I heard this quote on a podcast recently, and it really grabbed me. There are times I can think of, as a parent, as a teacher, as a blogger, when I know, looking back, that perfectionism has been driving. And none of these have been my best, most effective, or most loving moments.
As I thought about it, I realized perfectionism isn’t actually an end point — it’s not about whether things are “perfect.” It’s always been a motivating or “driving” force, as Brené Brown puts it. It’s about proving myself worthy. And as a parent today, there are all kinds of new ways to push myself into perfectionism.
We meet perfectionism on the way to potentially stressful situations: when we feel we have an audience to impress, like visiting grandparents, meeting a new teacher, or that first playdate with new friends. When we have created an expectation for ourselves, like embarking on a family vacation, or preparing and presenting something new to a child (and we’re already thinking ahead to the Instagram post!). We meet perfectionism when we want to others to see us and validate us and our efforts.
It’s not about doing your best, it’s about aiming to arrive at a place when you will have your efforts, have your self, validated by external circumstances.
It’s fundamentally removed from the present moment ad is always pushing on to another, more perfect moment in the future.
I think we all probably know what perfectionism looks like, and even more what it feels like (I get that tension in my gut just thinking about it!). The unholy trinity of perfectionism, fear and shame are powerful forces that can ultimately drive us in the opposite direction of our goals.
You know what perfectionism doesn’t look like? Curiosity. Openness. Vulnerability. Acceptance. Gratitude. Joy. Presence. In fact, maybe these things are the anti-dote.
Let’s hop in that car. Let’s offer curiosity to our children. Let’s offer acceptance to ourselves.
You are a good mother. You are a good teacher. You are worthy. I am worthy.
P.S. All credit to Brené Brown, whose work is really changing the world. I highly recommend any one of her amazing books, but especially Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. If you’re reading this blog, this is the book for you.
If you’re wondering about what embracing imperfection looks like in real, family life, check out this post.