I discovered it was my definition of perfection, not God’s, so I learned not to take it too seriously. Everyone creates their own definition of perfection that they try to live up to, and then they experience the illusion that they’re either perfectly wonderful or completely inadequate.
-Father Richard Rohr
What does perfection look like to you? Often when we decide that we want to be “perfect we are setting ourselves up for failure. We place these incredibly high expectations on ourselves often because we believe it is what we believe the world wants from us. This could be anything from the way we clean the house, how we show up in relationships, how we parent our children or run our business. The question I like to ask is “how did we decide what perfect looks like in our lives?”
I have a dear friend who I often FaceTime with on Friday mornings. This one particular Friday she had posted a perfect picture of her “Zen morning” with her smoothie, journal, and coffee. I saw this after barely making it out of the house on time with my kids, without even a shower for myself. While we were talking, I asked her how she did it. How she had this quiet morning time, how she had this perfect clean kitchen, how she seemed to be doing it all. She laughed and flipped the camera around and I saw a kitchen just as messy as mine with a small section cleared off. This small section was where she set up her picture. She moved things around so she could post this picture of a life that isn’t real.
I realized that we get our idea of perfection from the world around us. We listen to messages from people on social media, we remember the messages that we heard from parents and teachers growing up, we see other’s lives and decide to use those messages to shape what perfection looks like to us. But this isn’t what perfection is for us.
I cannot count the number of times that I tried something new and believed that I failed because I didn’t do it “perfectly” on the first try or because the end result was not what I wanted. Looking back at some of these times in my life when I saw failure, I realized I missed the growth, I missed the strength it took to step into an uncomfortable place, I missed the journey because I was to focused on the destination. Over these last few years, I felt like the biggest failure ever.
For me a perfect life was a happy marriage, healthy, happy kids, a house that was perfectly clean, and relationships that were without any type of conflict. My marriage ended and I was a failure. My house is never clean so I am a failure. In my personal relationships there was conflict that created pain for both of us sometimes so I failed. I will say I think my kids are pretty awesome and feel like I’m doing something right there, BUT I can lose my temper, I forget to do laundry, sometimes my kids feed themselves dinner because I’m just too tired to cook. When those things happen, I decided that I was a failure.
I set myself up for failure because of the expectations I placed on myself. The reality is that when my marriage ended it was the best for both of us and our kids. The reality is that I hate cleaning and I’m not great at it so I don’t spend time on it because it isn’t really important to me. I have disagreements with people important to me because we see the world differently and those disagreements, where my beliefs are challenged are an opportunity to grow and strengthen those relationships. Learning what I value most helped me to see that perfection is a myth.
By trying to live up to what I believe I was supposed to do, I set myself up for failure. When I failed, I beat myself up and told myself I wasn’t good enough. I told myself I’d do it “right” next time or spend a lot of energy trying to fix things that didn’t really need to be fixed. I spent time learning what my values truly are. When I dug deep, I was surprised that what I value didn’t line up with my idea of perfection. Moving from a place of perfection to a place of living in joy allowed me to shift my view on what success and perfection really are for me. I began to see all the wonderful things that make my life beautiful and uniquely mine. I saw the growth in my relationships, the change in my soul, the move from I’m not good enough to the knowledge that I am living a joyful life that I created.
I encourage you to take a step back from the idea of perfection and look deep to see where you heard the message that told you, “This is what perfect is.” Spend time digging into what you value and how to live a joyful life that aligns with what is important to you not what you believe it should be. If you need help uncovering what you truly value most set up a time to talk with me and lets see what kind of magic you can create in your imperfect world.