Perfectionism and other skills

My sister is a perfectionist. In life, in jobs, in relationships, in everything she does – it has to be right. I admire her, but I think she exhausts a lot of energy searching and weighing things up.

I’m of a reptilian nature. I’ll lie in the sun if I find it and stay there. I know perfectionism when it refers to a character trait doesn’t mean seeking out flawlessness, but rather aiming for the best. Still, I don’t always have the energy. Sometimes I set high standards for myself: with essay marks, for example, or for tutoring. But what I feel then is hope, not determination. I don’t pray within any conventional doctrine, but I do consign things to the proverbial fates.

I taught my first class since getting my teaching qualification yesterday. It went fine – not great, or anything. I did a good job. There were lots of things I should have done, or shouldn’t have.

I was so proud of myself. It went fine. I did a good job.

I want to be good at things. I work hard to be good at things, if I care about them. But there’s a certain self-contained happiness that comes from the process of improving – knowing you’re doing okay, but seeing the space to be better. I like the direction it gives me.

I want to be brilliant at things. I want to be an excellent teacher, for example. I admire perfectionism, but I don’t really believe in flawlessness – I believe in making things good. I’m not an excellent teacher yet. I think perhaps I could be.

When we started dating, I didn’t think my boyfriend was wonderful, because I didn’t know him. I know he’s wonderful now, and it makes me happier – remembering back to when I thought ‘Perhaps he could be’.

I don’t have a job I love which can support me. I have two jobs, one of which fulfills one of those criteria. I don’t know which jobs will turn up – like essay marks, that’s not up to me. But I do think that when something does, I could make it work. Some things – more and more things, I’m learning – are worth working for.

I think perfectionism, insofar as it’s ‘aiming for the best’, might be a skill. Like teaching, or breathing in a corset, or cutting onions quickly enough not to cry, or learning how to support and supported. I don’t believe I’ll find flawless things if I look hard enough. It isn’t up to me which jobs turn up on the market, which people are in my classes, who my family is. It’s up to me to work out how they could be brilliant.


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