Once, in a flurry of late-night texts, a friend told me he worked hard to make every aspect of his life more efficient. Whether it was shaving down food preparation times or learning new languages, he conducted himself with metacognitive awareness, approached everything as a practice to refine – and quite impressively, too. I was drawn to this laser-like focus, and aspired to emulate it.

I wonder now, after having to cut off both him and an ex possessing the same tendency, whether the pursuit of efficiency is more fraught than I realized. Surely, some degree can be a virtue; I want to believe it’s not limited to people who proved themselves toxic to me. But in this case, a singular mission – to do everything harder, better, faster, stronger according to high personal standards – leaked poison into their treatment of others.

The line of thought goes: Why did you have to do it that way? It would have been so easy for you to do it differently. Just a small change would have been much more considerate. If you really loved me, you would have done it my way, the right way. It’s seductive in its clear-cut logic; perhaps we’ve all thought or said this at one point or another, to others or even (often?) to ourselves. But time and again, my former friends didn’t consider this way of thinking may be an unfair measuring stick to apply to the average person. Rules meant for personal growth should not be used to judge, belittle, or control anyone else, for no matter how close you are, their journey is not synonymous with yours.

I wrote before about being a robot learning how to feel like a human, and I feel similarly about this issue. As a perpetual over-thinker, I want to make the best of things, but first I must lower my impossibly high standards for myself and my loved ones. Perfectionism breeds fear of missteps, and this is anathema to creation of anything – work, art, relationships. No, softness is the answer. Softness is always the answer.

(Image source.)


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