From the time I entered grade school, my “thinking cap” was securely on my head and on high alert. I raised my hand so fast with answers that it became a game for others to try to beat me. Rarely did others succeed. Not that I got called on by the teacher all the time, but my hand shot up knowing the answer every time. My challenge at that time wasn’t knowing the answers.
As my 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Wallman, reminded us often, “anything worth doing was worth doing well”, and to her that included silence from her students, unless called on. Now for me, That (silence) was a challenge!
The first row, first seat in our classroom was reserved for the “Best” among us. 100% correct papers were required, and that part was pretty simple for me. And I was lucky enough to have a last name that started with a “D”, and that gave me pretty good positioning. And So, I rather quickly moved into 1st Row, 1st Seat “Best” status.
That is, until 1st Row, 2nd seat, Peter poked me in the back, and I turned around to ask what he wanted. Mrs. Wallman snapped to attention as I turned in my seat and quickly proceeded to inform me that I had to move out of my cherished spot for talking. Usually this talking mess-up meant going to the back of the row I was currently in - so back of the 1st row.
But, such an ‘injustice’ to me warranted argument and telling my teacher just how unfair she was being and advancing my insistent plea of innocence because 'it wasn’t my fault that Peter poked me'. I’m not sure just how brazen I became, as my memory recalls much more of Mrs. Wallman’s penetrating looks and pointing with her finger to show me which seat I was now entitled to take - and thus I was booted to the last row, last seat. Arrrrrgh, I was so angry with her.
Not a quitter by nature and with a ‘born in me’ determination beyond reason, I focused on working my way back to “perfect” and that revered seat in the front of the room. Each day I controlled my natural talkative and playful self to prove to Mrs. Wallman that I was the ‘best’ in the class. I realized in those first few months of first grade, that if I worked hard enough and did exactly what I was told, that I could be “perfect” and be in Row 1, Seat 1.
Anyone who knows me wouldn’t be surprised that I worked my way back to “perfect”, only to bounce in and out of that seat numerous times that year. Though Never Again did I return to the last seat, last row. My arguing and my standing up for “injustice” were held at bay the rest of that year.
The takeaway that was decided by little Mary in first grade was that “perfect” was indeed possible. I also decided that I wanted to be “perfect”, and that if I worked very hard and did exactly what I was told to do, that the end result was “Perfect”.
I have chased perfection my entire life. Not altogether a bad thing, since that striving for perfection led to high grades, numerous awards and accolades, high achievements, high level positions of leadership and accompanying salary - AND very high expectations for myself and for others.
I also lived my life with a “Perfect Facade” shown to the world, while having inner feelings of ‘never being quite good enough’. I knew all my imperfections and was fearful that if others looked too closely, they’d see the real, less than perfect Me that existed behind my own Wizard of Oz curtain.
Luckily for me, I’ve exerienced transformative learning immersion of Landmark Forum. My past hasn’t changed. It will always be my past. Though I now realize that “What happened?” and our stories about What Happened? are rarely the same. So, to be a little more accurate, my version of my past will live on. The transformation comes from my perspective having changed and my focus being much more on the present and actions of today that can impact the future.
Why does any of this matter to you? I am sharing as I work to figure things out - even though Landmark basically debunks our need to keep ‘trying to figure it out’ and urges we keep taking action instead of thinking about it so much.
With that said, and I agree on Landmark’s point. For those of you who are ‘trying to figure it all out’, sharing my stories and experiences and what conclusions I’ve come to for me…just may be the advice or message you needed to hear today.
Please share - What do you think about perfection? What's been your experience?
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