anchored in light

A lifestyle blog about finding light in every avenue of life

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Problem with "Perfect"

A couple of things happened last week. The first thing that happened was that Brian showed me this podcast about drug addiction in Utah. I'm not really a fan of podcasts in general because I dislike the fact that I can't talk while they're going and I have a hard time paying attention to podcasts. It's the same reason I can't listen to audiobooks, even if I start out with the intention to listen, somewhere along the way I stop listening without realizing it. However, this podcast was interesting because it had an outsiders perspective on my religion and also because it addressed the subject of perfectionism in our culture.

We were listening to it on our way to and from an appointment at Primary Children's Hospital for Everly. I couldn't help but think about our baby sleeping in the back seat and wonder about how we could raise her so that she would feel like she could make mistakes. I don't want her to think that she has to be perfect or feel so much pressure from our high standards that she feels like she can't meet them.

I was pondering this and then I went out later that night with my friend Hatred to Leatherby's (side note: Cheese fries are basically the best thing ever) and we got on the subject of perfection and being the "perfect" child. It's something that we were both labeled as growing up. We both talked about how while this may have seemed like a compliment, it was actually a terrible thing to say to us because it led us to place our self-worth on whether or not we were perfect. 

In fact, I hate the word "perfect." I made Brian stop calling me perfect because it took me back to that place that I was in as a child. 

Let me break it down a little bit, when people call me perfect it makes me feel like they have no idea who I am. While they may be saying, hey, I know about all of your flaws and you are still perfect to me. What I hear is, you have no flaws. I know myself. I know myself very well. I am well aware of the fact that I have flaws. So when someone calls me perfect it makes me feel like they don't know all the things that are wrong with me, and someday they'll find out what's wrong with me, and when they do then I'll no longer be worthy of their love/attention/friendship. 

This perfectionism complex led me to do all sorts of things growing up. I went to bed early because that is what the perfect child does. I did my chores without complaint or argument because if I complained then I wouldn't be the perfect child anymore and then what would be my place in the family? It made me take care of myself when I was sick and never tell anyone when I didn't feel well because the perfect child wasn't a bother. 

Luckily, I feel that for the most part, I was able to find ways to cope with it. I was able to still find ways to love myself even though I knew that I was far from perfect, but I know so many people who it didn't work out that way for. Perfectionism is something that pervades our culture. I don't want Everly to ever think that I will only love her if she doesn't make mistakes, or that her worth to me is based on whether or not she obeys the rules I set out for her or whether she conforms to my preconceived notions of how she might live her life. 

I think that's one of the beautiful things about becoming a mother. I love Everly. I love her completely. Which if you think about it makes no sense. She keeps me up at night, I change her dirty diapers, I endure pain and emotional and financial hardship for her. Yet, I couldn't love her more if she could change her own diapers or if all the things she needed were free or if she didn't take up my free time. I realize how much my love for her isn't based on anything other than she is my daughter. I hope that I can help teach her that. I hope that she can understand that no matter what she does, we will still love her just as much as if she did exactly we wanted. I hope that I can show her the kind of love that makes her understand that not only is it OK if she makes mistakes, I expect her to make mistakes. I hope I can show her that even though I plan on being the perfect mother, I make mistakes too, that none of us are perfect and that's ok. We're all striving and trying to do the best we can and that is enough.

How do combat "perfectionism"? How do you help your children/those around you accept their flaws?
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