Can I be honest? The title of this post makes me squeamish. I have spoken about perfection on my social media in the past but to sit and write an entire blog on my struggle with perfection, well, it makes me pit-out a bit. However, my intention with these first few posts is to really let you get to know me….so here goes.
I consider myself a recovering perfectionist.
Somedays I am kind to myself about it and other days I am my own worst enemy. It has been a battle for most of my life and one that I feel I am finally emerging as the winner of, most days.
In “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown she says “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our loves running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but no nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy–the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
So this is my attempt at owning my story.
My perfectionistic tendencies started as a very young child and have carried me well into adulthood. As a kid, I was a well behaved straight-A student, excelled in sports, participated in my school, my community and my state organizations.
Oh, and I LOVED to make it appear easy, no matter how torn-up I was on the inside.
Yup, I actually wanted to make it appear that I was carefree and didn’t sweat any of it. What a load of crap! Stressed to the max, paralyzed by simple decisions and truly wondering how long I could maintain the facade, I marched on.
I was called things like “Little Miss Perfect”, “Teacher’s Pet” and “Brown-noser”. Honestly, the shoe fit because it was my goal in life for my teachers and the adults around me to respect me and know that I was capable and dependable. How you can hate something and love it at the same time is VERY confusing?
As I entered college, life unraveled a bit. I was SO homesick. I fell into a depression and truly felt things fall apart on the inside more than ever. My first perceived failure, no basketball that first year. I had felt an immense amount of pressure to perform in this area, but I just couldn’t do it. My self-worth took a huge hit.
My next struggle was school. I had no study skills so the transition was quite difficult. I had never seen less than a B+ on a report card, so immediately felt like a total failure. Oh good, another reason to badger myself. (I hope you can hear my sarcasm.)
Finally, I am an introvert, always have been. So even though I had some close friends, I was not Miss Social on campus. I was crippled by a lack of real confidence. I guess all that faking it for so many years had taken its toll and I just couldn’t do it anymore.
With all that said, I still worked SO HARD to make it appear that I was just fine to my friends. A few caring friends, inquired and I just blew them off. There was no way I was going to admit anything less than perfection.
**One thing that did save me in this time was going to talk therapy for the first time. Fortunately my Mom had figured out what was happening from a distance and basically gave me no choice on the subject. I was not happy about it, but I went. It opened my eyes to the power of therapy and I am a huge advocate to this day.**
In the years that followed, I did all the things. I graduated college, got a job, got married, had kiddos and built a home. Honestly, I was happy, but still the weight of the “idea” of perfection weighed on me. I felt like anything less than the best in any area of my life was unacceptable, but I did not discuss it. I simply kept striving.
Funny thing was, anytime someone spoke to me about how they were feeling “less than” I was always uplifting and encouraging to them. Giving them full permission to own their feelings. All the while, I couldn’t be that kind to myself.
I believe a big eye-opening moment was at a playgroup that our kids were part of. Once a week, we would meet at a different house to let the kids play while us moms got to get the heaviness of life off of our chest, and let me tell you, there was HEAVINESS and BRUTAL honesty.
We talked about it all and I have to tell you…it saved my life.
It felt the first time anyone had truly shared their very relatable and vulnerable struggles with me. These ladies had such similar stories to my own and it felt like they were speaking the words I wanted to scream from the rooftops.
In the beginning, I had this glorified vision of these ladies in my mind and to find out that they were drowning in similar ways as myself was very comforting. (Not in a sick way, but a kindred way)
We all admitted that we struggled with feeling less than perfect and what it meant to us in our lives. All my insecurities that came with being a Mom were right there…in other women’s lives too. (Please keep in mind, blogging and social media were still pretty scarce in this time.) We talked about it ALOT!
Those admissions opened my eyes. Those admissions made me truly reflect on what I wanted to teach my kids and what kind of example I wanted to be in my life. They gave me permission to be more vulnerable and to actually admit my issues with perfection to the one who needed it most.
Now don’t be thinking I was instantly “healed”. Remember, I am a recovering perfectionist. My struggle with these feelings and ideas has been, and will continue to be, daily work.
My default mode is to wrap it all up with a pretty little bow and make everything seem easy breezy.
My default is to say YES to much.
My default is to get it done, no matter what it takes.
My default is to smile on the outside, while dying on the inside.
My default is to place myself last.
My default is to rarely ask for help.
I work DAILY to intentionally fight this default.
How do I fight it?
Simple things really.
I leave dishes in the sink.
I leave emails unanswered.
I give my kids responsibilities and work hard to NOT correct them.
I say NO, even when I know that I could “make it work” in my schedule.
I ask my husband for help in areas I never would have before.
I remind myself that I am worthy, simply for being here, not because of anything I do throughout the day.
My faith gives me that permission.
**Sticky notes on the bathroom mirror are great places for reminders.
My intentional choices point me in the direction of honesty and relatability and away from trying to appear perfect.
I believe every woman has felt this way in many moments in her life. I believe perfection is this unicorn that we all can find ourselves chasing only to find a big pile of crap where we thought that unicorn would be standing. (weird analogy!)
I believe we are too busy comparing ourselves to each other rather than finding grounds where we can relate to each other.
We ALL have struggles!
So, I challenge you, dear friend, to look at how you are speaking to yourself.
Are you feeling like you miss the mark during the day? It’s okay.
Look at the standards you are holding yourself too.
Look at what MATTERS in your life and what you are most proud of.
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Give yourself the grace you deserve.
And stop chasing that unicorn!
You are perfectly imperfect in every way and you are working each day to be exactly the person you were created to be.
If you would like to read more on this topic: