Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Oh To Be Perfect.

Have you ever heard of the, you could have done better syndrome?  I heard of it from a very early age in life. My mother was one of those people who, no matter how well a thing was done it was never quiet good enough. She was also one who was never slow to let you know. I remember a school test. I had worked really hard to prepare for it, more than I could remember having prepared for any other test in school. On the day of the test I felt well prepared as I sat down to look at the test paper. I completed all the questions well within the set time and handed in the completed paper.

The next day the teacher handed them back out, marked and scored. I had done very well having only got two questions not completely correct. It turned out that I was second top from a class of 32. I went home proudly holding my test paper to show my parents. My mother looked at it and noted I had been second in the class. “What happened that you did not manage to come first?” This is my first remembrance of the, “you could do better syndrome.”  Did it make me better? The answer to that question is simply this. I am not at all sure. What it did do though was to set in motion, “The I can do better driver.” This driver I have carried through my whole life.

So it was some surprise that I read the blog of Bonnie Heather this morning to discover my face staring from it and some very complimentary words. I find such praise very difficult and yet when artists who produce work such as she and others make comment on my work I feel very humbled and inspired.

This reminds me of the story of the man who had never married. One day his best friend asked him why he had never met somebody and settled down. He told his friend that he had wanted very much to do just that. He had looked and looked for the perfect girl. “You never found her?” asked his friend. “Yes I did,” he replied. He went on to tell his friend how he had met the perfect girl. She was perfectly beautiful and perfectly talented loving and caring. She would have made the perfect wife. “So why did you not marry her?” asked his friend. “Because she was looking for the perfect man.”

I think it is a bit late for me to learn the lesson I should have learned years ago but I have learned this. I never ever tell somebody that what they have achieved and are proud of is not the best. I strive to always encourage and inspire.

Thank you to all of you, who like Bonnie Heather, inspire me to keep on striving to reach that goal of being an artist. 

This blog is linked to my other.  The Summer Knows


  1. I could have written these words, Ralph. Well said.

  2. Good Morning, Ralph, you are doing GREAT! As it happens most people are not "first" in line and sometimes it is difficult, even for a mother, to find the correct words of encouragement without seeming to be critical. Maybe you (all of us) could have done better, got up earlier, studied a little bit harder (chosen a better color? whatever!) She could have said, "Wow, Ralph, Second Place, that is the best you can do! What a great job!" Maybe her Intention was simply encouragement and to show the value of hard work? You seem to have developed these attributes too. I know, for me, every job I have ever done I could have done it better. No one instilled that in me, it is just the truth.
    Sometimes I complete a task "good enough" because it is necessary to get on to the next task. I think you came out great, probably not in spite of your mother and probably not because of your mother, probably just because you are who you are!

  3. haha Ralph, please indulge me, I have to tell you a story that a wonderful older jewish woman told me. Her name was Natalie. Natalie's Mother was going to have a milestone birthday..I think it was 80. Natalie decided to give her mother a wonderful party..and instead of cater it Natalie did all the cooking herself. There was something like 100 guests! Natalie made food for days ahead and worked right up to the last minute. Being Jewish she provided TONS of unique varieties of hors d'oeuvres, entrees and desserts...she absolutely worked like a dog, a labor of love for her one and only Mother. When the entire party was over Natalie collapsed into a chair. "OK, Ma, so what did you think?" Natalie's Mother hesitated for just a moment ......and then said "well, we could've used a nice pudding".

  4. p.s. I very much enjoy the painting in this post. Beautiful simplicity and love the complementary colors

  5. You may not have learned to be the best (who can besides God) but you learned the important lesson here as you say here " I never ever tell somebody that what they have achieved and are proud of is not the best. I strive to always encourage and inspire". To me, that is the real learning.

    My son-in-law at 42, is afraid to tell his mother he's gone back to school to become a lawyer as she'll tell him he's neglecting his proper duties. But then, she's giving his brother a hard time for not going after his degree. For some people, nothing is good enough - ever!

    As far as your mother goes, she taught you to be more mindful of what you say to others so although she obviously hurt you in this not being good enough stuff, she helped you become a better person through it too.