This is an awesome time of year to be reminded that perfect sucks.
Perfect is boring, stressful, generally unattainable, always unsustainable, and, frankly, not that much fun!
You certainly don’t need my permission, but let me at least play cheerleader for this concept! Drop the idealist vision of holidays. Drop the vision of a spotless house with perfectly behaved kids (and grownups and pets). Drop the pressure to have a perfectly set table with perfectly cooked food served perfectly on time to perfectly appreciative guests. Drop the pressure to design, print and handwrite cards in perfect penmanship to every person you have come into contact with over the last decade. Drop the pressure to buy the perfect gift for everyone. Drop the guilt if you think every item on your holiday table needs to be homemade (especially if you don’t enjoy cooking or baking!) Drop the pressure to bake things from scratch for the teacher appreciation event at school. Drop the pressure to take and post perfect “Insta-worthy” pictures of any and all of the above! Drop the pressure of agreeing to events and schedules that tax your sanity.
(I’m talking to you Monday night holiday party and you, too, youth soccer practices ending at 9:30pm on school nights!!!)
When we let go of the idea that everything should be perfect, we can bring our attention to what matters to us. For me, that means telling people I love them, taking time to give back to my community, building Jugl, getting some sleep, reading and exercising, enjoying the company of family and friends, appreciating good food and drink (no matter whether it is home-cooked, ordered in or eaten out), and laughing when I manage to get lost despite the GPS or burn the recipe (yet again…).
It means choosing to put down (or never pick up) some of the balls so that we don’t drop the ones that are most precious to us.
When we let go of the idea that everything should be perfect, we show our kids that they don’t have to be perfect either.
Rejecting perfectionism gives us a chance to highlight that we are all worthy of love despite (and because of) our imperfections.
I love to make a point of showing my kids when I screw up. Not because I want them to think screwing up is desirable, but to remind them of what matters.
So, what matters (in my book):
First, our intentions;
Second, our efforts;
Then, our results, while important, come last.
And then, since we are not perfect, we go back to step one and repeat and repeat and repeat…
We teach our kids the joys of being imperfect when we model, in words and deeds, that if we get the intention and the effort right, the results almost always follow (eventually).
Embracing imperfection is about love and acceptance, but it’s also about gratitude and being in the moment and enjoying the journey. It’s about showing up (even when we’re scared, even if we don’t know exactly what we’re doing, even when we know we will be imperfect). It’s about being the best possible version of ourselves in that very moment. It’s about learning, improving and overcoming obstacles (including the ones we place in front of ourselves!) It’s about having the personal fortitude to eschew FOMO (at least most of the time) and replace it with the thoughtful pursuit of experiences that bring us joy, fulfillment, and growth. It’s about showing our kids that being there for and with people “IRL” is infinitely more powerful than a million “likes” on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat or whatever newfangled digital community pops up next.
It’s about having the personal fortitude to eschew FOMO (at least most of the time) and replace it with the thoughtful pursuit of experiences that bring us joy, fulfillment, and growth.
While we’re at it, our efforts to intentionally reject perfectionism present a great opportunity to discuss social media with our kids (even if they are not yet on it themselves). Even as adults, when we look at some of these feeds we can feel as though our life somehow doesn’t measure up. We can remind our children (and ourselves!) that what is posted represents a tiny sliver of a person’s life and is designed to be a “highlight reel” or “greatest hits,” not a glimpse into the full range of highs and lows of the human experience or a realistic take. We can show them how to use these platforms to engage with family and friends (especially those that live far away), but not to confuse the impact of liking a post with the profound impact of calling someone up and telling them that we are proud of them or that we miss them or that we appreciate them.
One of the places I have noticed the most rampant perfectionism is in the community of mothers.
There can be so much pressure on moms to appear perfect! If we allow ourselves to fall prey to this narrative, not only do we become “responsible” for our own perfection, but we also get judged on the perfection of our kids! No, thank you! Our job as moms (and dads) is to raise kind and decent human beings who become self-sufficient and then bring their own personal brand of magic into the world down the line. We don’t want to create little perfection-seeking robots who can’t define and fulfill their own goals and dreams because all they know how to do is chase unrealistic standards set by other people. We want our kids to realize that happiness comes when our actions align with what is important to us (when our intentions and our efforts are in sync).
This morning while I was working out, I listed to Bethanie Baynes, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Google, being interviewed by Kristy Wallace on the Ellevate Podcast (Episode 136: Breadwinning Women). I was cracking up when Bethanie shared a story about losing her temper after her son repeatedly popped out of bed when she was trying to crank and meet a work deadline post-bedtime. She recalled discussing her frustration the next morning, saying to him “it would be creepy if mommy were happy all the time.” I LOVE THAT! It’s not that we shouldn’t apologize for being impatient or try to model good behavior and a kind demeanor more often than not. But perfection is not and should not be the goal. (As an aside, it would not be a “SMART” goal as it is in no way “specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused or time- bound!”)
The joy is not in perfection. If we can only be happy when everything’s perfect, well, that’s setting ourselves up for a pretty disappointing life. Life is messy and hard and fun and scary and sad and joyous. We don’t reach the deepest depths of love until we’ve dealt with loss. But I also think we fail to maximize the joy in every day if we cling to being perfect.
So, I’m not saying to burn the turkey on purpose, but I will say that the Thanksgiving when the fire department was called to our house was one of our most memorable!
Wishing you and yours the Happiest of Thanksgivings! We hope you find gratitude, humor, and joy in the imperfection of your holiday!