Saturday, April 7, 2012

Being perfect is not the goal, being perfectly happy is better.

Becoming part of a partnership such as marriage and making it work, takes constant attention and takes listening to your partner even when he isn’t speaking. I learned to read my husband, Barry’s, face and his body language. I recognized his silence to mean he was not pleased with my suggestions or my plans for us. Over time, I learned to not to bring up house work unless I wanted to spend the evening with a quiet and moody person.  Living with someone, seeing him every day and night, takes a concentrated effort to get along. He learned my body language also. "Take your hands off your hips," he would say when we were in a heated discussion. In fact, we could read each other like books after ten years.

In the first decade of my marriage I learned that everything did not have to go my way, but often was his way or our way. Early marriage is the best practice for making relationships work. In those first years, I learned patience. If I thought the yard needed mowing on Friday afternoon, it did no good to nag Barry to get out the lawn mower. He did it in his time and when he was ready, not when I insisted it should be done. I admit, I fretted and fumed at times, but it was good for me.

He endured my perfectionism, but he didn’t like it. I wish I had realized then what I know now. Being perfect or doing everything perfectly is not the goal, being perfectly happy is a better goal.

I also had to learn that perfection does not guarantee success. In my family, growing up, when anything failed, someone was blamed. Nothing ever just happened. It was always someone at fault. As a child I dreaded doing something wrong and having it brought to the attention of my father. He didn't accept excuses. He didn't even listen to excuses.

My Boss Taught Me How to Accept My Mistakes

After my career as a teacher, I held a part time job as a secretery for a while. The computer had replaced typewriters everywhere. I had no idea when I took the job that I'd be filling out forms, in triplicate, day after day on an electric typewriter. To make matters worse, my desk sat directly in front of my boss's  desk. She saw me pull out the forms and use the white-out over and over. Being a perfectionist, I hated making errors, but the stress of her watching me, knowing I was not a good typist, devastated me.

She amazed me when she never seemed upset with me or chastised me for a mistake. She was not nearly as hard on me as I was on myself. My boss, although exceedingly smart and holding a job as manager over around ten men, was not perfect herself and knew that I was not. She didn't feel guilty when she made mistakes, and she didn't expect me to beat myself up when something had to be done over.

I see that need of perfectionisn in others whom I love, and wish there was some way I could make them understand that no one cares as much as we think. We don't have to be the best sister or the best brother. We don't have to keep the cleanest house every single day. If someone comes in and the dishes are in the sink, don't worry about it. No where will we see a tombstone enscribed "She kept the cleanest house in the county."
It took me a long, long time to learn and accept that I will never be perfect and now, I don’t even want to be perfect. I’m sure Barry is looking down from that great golf course in the sky, and he is smiling. Because I wanted and needed perfection, I expected Barry to do things perfectly as well. Some of our worst arguments came from my pushing him to do something for an upcoming party at our house. When he followed my wishes, I criticized the way he did it. Why would he live with me for forty- five years? I guess because he loved me as I loved him.

Some of us mellow with age. While I am told I still have some irritating faults (only family can get away with saying such) I try to be more accepting of myself. Now, I can make do with my best, and it is far from perfect.

Do you expect too much of yourself sometimes? Do you put pressure on others to do what you want or expect them to always do it your way? Do you have any advice for those who are perfectionists?


Abbie Taylor said...

My mother was a perfectionist, may she rest in peace. Like you, she nagged my father to mow the lawn or fix something around the house, and like your husband, Dad did things in his own time. When my younger brother and I were growing up, she often yelled at us for making a mess or letting the dog get up on the couch. Unfortunately, she died before she could realize that there's no such thing as perfection, and I'm trying not to be like her.

Tipper said...

Glenda-great post! This one hit home with me cause I'm a perfectionist too : ) I find myself needing help-but not asking for it because I'm afraid they won't do it like I would : )

Like you-getting older has helped me let go of the little things in favor of seeing the more important things!

Paula said...

Thanks, I needed that!

Glenda C. Beall said...

Tipper, please learn this while you are young. Nobody's perfect nor do they expect you to be.
I'm glad you are letting some things go and not stressing over them.
I recognize this trait in many people I know and, looking back, I see it was not a good thing.

Glenda C. Beall said...

Paula, we all need to be reminded, especially when we want so badly to do everything and do it best.

We add that extra stress on ourselves and often we don't even realize it.

Pat Meece Davis said...

I'm a perfectionist too but I'm getting worn out from trying to enforce it on the rest of the world!

Lovely post. I enjoy hearing about Barry!

Glenda Beall said...

Pat, that is so funny. I know exactly what you mean.
Trying to enforce it on the rest of the world is a tough sell.

I talk and write about Barry because he is still such a part of my life. How could I not?
Thank you.

JLC said...

Glenda, my father was the perfectionist. He was a wonderful teacher, but I was so afraid of not meeting his standards, he couldn't teach me. We tried piano (he was a musician), driving (thank goodness for a driving school), math. In the latter case, even Roger couldn't do much. All of a sudden, I have a grandson who can make advanced physics sound like something I could grasp. Go figure. I fight a tendency to expect too much of myself to this day despite knowing how silly and counter-productive it is, so thank you for this post!

Abbie Taylor said...

My mother taught English and communications at the local college, and when I attended classes there, other students told me what a wonderful teacher she was. I guess she couldn't teach me anything because I couldn't meet her standards.