Throughout my life I have struggled with perfectionism. I enjoy having things in order, feeling prepared and accomplishing tasks. I’m an achiever. For others it may look more like having to look perfect, having to arrange perfect conditions in order to start a project or wanting relationships to be perfect. As you can see many problems stem from this faulty thinking such as control issues, procrastination, social anxiety, or people pleasing to name a few. 

A huge problem with my personal mindset is that there is always something else to be done. While this is true in life, some people are able to rest after a couple tasks. Perfectionists are typically not so easily satisfied. Even with a task completed, it could be done better next time, could be more efficient, could even be compounded with other tasks. This feeling causes irritation when things are not efficient, or events don’t go as planned. It’s also incredibly exhausting and a joy-kill. Any of this sound familiar? Do not despair, for it’s not all bad. The perfectionist tendencies can help motivate you to complete the daily tasks, plan out the errands, tackle the projects, etc. There must be a balance though, and there has to be a limit. There must also be acknowledgment that failure in some way is certain. Something’s gotta give. 

In recent years I have honestly learned to ease up. I have found ways to work on being more free and creative without the finite, unachievable goal of “perfect.” The greatest teacher by far has been being a mom to a high energy toddler. I have learned that you can put in a good amount of effort without giving your all every time to everything. You can try things different ways. You can put focus in areas you know are weaker. You can also be present without the worry of saying or doing the wrong thing. Oh, the freedom in just showing up. 

There have been major improvements in my personal life since working (yes, it takes active effort) on letting loose some of the basic everyday perfectionisms (my word). These days I almost always air dry my hair, let the cleaning pile up just a bit, dare to play in the mud with my son and sometimes prepare *gasp* non-organic food. I even fed my son ice cream after lunch the other day and gave him sprinkles just because. I’m working on it. My “working on it” may look different than yours. There is room for everyone on this train. 

I still feel an almost hourly twinge of irritation at the spills, the messes, the tantrums and the overall summation of all things toddlerhood. It’s hard for everyone. It’s REALLY hard for a recovering perfectionist. 

Let’s discuss some other compounding factors like marriage and being a stay-at-home mom during a worldwide pandemic so you are forced in tight quarters with little to no alone time for your introverted self. Let’s discuss staying at home, spending all of your waking moments with a wild toddler who is incredibly sweet but asserting his independence through meltdowns and touching the “no sir” items in the house while maintaining eye contact. Let’s discuss not getting physical breaks to be physically social with your friends for months. It’s normal to feel crazy in times like this. This is when you talk to yourself while driving or jotting down a page in your phone at 1 a.m. because you just have thoughts that must find their way out, as if that alleviates the pressure. It doesn’t but perhaps in the midst of the perfectionist struggle it creates a linear path of thought which then creates order in the chaos that is 2020. Just perhaps. Sigh. 

No problems were solved tonight but maybe with a new and more proper diagnosis for these toxic and seemingly abstract frustrations it is easier to step outside of them for a moment. With a diagnosis comes a treatment plan. Most importantly, it allows us to evaluate ourselves to allow for more grace. It is time for a course change. 

For now,

Step one: Go to bed

Step two: There is no step two. It’s 1:06 a.m. Look at me leaving unfinished business!

Good night, friends. 

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The Future of Connection for Women

Jill Unterbug
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