Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: The Year I Let Go Of Perfectionism

“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, bird by bird

Ouch, Anne.  That stings a bit.

To close out my blog for 2014, I am going to step on the soap box of what I've learned in the last 365 days.

In case you couldn't tell by my overposting on Facebook:  I like clean.  I like organization.  I like people who smell good.  I like beautiful spaces. I like well-fitting jeans (though owning a pair eludes me).  I like clean lines.  I don't really mind laundry because it's just so clean (once it's done, obviously).

I never joined MySpace because it was too cluttered (yes, a webpage on a screen stressed me out in 2005).

To say I prefer beauty and order in life is an understatement, but I am also a middle child, so perfectionism, by definition, really wasn't something I struggled with before having children.

But somewhere along the way I've bought into the resounding societal pressure to be the perfect mom.  To do all the things.  Be all the things.

There's just one slight problem: it's as elusive as perfect-fitting jeans.
(If you're fortunate enough to have found said jeans, just roll with the metaphor and know that we probably can't be friends anymore.)

This year, mostly against my will, I've changed.  A lot.  
I can't remember the exact day, but there came a time when I decided to give up the pursuit of perfection.

Which is to say that my brain finally caught up to my life's circumstances.
Having four children means I can't be perfect for 3 minutes straight, much less for all of the minutes for all of time.  Yet, for some reason I can't explain, I still felt the need to be the perfect mom to the perfect kids.

Now that I've lived through a difficult year of learning to let go and can better see perfectionism for what it is, it's laughable that any mom would ever be expected to strive for it.  I mean, have you met children??  100% of them are unpredictable, weird, and the exact opposite of anything that would make you feel good about yourself (except in their really cute moments, of course).

As Oprah would say, "the aha moment" for me was when I looked at my precious daughter one day.  She was destroying the kitchen while making one of her "mix eggs, sugar, flour, and salt together and bake it" concoctions.  I had a mental snapshot of what this scene would look like in twenty years....and realized I am the example of a mom she will mentally reference when she becomes a mom.

If I model this unattainable pursuit of perfection (and the guilt that comes when I fall short), she will live her whole life never feeling like she's enough.

Then, for my boys.  Do I really want to create some ridiculously high standard for their young little wives to be expected to live up to?  That is so unfair to all involved.

That is when I decided that I will return to my middle child ways of letting good enough be good enough.

Being a good mom and involved in my kids' lives will always be a priority for me, so I am obviously not giving up.  I am just giving up something I've never actually had, but now I can stop feeling guilty over it.

There are things I do well that I always do well.
There are things that I am terrible at that I will always be terrible at.

I've learned to continue to do with excellence that which is who I am and will naturally be passed on to my kids.
And things that are not my strengths, I let my kids enjoy those with other families.

The crazy paradox of it all is that, when I decided to stop trying to do it right all the time and never mess up, I became a better mom.

And, more importantly, I became a more gracious mom.  In allowing myself the freedom to fail and find grace, they're given that same privilege.

To be the mom I would be proud of my daughter becoming or the wife I would want my sons to marry involves a lot less perfection and a lot more love, kindness, laughter, forgiveness, fun, and grace.

In 2014, I've allowed myself to experience those things.  And I've never enjoyed my children more.  I imagine they would say the same of me.

"They shouldn't be too perfect; perfect means shallow and unreal and fatally uninteresting.  I like for them to have a nice slick sense of humor and be concerned with important things....I want them to want to know who we are and what life is all about."
- Anne Lamott, bird by bird

Sweet friends: thanks for reading and encouraging me along the way this year.  I've loved writing more, and writing without readers would not be nearly as fun.  I appreciate your kind words and gracious feedback.  Thanks for being a part of this journey!  Have a Happy New Year and an awesome 2015!


Thanks for reading! I would love to hear from you!