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Better than     

Posted by Katherine Putnam on October 31st, 2012

“You’re Annie. You like puzzles, and little monsters on your pencil, and some guy named Mark Ruffalo. You’re a fierce competitor and a sore loser. And you expect everybody to be better than who they are, and you expect yourself to be better than everyone. Which is cool.”

This is Annie Edison:

Although I find it extremely difficult to choose a favorite character on NBC’s Community, Annie frequently pulls ahead by a nose. Part of it’s because I’m a sucker when it comes to ‘ships, and I ship Jeff/Annie like a maniac. But a larger part of it is because Annie is one of those fictional characters with whom I really resonate.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’m exactly like Annie, but I certainly understand her hyper-organization, her determination to be self-reliant (and how that’s sometimes at odds with her penchant for over-romanticizing events and interactions), her competitiveness, and her perfectionism.

I wish I was half as formidable and resilient as she is, but perhaps some day I’ll get there.

And yes, perhaps it’s odd how much I invest in television or movie characters. Maybe it’s weird that I identify with a fictional person. But, as I’ve said before, fiction frequently helps me get a different view on a question or issue, or pushes me to think about things that I haven’t given much thought to before. And, sometimes, that thing I’m seeing in a new light is me.

In the case of Annie Edison, I find myself coming back to a portion of Troy’s summary of her: “You’re a fierce competitor and a sore loser. And you expect everybody to be better than who they are, and you expect yourself to be better than everyone.”

Those two sentences definitely, absolutely apply to me. They’re aspects of my character that trouble and confuse me. They trouble and confuse me because I’m not sure whether those traits are positive or negative.

Well, okay, being a sore loser is definitely a negative.

But expecting everybody to be better than who they are, and expecting myself to be better than everyone? That one I’m not so sure about.

It all depends on which direction you take it, on how far you go with it.

On one hand, I can see clearly how that could extend to a negative extreme: never accepting people for who they are, never accepting others unless they’re absolutely perfect all the time, thinking yourself better than others, etc etc. And I see how I fall into those traps. Don’t we all, at times? Don’t we all find it difficult to accept the shortcomings of others, let alone our own shortcomings? Am I the only one to mask insecurity and self doubt with pride or arrogance? Am I the only one to measure myself against others and tell myself I come out ahead in order to distract myself from the fact that, were I honest, I really think that I don’t measure up? I don’t think I’m the only one who does this. At least, I hope I’m not the only one who falls prey to this negative way of thinking.

On the other hand, there’s something to be said for having high expectations for yourself and others. Shouldn’t you have a goal to reach for? Why would you set the bar low when you could set it high? Isn’t there something to be said for seeing a person’s potential (or your own) and wanting them to achieve that potential? Isn’t there something to be said for challenging others to grow and expecting yourself to rise to that challenge as well? And, to avoid hypocrisy, shouldn’t you apply your expectations to yourself even more so than you do to others?

But you see, it’s so easy for me to tell myself that I’m pursuing the latter scenario–wanting everyone to reach their fullest potential–when I’m actually busy inflating my own ego through judgment and pride in an attempt to distract myself from my true insecurities.

“There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” True to a point, Prince Hamlet. Having high expectations and high standards is not in and of itself a good or bad thing…it is my attitude, my thoughts, my approach that determine whether those standards will become a judge’s gavel or a goal line.

So my question is, how do I hold high standards the right way?

Isn’t that always my question? I see that I’m doing something wrong–or, I think that I’m doing something wrong–how do I make sure I do it right?

I suppose the most obvious start would be immersing myself more in the Word (a practice I’ve made a practice of failing, forgetting, and neglecting) and getting a solid base of what my standards should be. (Just because they’re high doesn’t mean they’re Biblical.) From there…prayer? That’s still the only solution I’ve come up with for changing my heart and attitude to become more Christ-like. I’ve been attempting a pray-it-away method when it comes to some aspects of my attitude…I’m not sure if there’s any discernible, outward change yet, but I’m trying. Or trying to try, depending on the day.

Le sigh.

As usual, I can only say:

  • Sorry if this is incoherent.
  • Sorry I’m unable to come to a clear conclusion.
  • Please forgive me for the times I have fallen short on this in the past, and for the times I will–inevitably–fall short on this even as I strive to improve.

And, finally: I don’t want to lower my standards. I just wish I knew if that was me being stubborn and willful, or if that is actually the right stance to take.


Katherine Elyse




P.S. – Watch Community. Find out how awesome Annie is for yourself. There are three amazing seasons on DVD and–if NBC stops acting like human tennis elbow–a fourth season forthcoming.

P.P.S. – I want Annie’s collection of cardigans. I really, really do.

One Response to “Better than”     

  • sherry kane says:

    I really appreciate your openness to share your struggles. Being a Roten I often relate to them.
    Your desire to recognize, confess and seek change is the Christian life.
    Since Christ was perfect and we are to imitate Him, can high standards be wrong? For myself the problem comes when I don’t allow others to struggle in their place of weakness and of course, when I want the glory for my accomplishements.
    Two things come to mind, one from a song and one from a sermon:
    Til sin is bitter Christ will not be sweet. As long as my feelings of superiority or inferitority bring me comfort I can’t fully reallize my need for Christ. I clearly remember in the area of humor once God asked me if the laugh was worth it.
    God is not opposed to effort but merit, who gets the glory. Scripture often tells us to strive, or put on, or run for excellence. It never encourages us to think more highly of ourselves than we ought.
    This past year I finally realized I can’t want something for the people I love more than they want it but if it is an area of struggle for them I can be faithful in prayer for them and stop trying to “help” them with reason.
    Thanks for being an encouragement to me .

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