Is the glass 99% full or 1% empty?
In a competitive home environment that values education above all, scoring 99% on a test is not celebrated. It is penalized for the 1% that was missed—an absolute loss. It is penalized more if the result means that you ranked second in the class because another student scored 100%—a relative loss.
I personally was not raised that way regarding school grades. However, in other aspects of life, especially where money was concerned, I learned to eke the most out of every situation. I considered it a success when I did. If I didn’t, and hindsight wisdom told me I could have, it bothered me.
One no trump
Many, many years ago, I learned to play bridge. I don’t remember the rules anymore. What I do remember is that my partner (one of my best friends) and I rarely, if ever, won a game. One day, to avoid sitting out as the “dummy” that round, he switched places with someone; lo and behold, he and his new partner quickly beat my dummy and me. Incredulous, I demanded to know why he could never win a game with me but so easily won with someone else. “You always bid too high,” he told me. “We never stood a chance.”
The double-bluff humblebrag
My confession: I’ve always been somewhat of a perfectionist. It’s one of those duly maligned characteristics that is not a true strength but at best a faux weakness (highly discouraged to cite in a job interview). If you present it as a weakness, it sounds like you are trying to disguise a strength to elicit a certain reaction—in essence, humblebragging. Yet, you would be hard pressed to qualify it as a virtue because it is counterproductive and leads to frustration.
(Attention to detail, on the other hand, is a strength.)
In Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead Glossary, she defines perfectionism as, among other things, “armor that is driven by shame and fear of failure” and “at its core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance.” I’ve been wondering about this, because I was surprised to read those points as they did not resonate with how I felt. So I dug deeper to try to uncover the driver of my self-professed perfectionism.
My conclusion was: FOMO. Perhaps passé as a term, but still very real as an experience. I think I always felt that loose ends, oversights, or anything out of place was costing me something (what? I don’t know) or preventing maximum potential from being fulfilled. My anxiety stemmed from the fear that I would miss out on certain opportunities and outcomes if I didn’t get everything just right.
Of course, what I might in theory be missing out on was never concrete or defined—the fear is irrational and probably unfounded. Ironically, the real time and energy wasted on revisiting the same issue over and over again to little satisfaction was probably causing me to miss out on something else—what that was, I wouldn’t know.
“You need to celebrate the small successes,” my significant other reminded me. No matter what we had accomplished, I still felt anxious because I was thinking of the nine other things left to do. The distance to the end, rather than from the beginning. Well, no wonder I was constantly stressed.
What has any of this got to do with perfume?!
There it is, I did it again! It doesn’t.
Unless you want it to.
And I usually want it to.
Perfume, being a magic carpet of sorts for the mind, summoned through the nose to take the soul on an ever-so-brief escape, can serve as a simple, tangible reminder to acknowledge the positives. A cheerleader for the small successes you have accomplished. A forerunner of those you are about to accomplish.