Friday, October 13, 2006

Excellence

I'm an ENTJ. Actually, that particular description I linked to included some interesting things that I hadn't heard before. I love personality stuff. Myers-Briggs, temprament studies, birth order, you name it--I like it. I posted my kudos about The Birth Order Book in my review last week. One quality that many firstborns share is that we are perfectionists. That's not me. Yes, I'm a high-achiever, but in some weird warped way, I'm also pretty lazy, and subscribe to the "why go for the A when the assignment is just pass/fail" theory for most things in my life. I didn't make straight A's in school, or even strive for A's. I was more a "B will do" sort of student. Honestly, that mentality has been good for me. It allows me to do things that I wouldn't normally do if I couldn't achieve excellence.

For example, I invite people into my home in its pretty much normal state. Yes, I run the vacuum and brush the toilet bowl and make sure that the kitchen is fairly presentable and the toys are sort of contained, but my normal life includes some crumbs under the table and some dog hair in the corners and even dirty dishes, and lots of piles (of books, mail, newspapers, magazines etc.). Don't you wanna come over now? But seriously, I am glad that my attitude allows me to be content with that, because since I am not, nor will I ever be, a neat freak, if I waited for everything to be perfect in my home, I would not ever be able to open the doors to someone new. Someone came to lunch yesterday, in fact, who has only seen my home when she's dropped off or picked up her daughter. There's no telling what it looked like then, but now she's coming for a planned lunch date. I did use the excuse to do some organizing/putting away that probably should've been done already, and I did mop the kitchen floor (which again, doesn't happen as much as it should), but things weren't perfect. I hope that doesn't show a lack of respect for her. I've been told it sets people at ease, and I hope that's true. So, I give myself an A for making the effort of inviting her over. But lovely surroundings might earn me a C--just passing (or maybe a B since I did make an effort). And I kept it simple--just a salad (but a tasty one that she did enjoy), but nothing else, so maybe that gives me a B.

I do have a few regrets about things that I wish I had put more effort into, so when I see someone who strives for excellence, it sort of puts me in awe. A friend of mine (who is nameless and linkless by choice), has started a blog. It's not listed and she's only told a couple of people about it, I think. She wants it to be private. But she still publishes it with excellence. She links to other blogs, she adds lovely pictures, she asks questions. It's wonderful. And she's not doing it with excellence in order to grow her readership, or impress someone, or get 15 comments on a post, or cause someone to link to her. I guess she does it that way because that is who she is.

I think she's a first born. . . .

Do you always try to earn the A, or do you go for a passing grade at times? In what areas do you strive for excellence and where do you let things go? Are you failing in any subjects right now? What can you do to bring up your grade?

Also, if you've been typed (in any type of personality test), and you think it's accurate, I'd love to hear it. You can label yourself when you comment if you like so that we can all get to know each other better.

21 comments:

Laura said...

i've been wanting to do a post on this for a while but have not been excelling in blogging at all lately!

i am a first born and err on the side of perfectionism. though having children has helped cure me of some of that.

i always try to earn the A, but am learning to let it go when my efforts only merit a B, or (shudder) a C. i'm learning to let good enough, be just that. at least when it comes to things outside of people, such as my house, my schedule, etc. when it comes to people though - "good enough" doesn't cut it when i want to attend to their needs or bless them and that is where i'd like to err on the side of perfectionism more often than not!

Heather said...

ENFP here.
You know, it's funny. In some areas, I demand excellence of myself. An excellence that I can't really achieve. When is it okay to stop editing my book? When will it be good enough? (Not that I think it's anywhere near that now.)
But my house - come on in! What crumbs? Let's just relax and have fun. I'll dig up some leftovers.
And it's not even consistent. Sometimes I'll practice a piano piece until perfection. Sometimes "it's good enough for jazz" (which, don't be fooled, takes a lot of practice!)

org junkie said...

Jennifer we posted something very similar today. I am the oldest of three and I used to be a much more of a perfectionist but it was such a heavy burden to carry. I didn't want to model that behaviour for my children so I make a conscious effort to let some stuff go. It is so much more important to enjoy the beauty in each day and all that God has provided and that is what I want to teach my children. Great post!!!

