Chasing Inspiration

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Taking Ourselves Too Seriously

I have high standards for certain things. The cleanliness of my bathroom. How my closet is organized. The quality of my clothing. The organization of my purse. Getting the bills paid on if not before time. And my books. I have super high standards for the quality of books that I keep, particularly trade and hardcover editions. New or used. Mass market paperbacks I'm more lenient about, unless I'm buying new. Then I want to pick the most immaculate looking book in the store.

Recently, these high standards got me in trouble. I belong to a book swap site where members can swap books with each other. It's a great way to recycle books I don't want to keep and to obtain the backlist of authors I have recently discovered. The site allows you to list conditions that must be met before you are willing to accept a book. I rarely ask for hardcovers because I usually buy the hardcovers I plan to own. You know stimulate the economy and support those people who are doing what I hope to do some day soon - publish. But occasionally I'll want a hardcover that is hard to find new or is out-of-print and these books I plan to not read and pass on but to keep.

One such book that I had requested arrived and it was not in the condition I thought I had made clear on my requester conditions. So I pinged the sender and asked for a return of credit since the book didn't meet my conditions. I've done this once before when a book didn't meet my conditions and the transaction was pleasant enough. I myself have been asked to return credit due to a book I sent that wasn't in as good a shape as I had thought. No biggie, right?

I was reprimanded by the sender. If I wanted a book that was pristine I should have purchased it new. I got the feeling, and I'm only guessing, that what the sender wanted to say was, "Get over yourself, it's a used book for crying out loud!"

At first I was upset. And then I thought about it. It was just a used book. Sure, I could have all the conditions on the book I wanted to put there but at the end of the day, unless I go to a store and pick the book out myself, I'm not guaranteed to have something that meets my personal requirements. What right do I have to be disappointed?

And that got me thinking about taking myself too seriously. With all these conditions we put on life, are we taking ourselves too seriously? Do we lose something in the enjoyment of living by saying something isn't good enough unless it lives up to these judgments we have created? By having these conditions for the sole purpose of having pristine and glossy books marching across my bookshelves, I could be missing out on what's inside the book - the story, the drama, the knowledge. I truly was judging a book only by it's cover.

I started to think about the conditions I place on other things in my life. What opportunities am I missing out on because I take myself and all my conditions and judgments too seriously?

I'm thankful this event occurred because it gave me a moment to stop and pause and see what I was doing through different eyes. I'm not saying I was wrong, but I am saying that perhaps I take my standards a little too seriously and have become inflexible in certain areas of my life that, when push comes to shove, really don't matter in the grand scheme of things.

What about you? Do you take yourself too seriously? Are there certain standards or judgments you place on people or things or situations that perhaps need a second look? What opportunities might open up with that second look? I'm curious and looking forward to your comments.

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