When people ask what I do for a living, I reply, “I am the C.R.P. of ThisTimeIMeanIt.com.”
When further prompted what that stands for, I explain, “Chief Recovering Perfectionist.” Although I obviously chose that title to be playful, there’s an important reality at play.
We’ve all had periods where we felt we are settling for less than we could be. We’re disappointed, not only with “the way things are,” but also more importantly, with ourselves. It is only out of such frustration that action is born. After all, no one wakes up one morning and says, “Wow! I love my life, let’s see how I can change it.” We change because we’re unhappy, often proclaiming,
“TODAY will be my new dawn, my Genesis, my new beginning. TODAY is day one of the perfect new me; I’ll finish everything on my assignment list; I’ll clean the house; I’ll be the perfect spouse with the perfect attitude. I’ll be perfect on my diet and my budget; I’ll even find time to exercise. TODAY will be perfect.”
As exciting as that sounds in theory, the reality is when we then analyze the line-up of everything necessary to achieve such high standards, we grasp how much work it’s going to take and rationalize that we can always start TOMORROW; putting it off, choosing to accomplish nothing rather than something.
Aiming for perfection is not only a barrier to getting things done; it’s an excuse to avoid attempting them.
After all, if my definition of success is to accomplish EVERYTHING — and logically I know that’s not going to happen — why even bother? I mean why attempt something I know I won’t accomplish? As the bumper sticker I saw in college said, “Flunk now, avoid the June rush.”
With that as preamble, there is a real-world example of how perfectionism is preventing societal improvement, and, in my opinion, causing future agony on yet unknown victims.
As I write this, we’re five days past the horrific, tragic, mass murder that took place in a Colorado movie theater. At this point, we do not know the motive of the alleged shooter nor the final count of casualties. What is certain is that he was wearing armor, planned the assault over time, and was carrying — among other weapons — an automatic rifle firing about 50 to 60 bullets a minute and that he purchased 6,000 rounds of ammo on the Internet.
Opinions about how to prevent future tragedies such as this are rampant.
I have mine, as I’m sure you have yours. However, I broach this matter not so much as a proponent of tighter gun controls, but more as an observer of the thought process of many who are resistant to tougher rules overseeing assault weapons.
What I hear often is a “perfectionist” meme:
“There is no way we can stop every mad man from walking into crowds and inflicting mass casualties. Ergo, why bother? It’s a waste of time.”
As a recovering perfectionist, I hear, “If we can’t do it perfectly, why do anything? If we cannot stop all violent actions, why attempt to stop any?” I own up to simplifying the argument, but I also believe I’m representing the core assumption with accuracy. To me, this is real-world tragic evidence of perfectionism being a barrier (or excuse) to improvement.
Reasonable people can reasonably disagree as to the value or extent of gun or ammunition control, but whenever the parameters are “all or none,” the outcome will always be the status quo, and — especially in this case — that’s perfectly unacceptable to all sides.
Evie King says
Sorry, Scott, but I think you are looking through your own filters on this gun control and perfectionism thing. I do not say, “There is no way we can stop EVERY mad person from walking into crowds with guns, etc… so why bother.” I say we cannot stop ANYONE who is determined no matter how strict the laws on gun control.” If someone that crazy means to do harm they will find a way. Look at the story this week in China about the young man who knifed to death group of people before he was stopped. The right to own guns is the right of self-protection from thugs, crazies and from the over-reach of government. Period. No more needs to be said.
Scott "Q" Marcus says
First of all, thanks for reading. Secondly, thanks for posting (especially in a respectful fashion; you’d be surprised – or maybe you wouldn’t – about how many people are just plain rude when they express their opinions).
However, I still disagree with two of your main premises:
1) You say “no more needs to be said.” That again, is example of what the whole column is about. My intent was not so much to discuss gun control (although I obviously did) as it was to talk about the the way the discussion is framed. By saying “Period. No more needs to be said,” you have done exactly what I’m talking about. You have said there is no room for compromise. You are the only arbiter of what is the correct interpretation and no one else can comment. That is the very attitude I decry in the column. We – as a society – have got to realize that there is more to be said. There is more than one view in this debate (as there are with most) and to stake a position and be unwilling to hear the other side, and more importantly, to move to that other side in some way; is causing the polarization.
2) You say we cannot stop ANYONE who is determined. I disagree. If laws are that ineffective, why bother to have any? Using the same logic you’re stating in you comment, why bother to regulate finances because someone who is determined to rip us off will do it anyway? Why bother to regulate drugs, because someone who wants to get them will get them anyway? Why bother to try and stop terrorists because they’ll get through anyway? To me – it’s all the same example.
I’ll admit that no law is perfect (hence my initial post) and whereby laws might not stop the extreme case, they will deter some of the those that are either less determined or less able. We have to try something. The status quo is not acceptable.
I look forward to your reply. Thanks for letting me clarify.
wonderful points altogether, you just received a new reader.
What may you suggest about your post that you made a few days in the past?
Scott "Q" Marcus says
First of all, thanks for reading and posting – as well as the comment. However, I’m confused by your question. Can you please clarify? Thanks.