I am a “recovering” perfectionist…at least that’s what helps me sleep at night. All joking aside, I truly believe I am on the road to recovery. But this perfectionism streak runs deep. I run into challenges in my life created by its existence over and over again. In every area of my life – as a mother, a wife, an educator, and even a writer. Where does this perfectionism come from? Well, it must have something to do with my childhood, with the way I’m wired…but how do I conquer it?
The cause. I find, after much thought in introspection, that the root cause of my perfectionism is expectations. Expectations about who I should be as a mother, what my home should look like, what my marriage should look like…even how my books should be received. See a pattern here? I do. “Should’s”. The buzz word for expectation. I imagine this picture in my head of what my life could look like (slipped around that should, did you see that?). And I long for that. And I beat myself up that I’m not there. Because that’s what I expect. Because that’s what I think everyone else expects (to some degree). Help me get off this roller coaster!
“Expectations are pre-meditated miseries”
I’m not sure who said it, but it hits the mark, doesn’t it? Who of us has gained anything by setting ourselves up for failure? I’m not saying we can’t have realistic expectations. It’s actually unrealistic, I think, to say that we will reach a place where we don’t have expectations. We all have them. And we’re not all unhealthy about them. But you know I’m talking about those expectations that set the bar way up there. Unreal expectations. “I’m going to be Martha-Stewart-crossed-with-Mother-Theresa when I become a mom” expectations.
A possible solution. I am NOT saying I have all the answers. Or even the only solution to this problem. But I can tell you what is working for me: setting small, reasonable goals for myself. Daily goals, monthly goals. And bouncing them off someone who can help me be realistic and make them tangible. “I want to be more interactive with my kids” is vague. “I will set out 30 minutes of each afternoon this week to just play with my kids” is measurable and attainable. It’s a goal you can reach and then feel good about. Then you can raise the bar a little if it would be good for you. Baby steps.
Learn to accept yourself where you are in your season of life. And monitor your expectations for where you want to be. These are two key things that I am learning right now as I self-evaluate. I never want to stop growing and learning, but I want to be able to experience joy and contentment for where I am and where God has me right now. And then look to the future with HOPE.