(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:
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