I had an epiphany a few weeks ago. I was in Nashville, in the shower. “That’s it! That’s what my problem is” I thought to myself. Perfectionism.
I’ve got that first-child perfectionism going on and it reared its ugly head, threatening a perfectly good Thanksgiving weekend with my family.
My daughter and son-in-law stayed with us in a cute little house a few blocks from my son’s condo. It was comfortable and spacious enough to give the four of us breathing room. The kitchen was ample, allowing us to prepare food for our Thanksgiving dinner. It was also pet friendly so we were able to take our dog, Higgins.
I made the comment to my daughter that the house was great but that it would be perfect if it were a little closer to my son. She reminded me that it was a better location than our accommodations 2 years ago when we had to drive 20 minutes to her brother’s place.
That made me reflect on my attitude. I wasn’t being very grateful. Instead, I was finding fault.
That is the problem with perfectionism. Well, one of them.
Perfectionism leads to discontentment
I have this image in my mind of what every aspect of my life should look like
- the perfect husband
- the perfect children
- the perfect family
- the perfect home
- the perfect church
- the perfect holidays
When these don’t measure up to my (unrealistic) expectations, I become discontented, unhappy and ungrateful. Of course, I need to realize that I am not
- the perfect wife
- the perfect mom
- the perfect Christian
- the perfect friend
Perfectionism leads to stagnation
Another problem with perfectionism is that it stifles and renders me ineffective. Have you ever not done something because you know you can’t do it perfectly? For example, I am still working on a photo book of a trip my husband and I took two and a half years ago. The reason for the delay is that I spent four months searching for the perfect map graphic for the first page. I had all the photos but I couldn’t get started until I had the perfect first page. The quest for perfection is probably why I have so many unfinished projects.
I learned something that Thanksgiving weekend in Nashville. Sure, the house wasn’t perfect but it was good. Our meal wasn’t perfect, but the restaurant owner next door was kind enough to fry our turkey and make dressing for us. Our time together was limited, but it was fun. Its ok if things are not perfect.
Christmas offers that same opportunity to express gratitude and let go of perfectionism. My house doesn’t look like something from Southern Living, I will probably be finishing up my shopping on Christmas Eve and I may not get around to baking those cookies I planned on. But, for a couple of days, I will have the people I love the most at home with me and it will be good.