I'm only human after all

30 Nov 2019
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A song by 'rag-and-bone man', also known to a friend as 'dog-and-bone man', it is something I have to remember. The realisation is both liberating, and, if I am honest, causes some small sadness.

I was brought up to believe I was someone special. "From those to whom much has been given, much will be required." I suspect this could be even more of a problem for the next generation, as we run out of superlatives to praise our children, making up for the deficiencies of austere Edwardian parenting. My wife and I frequently praise our children, but we tell them our love for them is not dependant on their being perfect. We love them just as they are, with their weaknesses. Even when they are a little bit naughty.

When I was 18, I admitted to my dad that I had made a mistake at my work. I was doing a gap-year at his old solicitors firm where he had found me a job. His response? "Solicitors don't make mistakes." What a bozo thing to say! Wasn't I allowed to be human?

To be honest, part of me wants to be special. To be above average. Even to be perfect.

When I first had counselling, I told my counsellor of a moment of crisis on a foreign holiday. I was trying to read a German newspaper, some 25 years after I stopped studying German and was horrified with how little I could remember. At the same time, I couldn't master something on my smartphone. Was I useless? No. Just human after all. These things, while frustrating, were normal for someone of my generation. Why did I think I would be different?

Zenas

A Moodscope member.

A Moodscope member.

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Comments

Molly

Nov. 30, 2019, 7:44 a.m.

Hi Zenas Good blog. Maybe we all want to be different, perfect, special. Maybe it was installed in you that you were meant to be these things. Your dad obviously had high expectations!! I learnt to read music, 35 years ago. I tried to play again about 10 years ago. Nope, it had all gone. Bought a book to teach me again, but events took over. Sure the skill is still there somewhere. But now is not the time. Husband bought me a keyboard a few years ago that I have not used. He says it’s got to go now as we are having to move. No way. I still hope (On a good day) that I will play it again, just like I did with the piano. Smart phones ? Well, being computer literate all my life, please spare me, I struggle to even make a call on my smarty phone. But then I am human, after all ! You are not alone. Molly xx

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Nicco

Nov. 30, 2019, 10:49 a.m.

Molly, i'm exacrly the same with music - if i dont do it regularly it all goes. It took me a whole year to learn a piece of Mendolsohn & Eric Sati's Gymnopedie, didnt play em regularly enough so cant play em now.

The Gardener

Nov. 30, 2019, 11:48 a.m.

Molly and Nicco - I have an absolute incapacity to remember music, dance steps and any poetry (hate it, anyway) - the brain is SO selective. Addicted to quizzes, how do they get the periodical table and keep it?

Molly

Nov. 30, 2019, 7:49 p.m.

Nicco and Gardener, yes I guess it’s something you keep having to do. I like quizzes too, some people have amazing memories and remember the most obscure things! Like the chasers xx

Lex

Nov. 30, 2019, 9:04 a.m.

Hmmm been watch the Human League's video of "Human" after reading your wise words, Zenas https://youtu.be/s1ysoohV_zA?fbclid=IwAR3a6UIRyeFs24k5K04THq5kC7dKp_UvgfqXDX-BnN-4uUFABVMsMpkGOCU

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Tutti Frutti

Nov. 30, 2019, 10:21 a.m.

Hi Zenas I liked your blog and there are certainly areas of my life in which I am a perfectionist too. The latest thing I have heard on parenting is that you are supposed to praise for effort rather than achievement. (The back of my mind is objecting that this is a should statement.) Anyway it makes sense to me but it is really difficult to do. I catch myself falling down on it and praising my daughter for achievements all the time and worse still I am sure that there have been times when I have been a bit luke warm if things haven't gone quite as well as I hoped. It appears that parenting may be another of the areas my perfectionist self has hold of and where I am not happy with doing a good enough job. Possibly the way I have picked up this theory and made a should statement of it is key to that and I need to reframe it to 'I prefer to praise my daughter for effort rather than achievement but it doesn't matter if I don't manage this all of the time.' Now I just have to learn to believe the new version and believe that she won't be screwed up that lightly. (Really difficult!) Thankfully she seems to take after her father and be quite a robust, confident type. I also think her school is doing a good job on teaching resilience, even though she complains these lessons are pointless. Love TF x

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Oli

Nov. 30, 2019, 11:14 a.m.

Hi TF, here's a nice statistical thought which might help: reversion to the mean. We can sometimes have the feeling that that when we praise someone they then go on to do worse next time -- so we feel the praise didn't reinforce the behaviour; when they do badly we might be lukewarm or even critical, and lo they go on to do better next time. It's totally *human* to feel that our praise/criticism was the cause of what happened next (and *that* reinforces *our* future behaviour). But in reality we are having little effect. What the person is doing in spite of our comments is reverting to the mean. If they do exceptionally well then it's no surprise that the next time they'll head down to the mean; if they do exceptionally poor it's also no surprise that next time they'll head up to the mean. What is really hard to grasp is that we're the kind of monkey who doesn't easily see this! Anyway, that's my 2p's! :-)

Nicco

Nov. 30, 2019, 11:23 a.m.

