Before I became a parent, I was the definition of a perfectionist. I wanted to have everything exactly perfect before I presented it. My home was not only clean, but it was tidy. My towels were folded perfectly and stacked “just so” in the linen closet. My work projects were reviewed many times with a lot of spell checks and more-than-necessary editing before submission. Even my to-do lists needed to be neatly organized and aesthetically pleasing. I once spent 2 hours meticulously organizing and rearranging the items in my nightstand to make sure it looked perfect just in case anyone were to get curious and look through the drawers. I know what you’re thinking… “What? 2 hours?! Who’s snooping your nightstand anyways?!” — Yes, I know how crazy I was. I’m getting better.
As I started approaching my 30’s, it was just beginning to hit me that maybe I’m overdoing this whole thing. What is the point of perfecting a project and putting in the extra time and effort for my boss to look it over briefly for 5 minutes and say “OK, here’s your next project.” Why did I push myself so hard for that? How was this helping me to live my life in a meaningful way? It wasn’t! There was no point. But, my anxiety and my need to please others had me tirelessly continuing my journey on the path of perfectionism. That is, until I became a mother and reality slapped me right across the face in all the right ways.
What are some signs that you’re a perfectionist?
- You often think in all-or-nothing terms and act in extremes.
- You have high expectations for yourself and others and are often disappointed when they are not met.
- You have trouble completing tasks because you are constantly editing and adjusting to make it perfect.
- Your self-confidence depends on what others think of you or your ability to complete tasks.
- You fixate on your mistakes and beat yourself up over them, and maybe do the same to others.
- You put things off that you don’t think you will be able to excel at or do perfectly.
Personally, I’ve struggled with everything on this list. I just want everyone to like me and be happy. I don’t want to ruffle any feathers. I used to agree to every single thing anyone asked of me for fear of letting anyone down. Clearly, I struggle most with the people-pleasing aspect of perfectionism. I think perfectionism and anxiety have a disgustingly symbiotic relationship. So, the more we work to reduce our stress and anxiety, the better chance we will have of letting go of perfectionism.
I have a little truth bomb to drop on you real quick. Are you ready? Here it is:
Perfect does not exist.
Let me say that again a little louder… PERFECT DOES NOT EXIST!
Take a moment to let that sink in.
How can you strive for something that isn’t even a real thing? You can’t. Does that make it easier to let go? Maybe a little…
Nothing will send you hurdling towards letting go of perfectionism faster than becoming a parent. Your sleep schedule gets all messed up, your house slowly becomes a little (or A LOT) more messy, you can’t remember when you last washed your hair, and suddenly nothing matters more than this tiny human you have produced. For me, it was a complete wake up call that being perfect doesn’t matter. Regardless of how perfect I strive to be, there will always be somewhere for someone to poke holes. I will never please everyone. It is literally impossible, and that’s OK. The world will not come crashing down. It will continue to exist and have ups and downs and everything in between.
Sometimes I find myself getting out of the car at the store only to notice that I’m in a totally cute dress and my flip flops that were previously half eaten by a dog (I don’t know why I still have them.). What can I say? Becoming a parent has changed me. It’s mostly for the better but I would be OK with it if my “pregnancy brain” would finally go away. I’m not sure I can call it that anymore, but I’m going to anyways. Another “joy” of parenthood I’ve been able to experience is being on the receiving end of all kinds of unsolicited advice. I am guessing that if you are a parent and are reading this, you can relate. What if you were to try and please everyone by taking all of their advice? What would that look like for you and your child(ren)? It would look like a giant steaming pile of frustration and stress. So, join me in this movement to let go of trying to be perfect. It’s not easy, believe me. My perfectionism still creeps in from time to time, but I’m definitely managing much better than I ever have before.
There are some things that I want you to remind yourself of on an ongoing basis:
- It’s OK to allow others to help you.
- It’s OK to focus on spending time with your child and let the laundry wait an hour or two before folding.
- It’s OK to take imperfect action to get closer to a goal.
I’m learning all of this. Heck, this whole blog is filled with my own imperfect action. But, guess what? I’m doing the dang thing and feels good! I’m pursuing my passion of trying to help other parents learn what I’ve been able to. I’m working towards filling my life with things that matter to me, not what I think other people feel should matter to me. Let me tell you, it’s terrifying, exhilarating, and freeing all at the same time. Of course I’m a bit worried that people are going to leave me mean comments on some of my posts. Of course I’m concerned that I will be judged for some of the content I put up. But I can’t let that dictate how I live my life! In the long run, I just don’t care about these negative thoughts because I know that it’s going to be OK if I’m not loved by everyone. If I can reach one person with this blog and make their life a little better, then it’s worth it. If someone is hateful and wants to dwell on the details, that’s on them, not me. I’m learning this, and you can too.
I want to challenge you to start taking steps toward letting go of perfection. Start thinking about what’s most important to you. Start thinking about menial tasks that you could easily delegate. Let your partner make dinner from time to time so you can get some playtime in with the kids or watch your favorite TV show. Let your kids help you fold the sheets, even if they won’t do it as well as you could. Remind yourself that it will be OK when your house is a little messy. Remind yourself that there are more important things in life than being perfect. Being perfect isn’t even a thing, remember? Take that imperfect action and do what’s truly important to you. Not what is important to others.
Go forth and live imperfectly! It’s way better than striving for the alternative and unattainable.
Much love and productive vibes,
Momma Caped Nerd ❤
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