Here’s a tricky question for you: Do you demand perfection? Of yourself? Of others?
It’s a hard one, isn’t it? Personally, I feel that I’m about one, short step away from being a perfectionist–I know that perfection is impossible to achieve, and yet my standards of behavior are quite high. I don’t expect every book I read to be perfectly copy-edited, but am frustrated if I find more than one or two errors. I don’t expect the house to be neat as a pin every minute of the day, but I can’t stand clutter piling up. I don’t expect my practically-perfect dog, Chappy, to walk at heel when we stroll around the neighborhood, but I expect him not to pull on his leash.
Then, I wonder if my standards are too high? Can I really expect Chappy not to get excited and pull on his leash when he sees one of his best friends? And the writing desk in my bedroom is rather more covered with stuff than I would like–yet the pile, while manageable, never entirely goes away. That’s okay, though, because, really, who wants to feel like they’re living in a museum? Or has a Stepford Dog? Robotic perfection simply isn’t human.
So, is it a good or a bad thing to expect people to live up to virtually-impossible ideals of behavior? To have perfect manners, to write thank you notes, to be dressed nicely at all times? To always signal before they turn at an intersection? To return library books on time, always repay their debts, donate time and money to worthy causes, all while being kind to children and small animals?
The truth is that nobody can meet Miss. Manners’ standards for every minute of every day. (No, not even I.) So why even try? Is it because we’re all just trying to get through our days, our lives as painlessly as possible? Is it a matter of respect for one another? Is it all just for the sake of appearances? Or is it something more?
Personally, I think it’s a little of all these things, but also something more–an attempt to be the best that we can be. Not necessarily the best in a given role–the best accountant, the best parent, the best chef–but the best self. I strive to be the best Deb I can be, with all my faults. I know that perfection isn’t attainable, but really, I owe it to myself to try.