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Better Than a Perfectionist

Teresa M. Nichols

Definition Essay

September 23, 2010

Better Than a Perfectionist

I do understand how some people could think of me as a perfectionist. I want to cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s. I want everything to look just so. I want to look just so. And I want to take the time that it takes. This is especially true when I am presented with something to think about that may require action on my part. People get impatient when I take my time to decide what to do or how to do it. But when they call me a perfectionist I think of someone who is smug, or even a snob. Well, I don’t see myself that way at all. Some people tend to think quickly, while I take the time to organize my thoughts and actions to produce a quality result.

My difficulties of being labeled a perfectionist started early. The idea began when my second grade school teacher, Mrs. Davis, wrote in my report card that I was a perfectionist and this would cause me problems as I got older. Then a few years later my fifth grade teacher Mr. Bates told me not to take so much time with all the small unimportant details. I thought to myself which details are unimportant? He assured me the perfect alignment of all my math problems on my paper was unnecessary and I could save time by writing faster and sloppier. Then he decided to send me down to the office first thing in the morning to finish my unfinished math assignments from the previous day. I was mortified. I had never been sent to the office before. This went on for about a week until I learned to work more speedily with less detailed neatness. I was told to go to school and to do my best and so I did, but I felt like I was being punished and criticized for doing my best.

I found that my sense of organization actually saved me money and time, which suited me great. I loved to wear classic styles in basic black and white with splashes of color, so simple and quick to coordinate.  I didn’t like to go with all the current trends. Almost every item in my closet was coordinated to work together right down to accessories. I carefully selected and purchased items that would add to my well organized wardrobe for years to come. Like this simple little black rayon dress I purchased in the 1980s, with a mid-calf full circle skirt and sleeveless top.  My little black dress works well for a wide range of occasions, with just a change of accessories. This dress is fantastic for dancing, because the skirt really moves. It also works great for a long dinner or table conversation because it is very comfortable to sit in and the top shows off my shoulders, one of my better features.  I still have several items of clothing and accessories purchased twenty or so years ago, that I still wear and still work with current trends. They are classic pieces that just simply stay in style.

I tend to notice what others overlook. This I have found to have great value not only for me, but others too. I often find myself in situations where decisions are to be made, and I am able to point out what has been missed by the others. I once worked at a retail specialty clothing store that specialized in small sizes for women. When one day the manager was going over our sales reports and pointed out that I had fewer sales than the other sales girls. I took a look at everyone’s numbers and noticed I only had a couple of returned items and the others had many. I pointed out to her that if we subtracted everyone’s returns from their sales that I had as many if not more complete sales. I told her that I paid attention to what my customer’s wants and needs were, and sold them what truly did fit and looked good on them. Rather than selling them on an idea I sold them the facts. She never mentioned a problem with my sales numbers again.

I once asked a friend “Why do I seem to be slower than others sometimes?” They said “I don’t think it is a matter of being slow, you are just deliberately thorough in your thoughts and actions.” That was when the light bulb came on. I became aware of a completely new idea about myself as detail oriented, organized, and thorough in what I think and do. Now it is obvious to me that I like to think things through as far as I can get, and sometimes investigate more than one path to see which one I want to take. I have found that to do my best just simply takes time. This, I think, is the true me, and it’s better than a perfectionist.

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