Sunday, March 08, 2009

The projection of perfection

I had a meeting earlier this week with the kind of intelligent, extremely successful, stylish and, above all, young woman who makes me feel as though my career trajectory has been stuck on slow for the past ten years.

Yet, as I watched her glance over my career profile, I distinctly heard her say something along the lines of, goodness I’m always amazed at how much people have achieved in a short time.

I cannot tell you how reassuring it was to hear this. All my working life I have been haunted by the belief that I haven’t achieved enough, that I have wasted myriad opportunities, and that every other working woman I meet or see lauded in the media has achieved so much so quickly. Much more quickly than me, at any rate.

A recent posting by Belgian Waffling lamenting her mental sloth and stupidity where quotidian tasks were concerned and asking for readers to chime in with their own confessions elicited a staggering litany of unpaid bills, uncashed cheques, unchecked voicemails and suchlike. My perfectionist sister told me later that it was the most reassuring thing she had ever read. She spends her life beating herself up about not completing her endless To Do lists and to discover that women out there who do the same were legion was an eye opener.

She and I really are our own worst enemies as, I think, most women are. Instead of finding pride in what we do, in an acceptance of both our successes and our limitations, we endlessly hold ourselves up to imaginary models of perfection projected onto women who themselves believe they are sadly lacking too - which we would know if we bothered to ask them.

What we need to realise is that we, each and every one of us, do this dirty little compare & contrast trick, and that maybe what we all really need to understand is that we are all equally, gloriously, incapable of perfection.