Tammy said...

Thought provoking... and I am a lot like you in that in some ways I'm a perfectionist...and others, I am almost lazy. I'm an "only"...so that may explain it!

(I'm off to Hawaii..."see" ya' when I get back!) ;)

Susanne said...

I'm the oldest but I can't say I'm a perfectionist. But that might be because I usually overwhelmed so I'm just glad things get done! I like stuff to be nice but perfect? Nah!

It's funny alot of people are talking about personality tests today. I always hated them because I would never "fit" into anything. I always had some out of every category and never a lot more in one to "name" myself anything. Everybody else was always getting put into nice little boxes and I couldn't be identified. It always made me feel like a nothing. :vD

I laugh now but at one time in my life that was hard.

twiga92 said...

I'm an ISFJ. Though I have tested as an ESFJ. I know I'm an introvert because I crave my alone time and need it to rejuvenate. I'm also a firstborn and definitely a perfectionist. But only in some areas. For instance, I'm not a perfectionist when it comes to keeping my house clean or organized. I'm very laidback about that. I used to be very much striving for A's in school, until my senior year of college where I was more like, 'hey it's almost time to go and I want to have fun with my friends, who cares if I get a B'.

Jennifer said...

Twiga--I actually tested INTJ once as well. I am borderline E/I, and actually do like alone time as much as people time, but in the overall descriptions, it was clear which one I was.

Heather--I read your profile, and it fits you!

Katrina said...

I'm an ISTJ and a first-born as well. The perfectionist thing always confused me because, as you know, I feel no compunction to have my home 100% perfect, etc. But then I read that even perfectionists tend to only strive for perfection in the things that really matter to them, the things that they feel "identify" them. For me, that was grades in school, but it is most definitely not housework now. The perfectionism does show up in several areas - but not every area.

lrlwreath said...

ISTJ here and first born. I wrote about the Myers-Briggs test on me....

http://lrlwreath.blogspot.com/2006/10/whats-shape-of-your-faith.html

Lori said...

Hhmmm- I'm trying to think of the blogger you might be speaking of in your post?!

I AM a first born, a perfectionist in many areas, YET getting ready to dive in to a new adventure in our lives that will get me out of my "comfort zone."

Excellent post from an excellent blogger... I enjoy your journeys.

Barb said...

Hi Jennifer,

BLESS you for posting this. I'm a firstborn. I'm a perfectionist. I DID make staight A's. What a complete waste of my mental effort and all that angst!

So I've changed. Because you are sooo right. People are not comfortable around the person I used to be. Don't get me wrong. I'll never be a slob. But my house and my whole attitude have become a lot more relaxed and just downright comfortable than they used to be. And I've discovered that people are a lot more open with me now that I'm not so off putting.

Good for you for being a real person and not a robot. You're obviously a wonderful person to know and I'm so glad you know that just being yourself impacts people a lot more than a spotless kitchen and a shining toilet bowl.

Don't misunderstand me. My house is still in better shape than most. I was only able to change myself to a certain point. :-)

But I think most people who know me understand that my children are grown, with homes and families of their own and I have more time than they do to care about dust and crumbs.

It's funny. Most of my friends are women 20 years younger than me. I wonder what that means?

Still, it took me years to figure out that a less than perfect house but a more than perfect attitude attracted people to me.

My goal now? Keep it all clean enough to be safe but comfortable enough to not have have a heart attack if someone spills something.

Good for you for being so open and transparent and this is a wonderful, encouraging post.

R.G. said...

I am a firstborn but I'm a perfectionist in a specific way: I do not care about anyone else's standards, only my own. I am perfectionist about holding to my own standards! I'm pretty adamant about NOT worrying that the house is spotless, even when people come over. I do care about it, yet I don't like the feeling of having to be inauthentic in order to be acceptable.

I only try to earn the A when I've decided that it matters. An A on housecleaning? I couldn't possibly care less. An A in my relationships with my daughters? Yes, yes, yes. An A in making my husband feel loved and cherished? Again, yes.

I'm a perfectionist, always going for the A in my job as well. I'm a writer/editor but here's what's funny. In my professional work, I'm completely obsessive about everything being perfect. But in writing emails, in blogging, in commenting on others' blogs, and even in conversation, I don't think it's that important to be perfect and therefore I don't strive for it (otherwise I would always be paralyzed).

