Challenges, Life in Paris

Perfect vs Good in Practice

“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Whether it was Confucius or Voltaire, it’s good advice and I’m trying to live it this week.

I was on the train this morning, jammed into the car and 10 minutes late, and I truly felt like a mess. My hair was flatter than normal because tomorrow is wash day and it’s hot as hell in Paris. My Trotter’s are on their last leg and the right shoe squeaks when I walk, plus, I was wearing a pencil skirt and I really, really wish I’d just put on my heels.

I had used different sunscreen lotion on my face, which would have been relatively fine, except that my friend gave me a ‘colour change’ bb cream on Saturday that I wanted to wear again. It looked great on Sunday when I used it over a facial sunscreen, but it reacted poorly with this particular sun lotion (generally meant for the body) and I looked orange. Aggressive, ’45th President of the USA’ orange… After some serious blotting and brushing, I got the colour under control, but I felt like everyone could tell I was in the wrong colour makeup.

I had leapt into the aforementioned pencil skirt and flats, with a black shell blouse, in order to make it out the house only a few minutes late, but as I opened the window to check the temperature, it was colder than I expected. I threw on a brown blazer and said a prayer that it wouldn’t look too ridiculous. Why didn’t I reach for my black blazer, dear reader? Because it is a dark, beautiful black wool, that doesn’t match my older, H&M pencil skirt.

So there I was, feeling all wrong in so many different ways. I missed the morning briefing, but only arrived a few minutes after the centre opened. As I got to work distributing surveys, I heard English coming from one of the counsellor’s desks. That lead to me sitting in on the appointment, and after a few moments, the counsellor suggested that I move with the client to a different desk and take the appointment myself.

45 minutes later, the client left, very happy, and thanked me multiple times for listening to them and helping them explore their employment questions. They said that I helped open their current situation in a new way, and that they were so happy they had come and met me that day.

I made an impact on a client’s life, I added value, and not even my squeaky shoes, my vaguely orange face, or my flat hair could change that.

“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

I don’t need to be perfect, whether in appearance or behaviour, to make a positive impact. I work to do my best whenever possible, but a good job is still a good job, even if I can’t reach my ‘best’ or my ‘perfect’ performance every day.

I often wonder if this pressure is something that is placed upon women in an especially intense way. We are ‘called upon’ or pressured to be perfect in so many different ways. Perfect mothers, perfect careers, perfect bodies/hair/faces/makeup, perfect perfect perfect.

The episode of This American Life that aired yesterday morning discussed the pressure for women to lose weight or to be unhappy with themselves if they are overweight or obese. Lindy West, one of the episode contributors, pushes back on that idea in her work and writing : what if we are happy just as we are? What changes in our lives if we love and accept ourselves as we are now, not as we are told we should be?

What would it mean to be focus on being happy with my work, my thesis, my body, my relationship to myself and my friends and to E, with my lifestyle, just as they are right now?

This whole blog is focused on documentation, reflection, and self-improvement, but this idea, “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” may be a different form development.

What if the project is not to change my physical or material circumstances, but rather to be content and joyful in what I already do, how I already look and feel, and what I have already achieved?

Getting started on a project can be a paralysing experience for me because I’m worried about failing to do my best. In situations where I’m out of time to stay frozen and still, I’m reminding myself that good is still good. While perfect need not be the enemy of the good, it’s better to give it a shot then not start at all!

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