The Perfectionism Complex
Good lord, I look wide. White is not slimming.
As my seamstress buzzes around me, pinning the sides of my dress and taking the hem up to match my five-foot frame, she explains in her thick Greek accent the process of bridal tailoring. "You come in three times. This time, the next time to make sure the pins were right after we've done some work, and a third time to make sure it looks perfect. Okay? We have four months before the wedding. You pay upfront."
"Okay," I reply. "So, what happens if I lose like, 15 or 20 pounds?" I hear myself asking this question, knowing I'd look like a skeleton if I lost that much weight, but still, just wondering. She stops, takes the pins out of her mouth, and looks at me sternly over the top of her thick, cat-rimmed glasses. "You pay again," she says. "But that shouldn't happen. You are small. You do not need to lose weight. And if you do, you pay again, at least to get it taken in. I tell you this upfront so you know. Don't do it. You don't need to."
She peers over at my friend Laura, who is sitting in a chair in the bridal salon, reading a magazine. "Right?" she asks her, her voice getting higher. "She does not need to lose weight. Am I right?" Laura looks up, clearly semi-distracted, and nods. "Right. Yes." In my head, I call them both liars. I spend the next 20 minutes staring in the mirror while my seamstress shows me bustling options.
Generally, I'm happy with my body: small, curvy, athletic. But that changed when I got engaged. Something about taking another big step into adulthood has given me the notion that to enter it well, I need to be perfect. I like the idea of looking my absolute best on my wedding day. (And the wedding night. FINALLY. Amen.) While it's normal for me to want to look good, it's wrong for me to declare myself a failure when the extra workouts and healthy diets aren't leading to the perfect bod I imagined. It kills me. It makes me feel like I'm not quite good enough to get married.
But then, I can't remember the last time I saw myself as qualified, or good enough, for anything.
In their recent Atlantic article, "The Confidence Gap," Katty Kay and Claire Shipman share the findings of their study at Hewlett-Packard to determine how women thought about promotions at work:
A review of personnel records found that women working at HP applied for a promotion only when they believed they met 100 percent of the qualifications listed for the job. Men were happy to apply when they thought they could meet 60 percent of the job requirements. At HP, and in study after study, the data confirm what we instinctively know. Underqualified and underprepared men don't think twice about leaning in. Overqualified and overprepared, too many women still hold back. Women feel confident only when they are perfect. Or practically perfect.
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