NaBloPoMo Day 19: The Pursuit of Imperfection

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I had an appointment with my therapist today.

During the session, I mentioned my blog post NaBloPoMo Day 12: Learning to Forgive and how I had written the letter to my ten-year old self. I explained the backstory of the letter and then read it to her. This led to a brief aside where I discussed how my interest in sports had improved, and I cited a Sports Illustrated article that presented odd statistics that were coming out of the new NBA season. During that aside, I mentioned Stephen Curry’s average of sinking a three-pointer every 6.8 minutes, which is far more frequent than anyone else in the league. When I presented this to my therapist, she corrected my pronunciation of “Stephen” (stuh-FAHN, not STEE-vin). This may seem trivial, but it ties back into the story later.

We talked about how I felt during the incident, and I told her that I was mortified that someone pointed out the mistake I had just made, and it came to light that I’m just generally mortified by embarrassment. Another example, vague though it is: when I was 15, I was doing something that’s a basic function of everyday life and those within earshot made a joke about it, and as a result that profoundly changed how I execute that function to this day. (I’m still too embarrassed to discuss it in detail more than 30 years later.)

That’s when the subject of perfection came up again.

I’ve talked about my struggles with striving for perfection. They are a lot better than they used to be – once, when I was in school, I crumpled up a test and took the zero rather than mar the paper’s pristine surface with an eraser because I had written something incorrectly – but I still work hard to remember that perfection is not logically attainable.

Take, for instance, pizza. What do you consider the perfect pizza? Mine’s hamburger, mushrooms, and bacon on a hand-tossed crust, with light sauce. I’d be willing to bet yours is different. Yet that’s your version of perfect. Since mine is different than yours, it’s fair to say that perfection is a subjective term in most instances.

I’ve also talked about how I tend to look for perfection in the process rather than the end result. I brought this up in therapy today, and was corrected in my conclusion that a perfect process brings about a perfect result, and so my logic about the result following the process was imperfect. This wasn’t very easy for me to hear, but I knew that it was correct once it was pointed out to me.

She then asked how I felt about being corrected about the pronunciation of Stephen Curry’s name. I told her that I honestly was glad she did, as I think it’s important to be able to pronounce people’s names correctly, especially when talking directly to them. I also mentioned that since it was just the three of us in the room (myself, my therapist, and my wife, who sits in from time to time) I wasn’t embarrassed, but the more people that were around (and, thinking back to it, the FURTHER away from the center they were) would drastically change how I react to an embarrassing situation.

At the end of the session, she gave me my homework: think of a time when things did not go as expected but turned out better than I hoped for. I can think of a very, very big one. When my wife and I started dating, I expected that it would last for about four months before one of us got frustrated with the other and decided it was time to move on. (That had seemed to be my M.O. for a couple years beforehand.) We’ve been together for over fifteen and a half years and married now for over thirteen. That was decidedly something that turned out better than I expected. But it’s also an obvious and unique one. I would like to try and think of some other, less life-changing instances that fit the bill.

I’m not sure what I think about me getting that diagram backward, with me putting more weight on what the outer circles think of me than I do the inner. Maybe it’s because I know the closer to the middle I get, the more secure that they aren’t going anywhere, and so I don’t feel so compelled to make sure they like me. That’s a big, big thing for me – finding out someone didn’t like me once put a dent in my progress for over a year – and it’s something that will likely be discussed in the next session.

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