The Danger of Perfection
Do you ever feel like you’re not good enough? That you could be a better Mum/ Sister/ Daughter/ Friend/ Lover/ Partner/ Employer/ Employee? Do you worry and get anxious that whatever it is you are doing is not good enough because it’s not perfect?
We are all under such pressure. We are bombarded with images on social media of ‘other’ people living perfect lives. We see the new Mum wearing her size 8 skinny jeans leaving the maternity unit hours after giving birth. We see ‘that’ Mum. You know her. She always takes her kids to school (and collects them). She always looks amazing. She’s never late. She never forgets the PE kit/ book/ bag/ science project. She has a full time job, five kids, an adoring husband, runs her own successful business and is the first one to volunteer. She makes the best cakes for the cake sale. Her kids have the most nutritional home-made packed lunches. Every day.
You might look at her in wonder and ask how she does it? How does she keep it all together and make it look so effortless?
The bad news is I’m NOT about to tell you that. The good news is I’m going to tell you something BETTER. She is NOT perfect and she is NOT holding it all together. I promise.
How can I be so sure? Well, for one thing there is no such thing as perfection. There never has been and there never will be. Think about it. How is perfection measured? Everybody has their own definition. That perfect woman – what do you think she is so scared of? Ask yourself why she feels she has to be so freaking awesome at everything. Who is she trying to impress? Why does she feel the need to be brilliant at everything? What is she hiding or running from? Do you know? No, nor do I. I’ll stick my neck out and tell you that She doesn’t know either.
I spent years being an uptight, control freak perfectionist. I was the best nanny. The kids I looked after were the most loved (I’m not about to apologise for that). They had the best birthday parties, the most nutritious home-made meals. I never forgot anything and I was NEVER late.
I was the perfect friend. I never forgot a birthday. I never ignore a phone call. I never cancelled plans. I always bought the perfect gift. I nearly always made that perfect gift myself.
I was the perfect student. At university I got consistent high grades. My dissertation received the second highest grade in my year (89%). I submitted every single essay over 5 years at least two weeks early.
Was I ever perfect? NO. I was unhappy, lonely, driven by fear. I was full of self-loathing. Did other people and admire me, look up to me and wish they could be more like me? Possibly.
Let me share with you where my constant strive and struggles for perfection came from. This is not a pity party. I merely rewind to help you understand. I didn’t have a happy, loving childhood. Was I beaten or abused? No. I was simply not wanted. I was not wanted. How do I know? Because my Mother told me. Every chance she got. Several times a day. I wasn’t loved. I wasn’t supported. I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t thin enough. I wasn’t pretty enough. I wasn’t nice enough. I wasn’t smart enough. I wasn’t…well you get the idea. Did I decide any of these things? No. Did I believe them? Absolutely.
For over forty years. I believed that if I could just be smart enough, pretty enough, nice enough, and so on, then my family (and everyone else) would LIKE me. Yes — like! I wasn’t greedy. I never dreamt anyone would love me. Why would they?
I’m no longer striving for perfection. I’m happy. Truly, insanely happy. I have a great life. I have amazing, supportive friends. I have a job I created that I love.
What made me give up the struggle? Simple. I tried so hard to please everyone, and failed so badly, and got to a point where I was so paralyzed by anxiety and depression that I tried to commit suicide. I hated myself and my life so much that I just wanted it to be OVER.
Clearly (and Happily) I failed at that too. I ended up homeless. I lived in a shelter full of crack addicts, sociopaths and sex workers..It wasn’t a fun time.
It was a huge learning curve that turned my life around. I’ve met a LOT of depressed people. I know a lot of people struggling with anxiety. Daily. I’ve read, studied and grown.
I was a child once. I spent over twenty years taking care of other people’s children. I would like to share a few things with you. I would like you to know what makes you an amazing Mother. Ready? Do you love your child? Do you tell them? Do you cuddle your child? Feed them? Let them sleep? Let them play? Let them get dirty?
Congratulations. You are an AMAZING mother!! Still don’t believe me? Think about your own childhood. What are your happiest memories? Children aren’t the mysterious, challenging and hard to understand creatures we make them out to be. They are simply mini-humans and what we ALL need is love, food, sleep, security and support. Not a lot to ask for, really. Give it! In abundance!!
J-Lo was right. “Love don’t cost a thing”. Don’t sweat the other stuff. Your child won’t mind that your hair isn’t perfect or that there’s yoghurt on your shirt. He/ She will LOVE that you jump in puddles on rainy days. If you leave those dishes in the sink for 10 minutes to dance around the room to their favourite song what do you think your memories will be?
When you hear your child describe this time in their lives, would you want to hear them say, “My mum always had time to dance around the kitchen with us!” or “My mum didn’t have time to play with us but our house was ALWAYS spotless!” Which one makes your heart sing? If it’s the latter – then that’s your choice and you must stick with it. I just ask you to live in a way that makes your heart sing.
You will NEVER be perfect but there is an outstanding chance that you will be awesome. There is also an outstanding chance that letting go, being kinder to yourself and giving yourself permission to be the best version of you will more or less make you (and those around you) very content and happy.
Just try it. You may be surprised.