Tuesday, September 11, 2018

What I Know Now

(These are two trees that used to stand in a farm field by the house I grew up in-I used to call them  "the perfect and imperfect trees" - maybe I love Anne of Green Gables so much because she would name things in nature also.:)


I am going to be very transparent in this post, which is brave, so I am taking a deep breath to hit publish.

My quote this week was on perfectionism, something I realized about a year ago that I really, really struggled with, and have worked hard to improve upon.  I always thought perfectionism could be explained as paying way too much attention to detail-having to have that cupcake look Martha Stewart perfect, or my hair and makeup just so.  That wasn't me, so I never gave it much thought.  I learned with help that it is typical to think that is what perfectionism is-but it's not at all what it is at the core.  I would have never ever described myself as a perfectionist before I knew the real definition.

I can explain it best like this:
Until this and that and the other is exactly right in my life-the situation, my weight, the projects in my home, the amount in our savings account, and the children fulfilled happy adults-I should not feel truly settled, content and happy or worthy of love.  The number on the scale will be ___, and then I can be happy.  Every room in the house will look finished and organized, and on and on and on and then I can truly feel those things and enjoy life.

The thing is-as a mother, a wife, a woman, a human-nothing will EVER be finished, because none of those things are attainable all the time-it's the personal spiritual "invention" of these goals, these circumstances that CAN never be complete that is really the problem.  Because the truth is, if all these un-attainables lined up just so, I'd quickly invent the next in line.  I felt I didn't deserve happiness (I didn't know I felt this way until I dug really deep with a professional's help) if everything in my life wasn't completely the way I imagined it should be.  It is really at the core of it all "the refusal to love and accept oneself in a state of imperfection*."

I think more than ever, so many of us women fall into this today.  For me it was a habit I remember cultivating as a teen-I loved to look at magazines, to study the way the models looked, the homes perfect, the stories with happy happy endings where everything worked out just so.  Today the opportunity to compare these illusions of perfection is a thousand fold what they used to be, and the expectations are almost laughable.

So if you are doing this, STOP.  As my favorite priest says, "If you are waiting for it to be perfect, it's over."  Yes, you'll be dead when it's perfect.  If I could go back so many years I can't even count I'd tell myself this:

Get help. 
Take baby steps of self-love.  Pray for it.
Sit with, right in the middle of the mess and feel content and relaxed in your whole being, shut down the racing mind of what needs to be done and cultivate that spirit constantly.  
Be naked (in daylight:)! in front of your husband and know that he thinks you are gorgeous no matter what you weigh or how fit you are.  Know it yourself.
Say "oh well" about all the little things that don't matter.
Leave the house with the kitchen a mess and truly not care.  
Give the baby a bottle or two of formula so you can sleep more than 90 minutes consecutively and you can feel alive again, the baby will be fine.  There is no perfect way to raise a baby.
Love that your furniture doesn't match and your house will never look like a magazine feature because who the heck cares except Instagram.  (Get off Instagram, or anything that makes you compare or feel less than-protect yourself!)  
Serve Stouffers mac n cheese and hotdogs at your next gathering, no one cares and if they do, they have the problem not you. 
It's ok to do one thing well, and feel that joy of "I've done well", but know then, that everything else has to give, so lower your expectations everywhere else.  
Tell yourself you love yourself every single day and take time to do something, anything, for yourself so you feel good-you are worthy of time to care for your being while you are spending so much of your time serving others.
Recognize when you are overwhelmed and get help, don't beat yourself up for not accomplishing it all. 
Spend most of your time on your relationships (your relationship with God first), everything else deserves to be second place.  


LIFE WILL NEVER EVER BE PERFECT.  It will never just all fall into place, that's called heaven and we are earthlings.  True joy comes from being kind, and loving and understanding and welcoming towards our husbands and children and families and friends and most of all ourselves.

*I read a lot of books on perfectionism but this book is the one that really really helped me:
Letters To A Perfectionist by Tad Frizzell

26 comments :

