I was in a friendly conversation with another mom the other day. We were volunteering in our kids’ class, putting up a bulletin board outside the classroom. There was lots of measuring, cutting of big-paper and stapling going on.
I was telling her, that our crooked cutting and stapling looked “good enough” and whatever we flubbed up, it would be covered by the kid’s artwork! We were joking freely about her being a “type-A” person. She was grappling with my estimation of which mistakes were acceptable and still considered “good.”
“Well, I am a type-C,” I said. “That’s why I never get anything done.” We laughed and continued to put up the bulletin board for the kids’ classroom.
It did get done, and in good fashion… it looked perfect. No mess ups, and no disasters.
I have to wonder, is looking for perfection helping you? I looked up the actual definitions of the types (READ: I am a librarian, so that is just the nerdy-type thing that I do), and here’s how the American Psychological Association (APA) defines it:
Type A behavior pattern A complex pattern of behaviors and emotions that includes excessive emphasis on competition, aggression, impatience, and hostility; hostility increases the risk of coronary heart disease.
Type B behavior pattern As compared to Type A behavior pattern, a less competitive, less aggressive, less hostile pattern of behavior and emotion.
Type C (or D) behavior pattern A constellation of behaviors that may predict which individuals are more likely to develop cancer or to have their cancer progress quickly; these behaviors include passive acceptance and self-sacrifice [worried, irritable, and express a great deal of negative emotions.]
Okay, so I am decidedly NOT a type C- I am WAY too positive for that. But if you are a type-C, this information leads me to think you should give that s**t up! Stop playing like a martyr, and just relax! I also am NOT type A. No hostility here. And if I was, I would start to chill that bit out, so I don’t just stop the heart from beating. That is key for living
well , I think.
Other characteristics as we know them for Type A or B, are:
Type A: hard-driving, competitive, and try to overachieve; focused on competing and attaining measurable goals.
Type B: laid-back, never rush, and tend to take things easy; more about living in the moment.
If you have been told that you are type-A, does that make you more type-A?
I remember reading that parents should never tell kids that they are “shy.” This makes them self-identify as “shy” and dismisses anti-social behavior as acceptable in a way. In the same vein, I have heard my friends call themselves “type-A” so often, and harmlessly say, “I just feel better when things are done right.”
Yes. We all do.
Even us, “type-B” people. We also like things done correctly. Not perfectly maybe, but done correctly. I guess I just let myself, and others, off the hook. If it’s not perfect, it is still good. With all things. Steak not cooked perfectly: still good. Wall not painted perfectly: atleast I did it. Kids didn’t clean their rooms the way I would have: they are learning. Marathon not a PR: at least I ran it.
I am someone who has stepped into type-A shoes before with horrible results. I became unhappily focused on details that in the bigger picture did not matter. I was unable to “roll with the punches” and it became harder for me to work with, be friends with, and generally be happy with other people. My tendency became to control things and everything around me had to be “just so” or else my day or moment was ruined.
I know and love many type-A-ers. I just want to tell you all a few things about perfection:
- That I am not lazy. I like things to be “done right.” Like you, I also appreciate order. The way we go about it, though, may look very different.
- To this end, I want my kids to see flexibility. To see options, when things don’t go according to plan. To see the good, without needing perfection. Yes, “strive to the highest my children”, but enjoy and appreciate all the bumps along the way, because they may lead to some very interesting and good places. Have a plan B. Always.
- I worry that you, as “type-A” people will be unhappy. That is my nature. I want people to be happy…with me mostly, but happy in general, is really what I want. Perfection means you can’t be satisfied or happy with the imperfect. With real, authentic, unpredictable life.
No matter where you fit along the spectrum of type-A or type-B, (because there is a spectrum. You can be somewhere in between these two “types”) is that everyone has this intrinsic nature. Type-A-ers, you feel more comfortable with order all the time. I get it. I love you for it.
I just hope you have that same love for us: the yin to your yang…the “type-B”-ers. And maybe there is a happiest place, in the middle somewhere.
Food for thought.