Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Good enough

Thankfully I'm not a perfect-ionist. Wanting everything to be brilliant, unique, or just better than it is, must be an exhausting and impossible task. Personally I'm happy for things to be "good enough" and I'll stop right there, thanks.

And by "good enough" I don't mean skimping or accepting something a bit shoddy. I just mean I aim for a certain standard, one most people would be comfortable with, and striving for some rarified excellence doesn't interest me.

I don't want a kitchen that's 100% hygienic and germ-free. I don't want bed linen that matches the wallpaper. I'm not going to mow the lawn every three days. I'm not going to replace all my nondescript shirt buttons. Life's too short for such nonsense.

But I've known people who were obsessive about housework, who couldn't bear a speck of dust or splodge of grease anywhere. Or obsessive about work, always scanning their emails, rewriting memos and double-checking every little detail. Or gardening fanatics who couldn't stop weeding and pruning and power-jetting the patio.

It must be hard to live with a relentless perfectionist. No matter how often you say everything's fine as it is, they'll insist they just have to tweak this or adjust that, and nothing will deter them. They won't be able to sleep at night if the soup spoons don't match or the plates are wrongly stacked.

Perfectionists have their place though. A world without them would be an inferior one. Without the frenzied perfectionists who invented the washing machine and the internet and the CD player, and who fought for improved legal rights and housing standards and working conditions, our lives would be much depleted.

I'm just not that driven. I want an easy life. So sue me.


kylie said...

My mum is a perfectionist and it's the most annoying thing. Poor old dad never gets a break from the continuous commentary on what needs to be done around the house and heaven forbid he waste time browsing the internet.

having said that, she is an amazing achiever

Wisewebwoman said...

You're describing OCDs in examples here Nick. A terrible disorder I've witnessed in more than a few.

I'm a perfectionist when it comes to novel writing. (Interesting, not for any other writing.) And can attest to never quite being happy with the production aiming for an unachievable target that I can't define.

As to the rest of life I frankly don't give a rat's.


Bijoux said...

I was thinking that's OCD as well. I have a few of those tendencies (I can't stand clutter) and I do like things to be in order, so I will straighten things hanging on walls, etc.

Nick said...

Kylie: That's true, perfectionists can be great achievers because they just can't rest until something's not only been completed but completed to a very high standard. My mum's the opposite - her flat is stuffed with clutter that she never tidies up because she barely notices it.

www: Yes, I was aware perfectionism can slide over into OCD. But what defines OCD is an obsessive streak becoming so severe that it significantly disrupts your daily life. If we're only talking about an exaggerated concern about hygiene (for example), that's not OCD.

Nick said...

Bijoux: Likewise, straightening pictures isn't OCD unless you do it a hundred times a day while the rest of the house gets more and more disordered. But I admit to opening the curtains to the exact same position every day!

helen devries said...

I was intent on getting things right for my clients when I worked...but as for myself as long as I can put my hand on the kettle, a couple of cups and the basics for cooking I do not give two penn'orth of cold gin how the house is looking. I keep it hygienic given Leo's health problems but that's about it.

Ursula said...

I'd rather not comment. I was married to a perfectionist (no doubt because he thought me perfect). Others thought us the perfect couple. In fact, everything was perfect. Now he is married to an American (and has been for nearly twenty years), a most amicable woman with a temper to match. How he reconciles his (perfect) expectations of marriage since she doesn't particularly like cooking and their political views couldn't be more opposite, I do not know. But then, as they say, each marriage has their own secret. Impenetrable to the outsider.

As a concept I like perfectionism as in "giving the best we can under the circumstances". However, fact is, and how many times I have observed this, striving for perfection is also the ultimate way to sabotage ourselves. If nothing is ever "good enough" then WHEN do you STOP and release your efforts into the world? Never? Because nothing will ever be "perfect"? Pity.


Rummuser said...

I am a perfectionist. I have problems with two resident imperfectionists but I have to yield! No point in getting all worked up. I restrict my perfectionism to my turf and leave the commons to its own devices.

Nick said...

Helen: I'm much the same. When I'm at work I do everything as thoroughly and efficiently as possible. When I'm at home, as long as the place is presentable, that's all I ask.

