Despite what the title of this post says, I really don’t think it’s healthy to aim for perfection. In fact, I’d say it’s a dangerous game leading you down a path towards loneliness, unhappiness, anxiety, feelings of less than, unworthiness and shame. I think women and young girls, myself included, tend to become perfectionists because we are living in a world that applauds it. Perfect hair, a perfect smile, the perfect straight A student, the perfect employee or boss, spouse and parent.
All that energy devoted to being perfect would be much better spent focusing on happiness and peace with our own perfectly imperfect lives! Instead of trying to please everyone, begin by focusing on pleasing yourself. See what happens next! When you’re happy, you feel good about yourself, you smile more, you socialize more, you engage more with the world around you. Happiness is also a magnet and draws others towards you. True, lasting happiness comes from within and from discovering who you are deep inside without the labels of wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend or even your job title.
I’ve worked in the field of education for over a decade and I’m also a wife and mom of two young daughters. I love spending time with kids of all ages. What I love about children is their openness, their vest for life, for discovering and learning something new and their wholehearted way of looking at the world around them. If you ask a child what they like to do, they’ll likely rattle off a list of hobbies, sports or interests. Ask an adult the same question and they’ll pause for a second, then think about a socially appropriate answer. Many adults aren’t even sure what they are passionate about anymore! I think it’s critical that as adults we discover our passions in life, especially if we are raising children. Leading a purpose driven life guided by our passions teaches our children to go after their own dreams! Similarly, when we let go of our own masks of perfectionism and replace it with our real, authentic self, we are modeling for our children the importance of positivity, self-love and care.
One of my favorite writers, Brene Brown, the author of Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection, has a wonderful way of describing perfectionism that really rings true with me. “Perfectionism is not about striving for excellence or healthy striving. It’s a way of thinking and feeling that says this: If I look perfect, do it perfect, work perfect and live perfect, I can avoid or minimize shame, blame and judgment.'” Brene encourages people to embrace their authentic selves and to take down the protective armor of perfectionism. “Authenticity is a practice and you choose it every day, sometimes every hour of every day.” I couldn’t agree more!
I’ll end with a few of my favorite quotes…
“Pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel like you’re nothing, you’re perfect to me. You’re so mean when you talk about yourself. You were wrong. Change the voices in your head. Make them like you instead.”
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”
– Anne Lamott
“Good enough is good enough. Perfect will make you a big fat mess every time.”
– Rebecca Wells