A little while ago I was chatting with a friend of mine about everything and nothing, as one does after a couple of glasses of wine. We spoke and she said; “you’re such a perfectionist” – and I laughed …until I realized she was being perfectly serious. My smile froze. Perfectionist? The thought made my eye twitch, it rustled my jimmies, threw me for the proverbial loop. Perfectionist?! There is a part of me, a remnant from my teenage years, that still believe I was meant to be born a free spirited and floaty Pisces. Someone that time and mundane everyday details can’t shackle. All rainbows and fairy dust and being constantly prone to lateness – a free spirit must stop to smell the roses, right? I am not, however, an airy Pisces. I’m a Capricorn. I’m a boxy, ambitious, stubborn, disciplined and emotionally detached Capricorn. We Capricorns don’t even believe in horoscopes, actually. I do believe in the spiritual world, in things I can’t explain, in energies and healing properties, in breathing with the universe – but I do so reluctantly, like a stubborn child that can’t fall asleep because she’s too tired. And I am very much a perfectionist. I want everything I do, done to the absolute best of my abilities. I always hated receiving participation awards. I want my pens aligned with the edge of my desk, damn it.
A perfectionist? Yesterday I ran the Gregoire Grind out by the lake and the sun was shining and a nice breeze was blowing and children were laughing. I only started running again a month or so ago after my year-long broken humerus hiatus. I hadn’t ran a race since 2013. My only goal was to run the 5.7 kilometers in under 30 minutes. I didn’t. I crossed the finish line at 33.05 – placing 11th out of 79 female participants – and was sorely disappointed with myself. I was happy to be back at’er, happy to be running and happy to be having a great time with friends – but I hadn’t reached my goal, and I wasn’t happy with that.
I’m nearly always happy I did something, but rarely completely satisfied with the results.
I can always have done a little bit better.
And I will next time I try.
After I derustled my jimmies and got my eye to stop twitching I realized that my friend was right. I am a perfectionist. I align my pens. I work very hard to reach the standards I set for myself, constantly wanting to be better at what I do – articulate more, run faster, paint a straighter line, go deeper, laugh louder.
“When you think you’ve given 100 percent, you’ve only given me around 70”
My soccer coach, circa 2002
To me, being a perfectionist means my only competition is myself. It means that I am the one who get to explore how vast I can be, how far I can go – and it means I almost always have more to give. It means I know when to push and prod myself, and when to let go and to breathe. It doesn’t mean I can do it on my own, I’d crumble and wilt faster than that poor plant the cat keeps chewing on without the love and support from people around me. But I am my own responsibility. And I always want to be just a little bit better than I thought I was.
It’s just important to remember to stop and smell those roses too, even if it means writing it down in my well aligned calendar so that I won’t be late for whatever it is I could be late for.