wash dishes and floors with the absolute minimum amount of brain power.  But the things I care about, I do to the maximum of my ability- which is not perfection.  All I strive for is my personal best, and that seems healthy enough.  The hardest task is just getting it into the "I care about this" task list.  Once it's there, it's all good.  

 

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3 hours ago, OKBud said:

 

What happens when you aren't perfect, or the person you want to be perfect isn't perfect, is probably the distinction between healthy and not. 

Like, what does it MEAN when someone says something along the lines of "I don't accept anything less than perfect outcomes." What do they do? Do they start ruminating on suicide? Do they get irrationally angry? Do they feel bummed, tell a friend about it, and move on? Do they start pulling out a strand of hair for every mistake they think they've made? Do they just go clean the bathroom because they really like it to be exactly the way they want it and it's something within their control? Do they practice for an extra fifteen minutes a day?

I'd assume that one person's healthy response is inevitably going to be someone else's unhealthy response because that's just the way it goes. 

 

If they are me, when I am not perfect, I have tended to quit.

Like, I failed my first driving test 27 years ago, and I was so mortified by failure that I never took another driving lesson, let alone test, again.

A healthy response would be a day's disappointment, rebooking a couple of lessons, rebooking the test, and trying again.

Ironically, of course, when you quit everything in fear of failure, you really do fail.

 

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16 minutes ago, StellaM said:

 

If they are me, when I am not perfect, I have tended to quit.

Like, I failed my first driving test 27 years ago, and I was so mortified by failure that I never took another driving lesson, let alone test, again.

A healthy response would be a day's disappointment, rebooking a couple of lessons, rebooking the test, and trying again.

Ironically, of course, when you quit everything in fear of failure, you really do fail.

 

 

My son is doing this now.  Just with the written exam to get a permit to take lessons.  

Any suggestions?

 

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Just now, Pen said:

 

My son is doing this now.  Just with the written exam to get a permit to take lessons.  

Any suggestions?

 

 

I think with life skills like driving, what would really have helped me was some gentle pushing. Some 'back on the bike, hon, c'mon' type cheerleading. Careful challenging of the avoidant behaviour. 

What didn't help was hearing about how common it was to take a test more than once - a feature of my perfectionism was that I quite understood other people were allowed multiple attempts without it being a failure; I just didn't believe I was. 

 

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I think she's not talking about perfectionism per se as much as a certain kind of abusive self-talk that comes when there is a lack of perspective.

One example: we have a new baby, and as always we're going through the new baby adjustment period (especially during food season) DH is doing many of the tasks I normally do - like running my errands on the way home from work.  When he forgets something or doesn't do something to his typical standard he makes abusive self-talk out loud. It doesn't motivate him, it makes him shut down. He would NEVER speak to me or the kids the way he speaks to himself if we were the ones to forget something or overlook it - whether due to sleep deprivation or simple mistake. Now if calling himself fat helped him make more responsible food choices I might not ask him to NOT speak to himself that way.  But it's not motivating.  If anything it makes him want to go spend $15 on junk at Taco Bell.

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