Until recently, I hadn’t realized my drive toward perfection was really a problem for me. I mean, I’m not what you call a classic perfectionist. I’m not an oldest child, I did average in school and I often accept things as “good enough.” Or so I thought.
After reading several articles on Facebook and in books on perfectionism and a recent Mom to Mom session called “The Perils of Perfectionism: What Voices Shape Us?” at Coffee Break, I’ve come to realize I do have some issues with my own desire to be perfect. And it isn’t having a positive effect on me or my family.
An interesting part of being a perfectionist that I hadn’t realized before, was laid out to me by Linda Anderson, the founder of the Mom to Mom program. She said, “we choose our areas of perfectionism. We may be very perfectionist in certain areas, much more laid back in others.”
There are some things I don’t seek perfection in. One example is the organization of cupboards and drawers. Much to my husband’s dismay, I don’t exactly keep things tidy behind a closed door. To me, if I can get it into the cupboard and close the door (most of the time), it is good enough. There will be another day I can organize it properly. The problem is, I don’t usually get to that “another day.”
Another thing I’m pretty laid back about is germs and kids. I don’t make my kids wash their hands before dinner, I don’t wipe their noses as often as I could (just this morning I had a stranger offering me kleenex for my kid) and if they eat something off the floor, oh well, it won’t really hurt them.
But I do strive for perfection in some other areas: the way I look, the way I parent, the behaviour of my children (as it is a reflection of my parenting, of course), the cleanliness of my home (of what you can see), my cooking and baking, the emotional state of my children, my relationship with my children, my relationship with my husband, the way I appear to others, my faith and relationship to God, and my contribution to my church and greater community.
The list is long. These are the areas I can’t stop thinking about and striving to better at. I read endless books on relationships and parenting and being a Christian who strives to put God first. I read recipe books to become a better cook. I stress about not being able to be in my community more by serving those in need. I weigh the decision about how to be an active member in my church by choosing which ministry to serve in.
While I’m thinking about all these things, I’m trying to keep up with my household chores, trying to stay on top of laundry and dishes and cleaning floors. But I’m also trying to spend each day reading to my kids and I worry I don’t spend enough “fun” time with them because I’m worried about the housework. And between each of these worries, I glance in the mirror often at myself and see I’m not as slim and fit as I find acceptable. My kids like to poke at my squishy tummy and I try to act like it is fun and ok. But really, I need to stop eating cookies and hit the gym several times this week!
Eventually it all adds up. It comes bubbling to the surface at some point and I feel I can’t take the pressure anymore. I can’t actually achieve all I hope to achieve.
And where does the pressure come from? Mostly from myself. My internal dialogue is running wild with suggestions on how I could be better and I should be doing more. But without even realizing it, outside pressures seeps in as well. Every time I browse Facebook or Pinterest I see how others are doing it better than me. The guilt buries itself deep whenever I see a family doing an outdoor activity we never seem to get around to doing. Or I see someone’s newly renovated kitchen when I can’t even seem to get my dishes done. The pressure builds. Discontentment steals my joy.
Linda Anderson also said something in her video which hit home for me. She explained, “the price we pay for perfectionism is ruined relationships. We drive others way by becoming self-focused. We can’t see others as well. We are never quite content, happy or satisfied. The circle of perfect people is a small one.”
Huh. In all my trying to be better for others, I’ve actually started focusing on myself way too much. I’m seeing my failures and my short comings more than I see others. I forget to look how I can serve my family because I’m too caught up in learning about myself.
I’m not against self improvement. I don’t think it is wrong to try to be better and to read books about becoming a better person. But too often my focus is wrong. I become too hard on myself for not being who I could be.
But God says I am who he made me to be. He loves me now and I don’t need to earn his love by doing. In the Bible, he assures me:
“I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139: 14). ”
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
“For the Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.[a]
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:17 NLT
Once again, God’s umbrella of grace stretches over me and calms my anxieties. I am enough.
I know I’m not alone in this drive to be the perfect woman, wife or mother. I believe all women put this pressure on themselves. As proof, I’ve been reading it on several places on the Internet. This reason inspired me to write this post.
Woman need to be told to slow down. Relax. Sit. Live in the moment. Be still. Rest. Enjoy. Just be.
Let’s all encourage each other to work for “good enough” and not strive to be perfect.
Let’s live under the grace of God and be women who extend grace to ourselves and to others in our company.
Let’s live as children of the living God who sent his Son to save us.
Let’s live in freedom.