  1. Amen!!! Sarah, your blog posts are always such a big breath of fresh air. I'm so glad there's people like you who are passing on their wisdom to today's young mothers. We need more people like you in our world! Thank you for taking the time to care for those that stop by your blog. You are appreciated and admired more than you will ever know.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for this post and congrats for the courage of being vulnerable! (I think this is the post you promised me years ago!?)
    Although my house is always a mess, when we go out, I strive that my whole family of 6 is picture-perfect. Because of this, usually we are late, which drives my husband crazy. He perpetually claims that it would be better to be imperfect and on time, than perfect and late.
    I really think perfectionism is fear of being judged.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I was just listening to a podcast on “learn do become radio” and then during a discussion at church this was mentioned— the word “perfect” is the Greek word “teleios” which is translated as “complete, finished”. It does not mean flawless and without error. The Hebrew meaning is also “complete, mature, healthy.” That just helped me think in a whole new way! We do not need to be flawless or have it all together all the time. And I think the only way to become truly complete is through Christ. But those thoughts really helped me think about perfection differently. I have a far way to go work through my own issues of perfectionism, but I think you hit it right on in this post!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for this. I always appreciate your honesty and transparency. I really needed to hear this today.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I so needed this. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts! I know many women who need this as well.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great words Sarah. It is kind of crazy what we do to ourselves. Your list is one to start with. I am 58 and I wish so desperately I had heard and listened to more of these words along the way.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you so much for this Sarah. I am very hard on myself to present a "perfect" appearance. And, in the end, I am stressed out and annoyed and my family is on edge. As I approach 50 - next week - I am going to focus on enjoying each day - imperfections and all!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. This is totally me, something I struggle against all the time. Thank you for the blessings of your words. It helps so much to hear other women voice the feelings I am having!! Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Have you ever read Road Back to You? It's about the Enneagram personality typing system (you can read up on the Enneagram from other sources but this book is a great start.) The Enneagram looks at personality as who God created you to be if sin hadn't gotten in the way. It's SO fascinating! I too am a perfectionist and I learned through reading Road Back to You how God created me this way and that there is a healthy version of perfectionism (as you discuss above) but there is also an unhealthy version. The Enneagram teaches you about your strengths (which is so refreshing to us as perfectionists!) but also how to grow in areas where perfectionism is taking over. (There are 9 personality types and there are 7 people in my family. Almost all of us have a different personality type so this book is fascinating and it has really helped my parenting and my marriage b/c now I can see behaviors in light of the Enneagram, rather than taking behaviors personally.) It's worth the read!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Isn’t it funny how we can struggle with perfectionism and not even realize it?! I had a similar awareness a few years ago. Thank you for the advice, I needed it today ❤️

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly what I was going to say~cheers!

      Delete
  11. Sarah, I've been silent follower for years.. Even before I had 2 kids of my own. This post really hit home. THANK YOU. I try so hard to be perfect; the perfect wife, mom, friend, housemaker, etc. But in the end, I realize- it doesn't even matter! All that matters is that we try our best, love God and those around us, and be kind to ourselves. Thank you again for this eye opening post. God bless you and your family.

    ReplyDelete
  12. As a long time follower/admirer and mother of 10, 7 now married, I LOVE this post. Thank you for opening up. My married daughters, and daughters in law, young moms, will benefit so much from your philosophy. In a day where young moms are literally bombarded with unrealistic expectations, it’s so important to self love and self appreciate. I just think you’re awesome:)❤️

    ReplyDelete
  13. This is the best post of the YEAR!!! So, so good. Thank you. I shared it with about 20 friends of mine!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thank you for being able to express your growing pains so well. These are wise words. I grow with you as you share.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thank you for this post. I think I am a lot like you, from what you've described here. I have followed your blog for several years and find it very uplifting and helpful. It is a blessing to me when others open up and share their real life experience like you have done!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thank you for this post. I've struggled with not feeling adequate (because of comparison) since my teens as well. I've always said to myself, I will be less stressed/more relaxed/more at peace when X,Y or Z finally happens. But once it does, as you said, I find the next thing that needs to be "just so" before I can be content. I am going to look into that book.

    ReplyDelete
  17. OMG what an eye opener. I am a perfectionist and didn't know it until reading your post. This is what a lot of mothers and women in particular do- fixate on the "idea" of perfect things (house, weight, hair, clothes, marriage, kids) and miss the beauty in all of our imperfections as humans.
    Thank you for being brave and courageous and sharing your thoughts. Life-changing for me.

    ReplyDelete
  18. This is a great post! Thanks for posting...

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thank you for your wise words every week. You have no idea how much they bless and lift me in my mothering days of young children.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Thank you so much for this post! I feel like it was written just for me. I find myself starting each day with a giant to do list to try to get each and every thing in my lift to be "just so." The realization to put my energy to into relationships is so powerful.

    "True joy comes from being kind, and loving and understanding and welcoming towards our husbands and children and families and friends and most of all ourselves."

    Yes!

    ReplyDelete
  21. I loved this post and can relate, I feel this exact way. I have a rushing list through my head at all times of everything I need to do and one day my goal is to have no list...which will never happen. I recently started reading Beth Moore's book "So Long, Insecurity" and she relates both perfectionism and people pleasing to having roots in insecurity. I had never connected all 3 of those, all 3 of which I struggle with. I am trying to learn to put my security and value in God alone and not my husband, kids, family, home, friends and others opinions.

    ReplyDelete