21May

Guest Post: Perfection is Perfectly Impossible

(The following post was originally written and posted by guest poster Gina Osher on The Twin Coach.)

 

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack in everything,

That’s how the light gets in.

~Leonard Cohen

 

The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” ~ Anna Quindlen

Where did we come up with the idea that we needed to be perfect?  At what point in our lives did this idea take hold so fiercely that even the most brilliant among us still can find something about him- or her self to criticize?  Why is it that we constantly compare ourselves to others, not to marvel in each other’s uniqueness, but to either pump ourselves up for being “better than” or to tear ourselves down for “not being enough”?

Catherine McCord of Weelicious.com

Catherine McCord of Weelicious.com

When I used to see clients in my healing practice, one of the exercises I frequently used to help determine where people were losing power in their lives was kinesiology, or muscle testing.  A sure fire way to deplete yourself was to simply think the words “I am not enough”.  I am not pretty enough. I am not smart enough.  I am not a good enough mother.

I notice that my own perfectionist tendencies come out in full force now and then (my husband will tell you they are out more often than not).  I have had full-fledged meltdowns over not being able to find the right bedding for my children’s new bedroom or not having the appropriate wrapping paper for a 3-year old’s birthday gift.  I have looked at the beautifully prepared, incredibly healthy and diverse lunches Catherine McCord of Weelicious.com makes and wept over the sad salami, cheese and crackers lunch that my daughter insists on eating at school every day.  And while we’re at it, I look at the impossibly beautiful Catherine McCord and wonder why my hair doesn’t blow in the wind like hers and why I can’t look quite so fabulous in a simple pink sweater 4 years after birthing twins.  I used to not let people into my house except on days the housekeeper had been here; I still feel the need to apologize for its messiness even though I do know I have two 4-year olds, a huge dog and a cat….life is messy, yet there is a part of me that thinks I should be able to rise above it.  And don’t get me started on my parenting.  Hardly a day goes by that I don’t beat myself up over a harsh tone or a frustrated sarcastic remark or the wish that school would be 7 days a week instead of 5.  Bad, bad mom.

So let me take a breath and think about what I am really saying to myself: if I were really a good mother, my children’s bedroom would look as though it was straight out of Ohdeedoh, my food preparation and personal grooming would be a constant glamour shot and my house would be straight out of Martha Stewart Living.  Oh, and my parenting?  I can come up with any number of parenting experts that have all the great tips and tricks that I should know and should be able to use effectively with every given scenario.  Realistic?  Or crazy making?  Talk about losing my power.

How I usually feel

How I usually feel

Nathan M. McTague, the author of the blog “A Beautiful Place Of The World”, wrote recently about this idea of perfection:

 

“Of course, our children are of absolutely paramount importance, and the drive to be the best that we can be for them is not the worst thing we can have as a parent.  But we would do well to remember — we are just as much “works in progress” as are our developing children.  And if the drive to be at our best gets to the point of interfering with being our best, then (even by perfectionist standards) it has to go.”

It’s fairly easy to look at my 4-year old twins and remember that they aren’t perfect, that they are still learning, that they have the right to screw up.  Why is it so hard to give myself the same gift of understanding?  I would never teach our children that they need to be perfect in order to be wonderful people, why do I think that way about myself?

The idea of being a perfect mother has been around for a long time.  I am sure that even before the 1950’s TV moms there were women who felt that they didn’t quite live up to some set standard.  We compare ourselves in every possible way. I read a terrific post the other day on the blog Feast After Famine in which the author, suffering severe mood swings due to early menopause, wrote a tirade against judgmental comments made regarding women who used hormone replacement therapy:

“I remember a moment in my early 20’s when I realized people didn’t grow out of their catty, judgmental teen selves.  They just became catty, judgmental adults. T hat was a brutal gut punch. I suffered a similar letdown recently when I realized the Perfect Police will dog me into old age.  The hypercritical folks who find fault with my decisions to work or stay home with my children, nurse or formula feed, use cloth diapers or clog the landfill with disposables aren’t going to stop once I become an older Mum.  They’re just going to change their focus.  Apparently, the people who do things the “right way” want to tell me how to experience menopause. “

For me, this is the crux of the matter. Our own insecurities about being less than perfect drive us to find fault with others.  For many, the need to be right is more powerful than the need to be real.  Does it really make us feel better to try and take away someone else’s power?  Is perfection really an attainable or desirable goal?  What are we trying to achieve by being perfect parents? Perfect children? Nathan M. McTague again:

An early incarnation of the perfect mom

An early incarnation of the perfect mom

“…when our perspective on parenting, and our own parenting specifically, is too narrowly focused on perfection. Any deviation from the ideal is seen, not as part of the process, but as an affront to it.”

I think back to a recent post of my own about being mindful about my parenting, and realize that in my push to be this perfect mom, I am creating so much stress in my life (and therefore in my children’s lives).  Is the push toward being perfect really what I want my kids to learn? Or do I want to remind them, as those Leonard Cohen lyrics say, that it is through our imperfections that our true beauty and our true selves shine through.

Gina Osher is a former holistic healer turned parenting coach and SAHM to boy/girl twins. She is also the author of the popular blog, The Twin Coach (http://www.thetwincoach.blogspot.com) where she chronicles her journey to be a more joyful parent and offers insightful advice on handling the daily struggles of parenting two young children. Gina can also be found spending too much time on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/thetwincoach) and Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/thetwincoach)!

 

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Comments

  1. Great post! I actually do not strive for perfection. I believe in living my life with humor and there is little humor in things that always go as planned. Perfect is boring and probably not real. However, I already see myself setting my child up with expectations that are too high. I must remember to allow her to make mistakes and appreciate the learning process.

  2. Thank you so much, Galit! I am always blown away by how much it helps me to share posts about things that I struggle with. It’s so reassuring to know that others feel the same. And I think so many women struggle with this need to not just have it all, but to be able to do it all WELL. Thank you for the support! 🙂
    -Gina

  3. Gina, this is such an important post! I, too, struggle with this unrealistic vision and need and consistently worry about how that might transfer to my young children.

    Beautifully written and an important topic!

  4. Thank you all for your wonderful notes! I am so glad the post resonates with you. It’s good for me, too, to know that I’m not the only one feeling this way! 🙂

    Pluslily, it’s been years since I did kineseology, but it’s fascinating work. I actually use it a lot with food – asking if a food is good for me or not. Something unhealthy for me will make me lose strength where a “good” food will make me stronger. Hard to describe in writing, but really effective in person!

    Renee, I totally agree with you about the drive for perfection actually driving your further away from what you want! And yes, being present will make us all so much happier than any “perfect” home or dinner party or present given. I love your observations. Thank you!
    -Gina

  5. What an awesome post. This is exactly me and how I feel! It really does cause a lot of stress (and more often a lot of yelling) to try to be perfect all the time. In turn, I think it causes me to be farther away from being perfect than closer to it. I need to learn to embrace my messy house (filled with kids and creatures) and understand that being a perfect parent is more about “being present” than anything else.

    It’s so true that someone is always going to be judgmental. It’s up to us to ignore it and be happy with ourselves, just the way we are.

  6. What a great post. As if you were in my life right now and writing by observing me!
    Thank you for this! Really thanks. It’s great to know that we are not alone in this quest and the need to be perfect is a battle that i lose everytime. But good to know i’m in great company.

    I would love to hear more about the kineseology work you do with your patients.

  7. Gina, wonderful post. Weelicious mom does look kinda perfect:)

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