Is Our Quest for Perfection Ruining Our Lives?
Updated: Oct 23, 2019
I have always been a perfectionist. I say this to let you know that not only I am speaking from experience with all of this, but also to let you know that you are not alone.
Do you ever find yourself:
-Planning for weeks, months, years for an event that you either don't fully enjoy, dread, or feel let down after?
-Do you find yourself taking pictures of all the little details and not participating in the event itself?
-Do you worry about how everyone else is going to view something (Whether they will like it, feel left out, be offended)?
-Do you do so many things and run around making everything "perfect" and then feel irritated because people do not appreciate it (or really do not specifically tell you that they appreciate you)
-Do you envy your friends who are spontaneous and throw together events or even their every day lives?
If you do these things you are probably a perfectionist (and people pleaser) like me.
I have spent years making sure that every holiday, birthday, even trip to the apple orchard or ice rink is perfect. I long for those perfect picture books where everyone is smiling and want to create memories that will stick with my family and I forever.
The problem is that life is unpredictable. It can be messy or wonderful, but regardless we often do not have complete control. I found (and still sometimes find) myself getting upset when someone wouldn't fit into my perfect ideal. (When my sister refused to play board games with the rest of the family. When my brother spent a whole Christmas vacation stressing about his trip to Napal. etc.) I would talk about how they were not upholding our traditions. My mother would worry that not having the annual Christmas Eve party might throw me for a loop. I would get stressed at the first sign of fighting. I would worry that my new husband wouldn't think our traditions were as magical as I remember them if they were not recreated to a t. I would sulk that no one wanted to take a family picture around the table (even though we do it every year)
Here is the thing. I have MISSED OUT on so many memories and opportunities. I have gotten stressed out and depressed during the holidays because they do not live up to my memories. But when I really sit down and think about it. There has never been a perfect Christmas. No amazing Easter. There have always been little unexpected things that have brought us closer as a family. The Christmas eve my Grandfather went to the hospital. The Easter morning my Grandmother slipped and we were sent to my other grandparents. These memories are just as important and they help me and my family become the people that we are. We need to focus on the little moments in our lives.
It is so easy to get swept away in the business of life and miss out on the little things. My mother used to come home from working to a dirty house and say "What would people think if I died today and they found the house in this state" Now this was a joke or a way to get us to clean up after ourselves, but the true answer is that it wouldn't matter. There are important things and life and things that are not important. You need to figure out what you are going to focus on. Should you focus on laundry or reading a bedtime story to your child. Do you have to make a gourmet Thanksgiving Dinner or could it be one thrown together, each person contributing one thing and instead watch the parade together or play flag football together on the lawn. When you look back on your life you most likely will not remember how the table was arranged and what was served for dinner or if all the rooms in the house were clean. What you will remember is the people around the table. The laughter and the tears.
Perfection can disappoint us, but also hold us back. We should have a growth mindset always looking for ways to learn from those around us and our own mistakes and experiences. Perfection is an end goal, but this does not work when life is always changing and we are as well. Focus on the little everyday life things and you will find more joy and also grow more from it.
Here is a link to a gratitude meditation that might help you get started.