Not long ago I was in conversation with a guy who works in the Tech industry. Although not a Blogger, he offered me some advice on writing successful posts. And because he works in social media, I listened. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard this ‘theory’ of what makes for effective blogging Content. “Generally speaking”, he said, “people are on social media because they want their problems solved. Become a problem-solver for the issues that most people want ‘fixed’, and you’ll be successful.”
Ok…a little bit of an over-simplification – which I grasped only as a result of my own tiny amount of study. Still, it got me thinking and motivated to do keyword research on several popular sites. Sure enough, topics like Baking Perfect Cookies and Your New Puppy were right up there with Coping With Depression and Parenting Your Parents. Maybe my friend was right? Maybe it’s just a matter of scale when it comes to problem-solving.
But certain personal struggles feel too unique and too complex to suggest others can relate. Some of my own issues rise from such tender places in my being that it’s hard to even acknowledge their existence. Let alone explore just who ‘out there’ might be feeling the same way. For me, one key issue has always been the Inner Critic. The most stubborn mental and emotional roadblock I’ve grappled with my entire life. The drive for perfection in all that I do. In all that I am. Lately, relating to mixed feelings about the way Time shows up in my face and my body.
Author Elizabeth Tallent’s current book “Scratched” (Harper) gave some insights about this habit… or (she calls it) disorder. The positive spin on Perfectionism is ‘an uncompromising nature’. On the other end of the spectrum, Tallent captures what I suffer from – as do many other women I know and work with – with a simple statement. I look in the mirror in the morning, sans makeup or ‘done’ hair; pillow lines still etched on my face and I think: “You are just not that interesting.” I appreciate Tallent’s use of the word ‘interesting’ instead of ‘beautiful’.
As a woman, the concept of Beauty lost its gravity early-on. Maybe it was my grandmother, always reminding that “Pretty is as Pretty Does”. Even as a young girl I knew in my bones that I’d never meet her standards for Ladylike Behavior. So I also took a hard-pass on adopting generalized ideas about ‘prettiness’ as well. Besides, as I later learned through female writers, being considered ‘Interesting’ was better; something I could build on; something that would sustain me as I grew up. From a young girl’s perspective, interesting women seemed to lead interesting lives, filled with tantalizing freedoms and a wide array of opportunities.
Not feeling oneself as being ‘up to par’, Tallent writes, is an unhealthy seed that gets planted very early in a girl-child’s life. The subtle, or overt, sense of being evaluated, judged, and found inferior in one or more ways. Especially in her physical beauty. Over time, these feelings can morph into Perfectionism. We find fault with our faces and bodies; and later, with our achievements and our relationships. Soon we dread the aging-process and see it as the ultimate failure: failure to hang on to what we’re told is at the core of our femininity: attractiveness, allure, sexuality and youth.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve taken more time to source the origin of my own perfectionist tendencies. I think I have things pretty well figured out at this point. When it comes to aging well, an overall sense of wellbeing is most important. But author Tallent wonders if, as a whole, we women aren’t in fact obsessed with ‘perfection’; especially when it comes to our appearance. She offers anecdotes and memories from her own days in college, remembering “Countless girls, pitting ourselves against our own hair, our thighs and our bellies”.
Somehow I think they’re all tied together: beauty, aging, perfectionism, problem-solving…and Blogging. The link, for me, has to do with the basic Process of Living. It’s ephemeral, and imperfect; thrilling and unpredictable. How do I want to experience it? All caught-up in my own impossible and improbable expectations? How can I make this Process easier — for myself, and for others? Ah, yes: maybe a Blog.