There’s nothing quite like one’s first-ever blog post to serve up a big helping of vulnerability, is there? But really, the craving to be more vulnerable is largely what nudged me to make my writing public in the first place. The two go hand-in-hand. It’s actually very fitting that this maiden post is not an itinerary for the perfect family vacation or a list of party planning tips for the party of the year. Instead, here I am, contemplating my ongoing journey of molding my perfectionist ways of thinking into a mindset that accepts and loves my imperfect self. And I’m finding that the saying “practice makes perfect” is really not the case; it’s embracing the imperfect which takes a whole lot of practice and perfecting.
Embracing the Imperfect, or at Least Taking the First Step
Not long ago, I decided to experiment with my own personal growth by wholeheartedly saying “Yes!” to new opportunities that came my way. Enter: the chance to be a contributing writer for a phenomenal blog. I took a deep breath and filled out my application. I typed up my writing sample at 3 a.m. in the Notes app on my iPhone. The next day, I proofread it over and over, dozens of times. In the spirit of being honest, you should know that “Tech-Savvy” is not my middle name, not by any stretch of anyone’s imagination. Yet, I tried to push the bubbling fears and self-doubt back down and focus on selling myself as the perfect applicant. In my mind, hardwired to always seek perfection, that polished piece of writing represented ME. I wanted it to be flawless. Embracing the imperfect was not a strength of mine.
Talking Myself Out of It
Reading the invitation email a few days later, I beamed with joy for about two minutes. Then, my fight or flight response kicked in. It always seems to when I’m given an opportunity to follow through with a personal interest.
“You’re not qualified,” my inner voice shouted at me. “I’ll bet everyone else is a better writer than you, has more blogging experience than you. You should just say ‘thanks, but no thanks,’ and move along.”
I remembered the time I tried to sell children’s books. And the time I was going to sell essential oils. Recalled that part of the reason I stopped teaching was because I couldn’t be the perfect mother and the perfect teacher at the same time. The truth is that because I am a perfectionist, if I find it difficult to excel at a task, I often quit before I have to admit that I’m not the most skilled person in the room right off the bat…or at all.
The Shadow of Perfection Reaches Far and Wide
The need for perfectionism has not only clouded my ability to try new things, but it has hung over my head in many other areas, as well. It was present in my profession, to the point where I sought help for job-related anxiety. There it was in my housekeeping when I couldn’t go to bed before scrubbing the counter tops and mopping the floors; in my entertaining when I would stay up into the wee hours before a party rearranging place settings and crafting handmade decorations. And now, where it stings the worst, I see it seeping into my parenting when I notice myself trying to hold my children to the same high, and often hurtful, standards.
My Need for Perfection Was Hurting My Family
Until recently, I’ve felt that I just couldn’t help it. I am the perfectionist that I am; I’ve been this way for as long as I’ve been me. It became an excuse of sorts. But, I started to notice how this behavior affected others, especially my husband and my kids.
“Please don’t play in that puddle, you’ll get your clothes dirty,” I would tell them.
“Can we skip the Sunday breakfast of eggs and pancakes and bacon this morning? I just cleaned the kitchen; I don’t want it to get messy all over again.”
“Hey Buddy, lower your voice, it’s probably bothering the people sitting behind us in the restaurant.”
Riding the Wave
I had become SUCH a drag. I didn’t like this perfect woman who was trying to create a perfect world with perfectly behaved children. Each time I let the perfectionism get in the way, my heart crumbled a little more. Something had to change. So, one thing I did was to start seeing a counselor. With her help, I could see that my need for perfection created a platform on which the anxiety in my life was standing. I learned how to “ride the wave” to get through the moments when I felt out of control because the world around me wasn’t perfect.
Riding the wave is something I have to do daily and often more than once. I’m not always successful. I still make everyone’s bed every morning, complete with hospital corners and fluffed pillows. I hide the play dough on top of my bookshelf to control exactly when my kids can access that colorful nightmare. And still, I find myself jumping at their childlike tendencies, too often urging them to be overly polite instead of just letting them be kids.
Loving Me for Me
I am not perfect. I’m not going to be the best blogger or writer or wife or mother. All I can do is work on embracing the imperfect within myself and in the world around me, and instead of trying to “fix” it or me, I’m going to stay vulnerable and honest and self-aware. Because doesn’t vulnerability create such a sense of common ground? A reminder that none of us are perfect? I’m going to keep on saying yes to good things that come my way, even if I don’t think I can do them perfectly. So, if you see me doing otherwise, could you come and grab my shoulders and give me a little shake? And remind me that you love me for who I am, not who I think I should be? And I will promise to do the same for you!
“Embrace the glorious mess that you are.”Elizabeth Gilbert