My wise mother-in-law works in surgery, and they have a saying in her unit: “What is the enemy of good? Perfect.” This is so true for my own life. How many times do I screech right past Good in an attempt to catch Perfect?
The big problem with Perfect is that it creates an unrealistic mark that we are never able to hit. As a result, we get disappointed and tell ourselves we are failing.
In this crazy online world we live in, we are bombarded more by images and examples of “perfect” than ever before in human history. I have all of the material in the world at my fingertips to support my Type A, perfectionist, high-achieving tendencies. In 0.02 seconds you can find the perfect house, garden, haircut, and dress for a summer wedding. Give your kids the perfect childhood, while simultaneously being an amazing wife, hostess, best friend, and dog owner! I just googled it, and there are articles on how to “perfectly” teach your kids to zip a zipper. I mean COME ON. It only goes up and down one way.
The kicker is, none of it is actually perfect. Photos are staged, filtered, edited and photoshopped. We know they are. Yet those evil voices in our heads hold up those fake perfect images. They tell us that when we, our families, homes or lives don’t look perfect, that WE are the ones who are a fraud. WE are the ones who are failing and not measuring up.
“What is the enemy of good? Perfect.”
So what are we to do? The internet is not going away, and neither are those voices and ideas of what “perfect” looks like. But maybe, just maybe, we can beat them back a little.
Voice in head: The kids are actually clean and in cute clothes. Document this!! We need a new perfect family picture! Make it perfect, because this is probably the only time we’ll all look this good at the same time again!! Maybe instead of taking 16 extra photos trying to get the “perfect” one of the kids to post, we can just enjoy them in real-time. Maybe we can post the “imperfect” photos. They may not look like an ad for Baby Gap, but those kids are mine. They are smiling that smile that is exactly my wonderful husband’s and twinkling their eyes which are just like mine.
Voice in head: This house is ALWAYS a disaster! Everything is sticky or spotty. What did I just step in?? Why can’t I keep things organized?? Why can’t I keep my house clean like that one mom whose house is ALWAYS perfect?? Maybe rather than lamenting that our homes don’t look like the pages of Pottery Barn, we can give ourselves (and family) a break. These walls with fingerprints and flecks of jelly on them somehow contain everything beautiful and real in our lives. Inside these walls needing re-painting we grow, learn, argue, share, struggle and feel all of the feelings. It’s not perfect, but it’s home.
Voice in head: Are the kids in enough activities? We should be doing more art/sports/music/language! Am I recognizing and encouraging their potential? Am I exposing them to enough? THE KIDS WATCH TOO MUCH TV!! I yell too much. What if I’m not a good enough mom?? Maybe instead of constantly worrying that we’re not measuring up to some crazy compilation of Parenting-Greatest-Hits, we can tap into our common sense and intuition. Are the kids really alright? Yes. Are they loved, growing, learning, eating and playing? Yes. And that’s what really counts.
Let’s not forget the biggest one of them all: ourselves. Voice in head: If I had more self-control or worked at it a little harder, I could turn back time and look 24 and pre-kids again. My wardrobe sucks. This dress makes me look pregnant, even though I am 2 YEARS postpartum. Is that a gray hair?? I think these dark circles are permanent! These impossible standards will never go away. However, we can appreciate our bodies a little more for what they can DO–walk, run, help, give, hug, snuggle, create, love–instead of how they LOOK. We can cut ourselves some slack and remember that we are just one person. We are not capable of bending the time-space continuum, nor do we have magic wands. We need to take care of ourselves, let the little stuff go, and tell the mean voice in our head to SHUT UP more.
This battle is HARD, but one worth fighting.
Nothing in this world is perfect: not me, other people, or life. Trying to create Perfect is an exercise in futility. It sets us up for failure, and ultimately disappointment– disappointment with truly Good. When we take a big step back and look at the good and the bad in life, it becomes pretty clear that Good is actually BETTER than Perfect…because it’s real.