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The Pursuit of Perfection

So the other night I was up late, working from home. I had the TV on, and somehow I got watching this show on VH1 (which I never watch, honestly, but I had gotten sucked into an I love the 90’s marathon…). It was called Scott Baio is 45 and Single. I don’t know what got into me. I normally loathe Reality TV, especially ones featuring celebrities.

Let me just be clear—my interest in the show had nothing to do with Scott Baio. I’m a little too young to have been a fan. (Although technically, that didn’t really stop me from my whole MacGyver phase…but I digress.) What intrigued me was that as it turns out, S. B. is on a self quest. He hired a “life coach,” and is trying to determine if he can get married to the woman he loves…or not.

Like the rest of us, S. B. wrestles with commitment issues. Unlike the rest of us, he’s had his pick of pretty much any and everyone over the past 30 years or so. He’s been with one gorgeous girl after another, and notice: he’s not happy. He’s not satisfied. One of his exes described it to him this way: “You’re always looking for the next best thing.”

—And that was what kept me watching. There was this repeated, underlying theme about the pursuit of perfection. I can just imagine all these frustrated girls feeling not good enough because he moved on to the next model/playmate/actress.

It’s funny, because my friend Lynne and I had a conversation just the other day about this same kind of thing. Her mom was trying to get her to meet this guy in his late 30’s who is still single; and Lynne said, “What’s wrong with him, Mom?” And then she added, to me, “I can say that, because pretty soon, people will start saying the same thing about me: ‘What’s wrong with Lynne? Why is she still single?’”

I CERTAINLY am not implying that there in fact IS something wrong with a person who is single (any more than there is something “right” about a person who is married…no matter what our culture says). But if you were to ask me, I could readily recite a list of my flaws. Are they the reason I’m still single? I don’t know. But I do wonder sometimes if my perfectionistic tendencies hinder me.

In a way, I’m on my own self quest; and I think I often get caught up in the pursuit of perfection. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do your best, I suppose, as long as you don’t take it too far. Just tonight I was talking with friends about the little voice in my head—you know, the one who voices a steady commentary on all the things I do wrong. Everything I mess up, every little flaw or failure, every time I fall short of perfection (which is ALL the time)—I hear about it. And it’s hard to get that voice to shut up, am I right?

And I think sometimes I let that little voice dictate areas of my life. That Inner Critic begins to point out not only my own flaws, but everyone else’s. I think I generally have more grace toward other people, but it can be hard when I’m noticing all of someone’s shortcomings.

The worst, I think, is when considering dating prospects. I can be so picky! And I’m not really that fussy of a person. I don’t think. I mean, there are definite things I don’t like. I remember I took that free eHarmony profile test (don’t rag, I never joined!) and there was this one section where it asked you to check off ten “Must Haves” and ten “Can’t Stands.” It seemed like the “Can’t Stands were harder to limit. Why is that?

Because then a guy comes along into my life who I technically shouldn’t like—someone who isn’t the right age…or isn’t, say, Scottish…and who has too much facial hair. Or doesn’t play the guitar. Or isn’t a mushy, hopeless romantic. And I mentally cross him off the list. Or do I? Sometimes those standards just seem to be excuses—things to hide behind. Sometimes it comes down to something that isn’t definable. And in that moment, maybe Perfection is not only irrelevant, but undesirable. If I were to somehow meet my “perfect,” ideal guy, would he be as good for me as I imagine? In Reality, isn’t everyone going to be an adjustment? Don’t all relationships take work? Like I said earlier, I’m not exactly a picnic myself.

I don’t know if this is Age talking; because when I was younger, I seemed to care much more about my Standards than I do now. Maybe it’s Experience; maybe it’s Realism (or Cynicism). But I seem to be giving up the pursuit of perfection. Truthfully, nothing in this life will ever be as good as it could be. Wow. That sounds depressing. I just mean, I should stop being so hard on myself, and everyone else, because we’re all on our way to perfection. We’re just not there yet.

And that's not such a horrible thing, after all.


Laurel said...

SO, um, yeah. I feel you on this. More than i can say.

J. M. Richards said...

Well, thank you so much, for saying even that. I'm glad the exchange of ideas and spiritual musings is mutual!

cyntha boo said...

sign me up.