Thanks for your blog, Zenas. I'm a perfectionist but recognise inevitible human error, whereas my husband always feels an awful failure when things go wrong for him or he knows he cant do something himself, & he takes it out on me. He puts me in roll of mother, teacher, boss, & thinks i'll come down on him like a ton of bricks if he's not done something well, & he needs constant praise to the degree (he'll keep asking if what he's done is good enough, needing the constant reassurance of me telling him he's done a good job) where i could actually scream (but dont - it wouldnt do any good & i dont have the energy!) This results in certain important things not getting done in the house - they get left because he cant do them but wont get someone in to do them as he feels a failure for not being able to do them himself, which has the knock-on effect of him being angry, sulky & generally thoroughly nasty with me. I've tried to reassure him over the years that we cant all be good at everything - if we were, people would be out of a job - & that, as an example, my dressmaking skills are limited to taking up hems & putting in darts - if anything else is needed i get someone else to do it & i dont feel a failire for doing so - as long as it gets done, that's the important thing. I know rhis comes from his childhood where nothing he could do, especially for his mother, was good enough & his brother was always the golden child although he did considerably less, but stuff like this can be very corrosive & damaging in a relationship, especially when the other person (myself) is trying to deal with their own stuff from the past, stuff in the present, heslth probs, disabilities, & high degree of physical pain. Everything seems to be a bslancing act & i freel we all need to cut ourselves some slack, & be more compassionate with ourselves & our significant others. It reminds me of that quote which goes something like...'Be kind for everyone is fighting a great battle'. In other words, others may look perfectly in control of their supposedly perfect lives, but we have no idea of the fairly inevitible difficulties they have to grapple with in their own lives & inside themselves. Thanks again for your blog - it has helped to sort things in my own head & cut myself some slack when i dont live up to my own (sometimes ridiculously) high standards regading housework & keeping house (had some friends over yesterday for a monthly group meeting & its the first time i left the dusting & hoovering - just couldnt do it - & guess what?.. Nobody died!!

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The Gardener

Nov. 30, 2019, 11:54 a.m.

Nicco, Mr G had exactly the same scenario with his upbringing. Curiously, he was hyper-critical with our kids (the moaned that they never got any praise) but regarded what he did as perfect. He was very competent, NOT perfect!!

Nicco

Dec. 1, 2019, 9:47 a.m.

%!(^&^)!%

The Gardener

Nov. 30, 2019, 11:58 a.m.

Having gone through Alzheimers with Mr G, and dire warnings plus conflicting advice on old age in the media, panic sets in if I forget something. Then, if I analyse this morning, don't know how many subjects, decisions, always in two languages. The gaps in my knowledge! Picked up a historical novel. written by an Indian, about St Thomas's attempt to christianise India in the first century! Thought it was fictional, had to google, it was true! Spend life eating words. Thanks, fascinating stuff.

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Sue

Nov. 30, 2019, 12:23 p.m.

Thanks Nicco, I can identify with this. My full time job had an expectation of perfection whatever we did. I remember one manager commenting critically that I had had to do one thing twice, because I made a mistake first time - this was in my review, 6 months later. After I left there I worked in a church office and helped produce a quarterly plan. The superintendent I worked for said he had never produced one 100% and didn't expect me to either; such a change to be allowed to be human,

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Nicco

Dec. 1, 2019, 9:55 a.m.

Yes, when things change we look back & realise the pressure we've been under.

Jul

Nov. 30, 2019, 1 p.m.

Hi Zenas. If you add the letter 'e' to human you get humane which means merciful; kind; tender; compassionate. Wouldn't it be wonderful if to be human meant the same. I say this partly because I've just looked up the meaning of human and humane came up. But apart from this, I've never wanted to be perfect which as you say is liberating but for me not sad at all. I almost take it as a rebellion not to be perfect but as I'm not a pilot or as I don't do a job which requires perfection, I can afford my little rebellion. Thanks for your blog Zenas. Jul xx

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Oli

Nov. 30, 2019, 3:30 p.m.

My current antidote to perfectionism is learning Morse code. A bit of your brain will realise, instantly, that you have made a mistake but you cannot correct it because if you do you will miss the next letter. The dots and dashes don't stop just because you've made an error. You absolutely have to leave your error where it is and move on. It's massively difficult! And everyone says so. Utterly absorbing! https://lcwo.net/ Thanks for the blog Zenas and apologies for the tangential reply! Mercifully few jobs or tasks are life or death critical. When I was learning stuff on a course the last couple of days the instructor was explicit from the start: he didn't want people trying to be 100% perfect and he flashed a huge 50% on the screen to show what we were aiming for *at most*. If you're holding onto perfectionism tightly it's like gripping a pen so tightly you won't be able to write. You need to hold it lightly.

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Valerie

Nov. 30, 2019, 6:09 p.m.

If anyone says they have never made mistakes in their working life, they are lying,and I would not trust them one inch. I guess that the higher up the ladder you are,the easier it is to cover up. Don't know if anyone watched the excellent series Surgeons on U.K.television earlier this year.It is clear that the days of the ***-like consultant whose word is law have gone,and good riddance.These people filmed were working as a team,taking advice from colleagues,and admitting they were scared of getting things wrong. They performed some miraculous things. I ditched my smartphone Zenas,I don't want some gadget making me feel feeble-minded,even if I am.

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