Ursula: Yes, a curious match if they're really that different from each other. But as you say, the dynamics of other people's relationships are something of a mystery. "Giving the best we can under the circumstances" will do me fine. Which is why I seldom regret anything, because I always feel "I did my best at the time".

Nick said...

Ramana: Well at least you can restrain your perfectionist tendencies if necessary. Other perfectionists are not so flexible!

Dave Martin said...

Personally I don't believe perfection exists outside fantasy. As long as I've tried my best, I'm pretty content with the outcome, although I do set myself high standards. I do admit to sometimes getting frustrated when others don't meet those same standards.

Nick said...

Dave: I agree, the idea of perfection is a fantasy. You can pursue it as much as you like but you'll still fall short. Which is why doing your best makes a lot more sense.

Secret Agent Woman said...

That sounds less like OCD to me than it does like Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder. Annoying to others perhaps, but not the serious anxiety disorder that OCD is.

Anyway, I'm not a perfectionist. But even non-perfectionist might do things like weed frequently or replace boring buttons. Not from a need for perfection but because those are things they enjoy.

CheerfulMonk said...

No perfectionist here. When I'm immersed in something I tune out my surroundings.

Nick said...

Agent: I'd never heard of OCPD. It seems to be very close to OCD but not with such a damaging effect on personal relationships - just an over-emphasis on order, control etc.

Jean: Well, I guess perfectionists can tune out their surroundings too, if they're totally absorbed in whatever they're trying to perfect.

kylie said...

You talk about the difference between perfectionism and OCD as OCD disrupting your life but isn't that also a matter of degree?
My mother is perfectly happy with her life but my childhood was dominated by her obsessive need to follow her routines. She justifies it all as being driven by concern for us. I believed her for most of my life

Nick said...

Kylie: It must be pretty clear when OCD is disrupting your life. For example, someone who can't leave the house without triple and quadruple checking everything. Which means they turn up for work an hour late or don't collect the kids from school. That's disrupting your life, I think.

I guess your mother made your life difficult but didn't totally disrupt it.

tammy j said...

I am somewhere in the middle.
"if a job is worth doing... it's worth doing well" was forged into my work ethic very early.

but I don't obsess over anything really. I think I would have to be called an under achiever. more even now than before perhaps.

I do remember CLEANING my father in law's collection of pipes. even the meerschaum. I scrubbed the insides with a little brush to make sure they were "nice and clean" for him!
obviously I knew NOTHING about the pipe culture of YEARS of 'seasoning.'
I got rid of all those years in one fell swoop!
I was not his beloved daughter in law for quite awhile after that. :)

Nick said...

Tammy: What a wonderful story about your father in law's pipes! He must have been quite taken aback!

I've always been an under achiever. I just never put enough effort into anything. I think I fit that category known as "over-educated under-achievers".

CheerfulMonk said...

Great story, tammy!

Nick, I've been an underachiever, too, because I'm interested in things society doesn't value much. It has worked just fine for me. :)

Nick said...

Jean: Indeed, why chase after the things we're supposed to find important - money, status, power, possessions. There are plenty of other things that can make our lives rewarding.

John Gray said...

I am married to someone who loves perfect

4 dogs
1 cat
No utility room
Muddy lane

I am much more pragmatic

Nick said...

John: You'd have a struggle to reach perfection, bearing in mind your hectic life. "Good enough" is probably all you've got time for! The occasional friction between you and the perfectionist Chris is amusing!

Ms Scarlet said...

I would love a clean tidy house... but I live with two grubby creatures. It's never going to happen.... but I have reached a sad stage in my life where I dream about owning a cordless vacuum cleaner. WHAT HAPPENED TO MY DREAMS??? And worse still is that I can now spell vacuum without gphaving to look it up.

Ms Scarlet said...

....have no idea what gphaving means though...

Nick said...

Scarlet: But surely the cordless vacuum cleaner would be for your dream penthouse in Miami, not used by you of course but by the phalanx of mouth-watering houseboys.

Obviously gphaving means having access to a GP. The idiom may not have reached the West Country yet.

Hattie said...

Perfectionism does have its uses. For instance, my cousin hired a cleaning woman because she says if she did the work herself it would take up all her time because she is such a perfectionist!

Nick said...

Hattie: What a wonderful story! But didn't she decide that the cleaning woman wasn't cleaning the place properly and she'd still have to do all the bits that were missed?