Great post!

lady laura said...

I also love personality tests. I am an ISTJ which is very accurate. I am also a first-born.

On the perfectionist thing, I dunno. On some things I am very type A, it must be perfect/absolutely best effort. On others, not so much. Grades were one of those not-so-much areas. But that might be because I was working on perfecting my party girl image back in those dark days.

What can I say? I'm complex ;)

e-Mom said...

I am also a first-born high achiever. I took the Meyers-Briggs test a number of years ago, and I recall that my results are similar to yours. I have an intense interest in this subject too, and I am always trying to identify people's "types." (My husband has finally accepted this quirk in my personality, and he was the Psych major!)

The best information I've run across is known as "motivational giftings" taken right out of Scripture... Romans 12:6-8. If you're interested, take a look at the revealing self-tests in Discover Your God-Given Gifts or Discover Your Children's God-Given Gifts by Don and Katie Fortune. If you want a small taste of the material, I posted on the latter book here.

http://chrysaliscom.blogspot.com/2006/05/family-identify-your-childs-gift.html

My gift is "adminstrator" and with a secondary gifting of "giver." I may tackle this topic again... a great reminder, thanks! :~)

Tammy said...

This is an interesting post! I am a first-born "perfectionist" at heart. However, it really holds me back in some areas. For instance, if I don't have the time to do something "perfect" than I don't do it. Or I procrastinate. It's something that I've been working on lately. I didn't take the time to get a password at the site you listed, so I'm not sure where I'd fit in personality wise. :) I'm more analytical than emotional. But believe me, I'm still female, so I'm still emotional. LOL

Dad said...

"As an ENTJ, your primary mode of living is focused externally, where you deal with things rationally and logically"...your Father?..your Daughter?
What if you expect perfection in those around you? It could make you somewhat difficut to live with.
" ENTJs naturally have little patience with people who do not see things the same way as the ENTJ." HHMMMM

Katherine@Raising Five said...

Okay, does it strike you funny the percentage of (a)bloggers in general and (b) specifically, readers of your blog that are first borns and perfectionists? Cracking me up!

Well, I don't fit into any categories. I'm third of four and when I was younger I had way more "firstborn" type traits (my older brother used to tease me and say "Yes, Boss," if that's any indication!). I'm kind of like Heather in that I'm a perfectionist in certain areas only (writing is one of those), and the rest can go to pot. As I've gotten older (maybe this is sad?) I'm more about function. Does it work? I'm as perfectionistic (or mostly NOT) as I have time for. So I guess that's what growing up is all about, huh? Learning where to put your time, which turns out to be a pretty good indicator of where your best efforts are being placed....I'll let you know when I arrive, okay?

Great post!

kailani said...

I am also first born, a perfectionist and very competitive. I would rather lead than follow and I kind of have control issues. Definitely A type personality.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I'll have to take that test sometime. I too am a firstborn and somewhat of a perfectionist. I'd have to say a frustrated perfectionist. I don't often feel like things will turn out as perfectly as I think they should so I make a conscious decision to "not care." If I don't get everything made for a party, or everything cleaned, it has to be okay. But really it's not! I know I need to relax on that aspect.

Magnanimity said...

I have such trouble with the word "excellence"...I'm not sure why. I always have, since I first heard the idea brought back from a Willow Creek Arts Conference about 4-5 years ago. I think I know what they mean by it. The definition that settles best with me is in words I like better: faithfulness, obedience, priorities, honoring others, discipleship.

Excellence...doesn't this mean all those? maybe. Maybe not. Disney can do "excellence" well, too. and they make a great show of it.

but, it doesn't necessarily reflect Jesus. It DID cause me to ponder Jesus...just because I know that he is bigger than even that.

Great thoughts. Good to see you!

Anonymous said...

So mine came out ISFP. Very interesting, and pretty close on a lot of things I'd say. Good thought provoking post. I wonder, is "excellence" something all personality types seek but in different ways? I mean, does it look different? I just think it's so cool how God created us all unique but allowed common threads to run through each of us and each type is needed to make the world complete.