"I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God's plan." --Michael J. Fox
Most everybody strives for perfection in one way or another. It's no wonder that we all continually seek the glory of perfection when we grew up repeatedly hearing the phrase, "Keep on going; practice makes perfect!" While there is so much truth to that, when in the wrong context, it convinces us that we cannot stop until perfection is achieved. The older I get, however, I am left wondering, "Is there really such thing as perfect?" I'm not talking about the kind of perfect like your favorite pair of jeans fitting just right or nailing the three-pointer, I am talking about the bigger picture: expectations, people, careers, relationships.
Today while driving home, I was lost in thought on why we all feel it so necessary to appear perfect to others in all facets of life. While thinking of this, I couldn't help but be reminded of one of things that I learned from my GT students who struggled with perfectionism. I was always amazed at just how easily perfection could consume even such a young person's life. I would listen to 7th graders stressed to the max, willing to turn in a paper days late just waiting for the "perfect" way to end it. And then as the extended deadline rolled around, watch their eyes welling with tears while painfully working to convince me that they had "lost" it, when the reality of it was that there just wasn't ever that perfect ending.
It donned on me while thinking about this that most of the time, that perfect ending never seems to come around for any of us along our roadmap of life.
And many times, the success of achieving perfection is never for self-satisfaction, it's to raise the standards of how other people view you. Your "status" so to say.
When we made the decision for me to be a stay-at-home mom, I knew that my job description and daily life would soon be dramatically changing. While I knew that being a mom and caretaker was really difficult, I was secure in the fact that at least I knew how to clean the house, do the laundry and cook dinner.
Boy, was I wrong. Yes, I knew how to do all of those things, but to do them while taking care of an infant became a severely daunting task for me; I was beyond overwhelmed at the simplest things. When my husband would go to work and come home to an even messier house, the laundry piling up, and a screaming baby, I felt so inadequate. Despite him repeatedly helping me out and telling me that it was okay, I never felt good enough. In those first couple of months, I felt like my friends thought I was weak and couldn't handle it. I specifically remember one comment: "Oh, c'mon, Meagan, it's not that hard," while sitting down with a group of new moms. Truthfully, that comment is what took me over the edge internally-it shot me down, made me feel weak, and destroyed my confidence.
I felt like I was the only one who struggled, a complete wuss. Because of this, I made it a mission to NEVER ask for help, because asking for help was utterly imperfect.
In retrospect, it wasn't what was said that got me down. It was the fact that I had set my expectations at perfection. I wasn't okay with just excellence, I wanted to be the VERY best mom and wife to my husband, and that meant having dinner on the table every night at 6, being showered and clean, running necessary errands all day, every piece of laundry being done, and a spic and span house. Of course, with a happy baby smiling on my hip. Ha. What a joke, huh? Is this what society deems as perfect? Because if it is, it's not realistic...at least not for every day life.
Quickly, I remembered the quote, "Comparison is the thief of joy." What constitutes perfection to each person is in the eye of the beholder, therefore, comparing myself to someone else's standard of so-called perfection only sends me down of road of failure.
These perfect standards don't only apply to myself but have extended everywhere in my life: with my husband, family, and at the beginning, with my baby. Nobody is perfect, and to me, striving to be perfect is a grave imperfection in itself. Nobody is flawlessly made. Not even my adorable baby. Of course, in a mother's eyes, their child is always perfect, and I am no exception to the rule, but to raise her trying to live up to a standard to be perfect will only let her down in the end. She needs to know, that being imperfect is okay. For me, there is no need to strive for perfection any longer; going forward, my goal is to strive for excellence and work on embracing my imperfections. I will not necessarily lower my expectations, but I certainly will aim for excellence instead of perfection. Most importantly, I am not ashamed of my mistakes and imperfections...
Because I am imperfectly made.