Thursday, July 7, 2011

Perfection My Way

I just got an 89 on a test. A test that I made 638 flashcards for, read over 10 textbook chapters, and had to memorize multiple drugs with similar sounding names and adverse effects. A test for which I only spent two days studying. So I should be happy, right?

But I'm not - I'm disappointed, for two snarky little reasons: Comparison and Perfectionism.

This made me think - first of all, why do I feel bad if I score a few points lower on a test than a few of my classmates? Classmates, I might add, who don't travel almost four hours a day just to get to and from school. Second of all, all I have to do to become a nurse is pass. (In my program, a passing grade is C or higher). Obviously, I should be doing my best, but why should I beat myself up when my best is not a 100%?

I'm not sure how to combat these two little companions that follow me around almost all of the time. I think part of this is conditioning - when I am a perfectionist, when I push myself to be the best, I usually meet with at least some degree of success. I might not get the top score in the class, but I usually do well. I feel like I am praised for accomplishing a lot. This makes me want to keep up the cycle, even when I am ready to pull my hair out because I just want to stop. I feel like there has to be a balance somewhere, but the mere hint of slowing down is descried as blasphemous. You mean you want to be a slacker? You want to slow down?

I think this is a flaw in our cultural mindset (both as Americans and, for me, as an LDS woman). America is all about capitalism, and capitalism is all about competition. This is a positive thing in the business world, but I'm not so sure about day to day life. It isn't worth only getting five hours of sleep a night to have the best grades - I know this in my mind, but for some reason it doesn't translate to my behavior. In the LDS culture (not the religion, the doctrine, but the culture) women have to be good at everything. We have to bake our meals from scratch, and have spiritual experiences every day, and have perfectly behaved children and scrubbed homes. We have to be thin and have perfectly balanced diets, but can still eat the refreshments offered at every single social occasion. We need to be volunteering (prominently, of course), attending the temple, organizing social events, and still managing to be home when the kids get off the bus.

However, I'm pretty sure when the Lord said "be ye therefore perfect," he wasn't referring to home decor or report cards. He was referring to the commandments, right? We are supposed to be perfect in obedience, perfect in not lying or committing adultery or being uncharitable to our neighbor. There is more to this than avoiding bad behavior, but much less to it than living up to those Anthropologie-model-mommy-blogs we all love to read so much.

In my life my worry about what others think has decreased significantly. It still has quite a ways to go, but I think this weekend I am going to stop trying so hard. Guess what - I came to school today with unwashed hair and a shirt that wasn't the most flattering because I didn't want to turn the light on and wake up my husband while I searched for a better one. The girls behind me were perfectly made up in their designer clothes, but they didn't have to get on the bus at 5:41 this morning. Guess what - I am going to spend the bus ride reading a book instead of my textbook, because all I've done for the last few days is read flashcards. I'm still going to be behind, but I can't do more than I can do.

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