“Don’t call me that!” I said in a tone that was probably a little unexpected given the compliment I had just been paid. “You’re a real mother earth” is the kind of compliment any mother would love to hear but for me, at that time, it just meant one thing; not only do I have high expectations of myself as a mother but others have it too. I felt like such a fraud, like I was getting it all wrong; I was constantly falling off my self-made ‘perfect parent’ pedestal and it hurt.
Before I had children I was a perfect parent. I knew how I wanted to raise them, how I wanted to discipline them, play with them, enjoy long cuddles on the settee on rainy days. I knew how I wanted to teach them and instil my values, how I wanted to nurture each of them for their differences and how I wanted to show them my love. I knew I was going to be an excellent mother; I’d waited for children my whole life, every decision about my future was based with them in mind, I’ve always been the broody, maternal type. At 7 my little sister was born and at 17 I got a baby brother, I was already a mini-mam in so many ways; I had it all figured out, my parenting pedestal was set well and truly high.
When my first daughter was born in November 2009 I was, like any mother, the happiest and luckiest woman alive. She was perfect and motherhood was amazing; exhausting and bloody hard work but amazing and I loved it! We doted on her and I was proud of myself as a mother.
So, confident in my mothering abilities when the broodiness struck again we decided to have another. Naively I thought pregnancy would be easier this time, I hoped I’d avoid the nausea, migraines and insomnia; I was wrong. Working 3 days a week, running my own business, dealing with all the demands the ‘terrible twos’ brought and struggling through another sickly pregnancy; I was exhausted. That perfectionist side of me kept pushing me to be more, do more, give more; ‘I’m fine’ was my mantra to the outside world, ‘I’m stressed’ was my mantra to my inner world, if only I had of listened to it.
By the time my second daughter was born in June 2012 I was completely and utterly exhausted. The first 6 months were the hardest; the days were long; very long. Nothing can prepare you for the 24/7 demands of 2 completely dependent children. With no family close by for support, my husband working 6 days a week, all the demands of running my own business and a baby with silent reflux that just couldn’t sleep, I quite literally didn’t get a minute to myself. It wasn’t long before I was flat on my back staring up at that ‘perfect parent’ pedestal feeling like a complete and utter fail!
It’s only now, almost 2 years on, when I’ve worked through my depression, that I can look back and see that the real problem was the sheer pressure I put on myself to be perfect and the way I spoke to myself when I failed to reach that expectation (see my mother me post). Now I realise that our children don’t need us to be perfect; they need us to be present.
It’s not just in our roles as mothers we strive to be perfect, we are guilty of it at work, at home, in our relationships, as a friend, a colleague, as a teacher, a lover. As we try to be our best and give our all in every area of our lives we are left with this feeling of not being good enough, of incompletion and like we haven’t quite hit the mark. The pursuit of perfection makes us feel like a failure. It brings feelings of guilt, struggle, overwhelm but worst of all, shame. Shame is that feeling that you are not good enough, that there is something inherently wrong with who you are and this is a very negative and damaging belief. Shame lowers your energy, dampens your soul and puts a big fat brick wall up in the path to your dreams. When we are ashamed of who we are its very hard to love ourselves, to give the best of ourselves and to live the life we truly deserve. When we are ashamed we don’t believe we deserve better. We all try to hide that shadow side of ourselves, the part we hate the most but we need to accept every aspect of ourselves, the good, the bad and the ugly.
The key to truly being happy and following the path to our dreams is to lower that pedestal; lower it to a level that’s attainable, where you can sit proudly on it as the best version of yourself in this moment. We can always have the intention to improve but right now, in this moment, just do your best and never aim for perfection; it’s an unattainable goal that will suck the life and soul from you.
I like to think of myself as a recovering perfectionist, I’ve come along way but just last week at 2am the night before I was due to publish this post I was wide awake trying to figure out where this post was going. I’d made a start but it didn’t have a middle or an end. I realised I was ‘trying’ to write the perfect post about perfectionism! Then the little voice inside my head whispered to me; trust. It was just one little word but it sums everything up beautifully. Trust; trust that you are where you need to be right now; trust that you are on the right path to living your dream life, trust that everything will be ok. Sit back, relax, watch for the signs and then take inspired action.
When I woke up the next morning the very first thing I read was an email about my leibster award and that I had to write a post about it, it was exactly what I needed. Trust.
The truth is when I start these posts I don’t have them all figured out, I have a vague idea of what I want to say but when my pen hits the paper it takes on a life of its own. The words just flow through me from some higher place. Writing to you helps me internalise the lessons I am learning myself, the fears I am facing and the challenges I am trying to overcome. I write from my heart and soul, and somewhere beyond that too. I write because it’s my passion and purpose, its effortless to me; just like your passion and purpose will be to you. I don’t want to write the perfect post and I certainly don’t want to be placed on any pedestal.
I’ve mentioned the need to let go of perfectionism in a few of my posts but I felt it needed a post all of its own because, perfectionism is one sure fire way to stop yourself ever taking action on your dreams. It’s what stopped me writing for years. I felt like it had to have it all figured out, like I had to be living the dream already, but where’s the inspiration in that? I write to inspire you to follow your dreams because I believe there is more to life than meets the eye and here’s the thing; although I always wanted to write, I didn’t know I could until I did! So if there is something you dream of doing, just do it, it doesn’t have to be perfect, do a course, join a group, read a book, just take the first step! Each small step you take will lead you right where you need to be, don’t try to figure the whole thing out, that’s what perfectionists do, just let the journey unfold before you.
As I work on releasing my perfectionist tendencies I am very aware of trying not to instil the need for perfection in my children and I thought I was doing a good job until a couple of weeks ago when my youngest did something she shouldn’t and her big sister was quick to say ‘that was naughty wasn’t it mammy, but am I still perfect?’ WTF! How did I get this so wrong? I realised that each and every day when I tell my girls, which I do multiple times a day, how much I love them, how proud I am of them, how clever, kind, loving and amazing they are, I also say ‘you’re perfect!’. OMG, ha! See how easy it is? How unaware we can be to the beliefs we are instilling in our children and how our own expectations of being perfect have been formed. This conscious parenting malarkey isn’t easy but I’m doing my best! We’ve since turned it around, I still tell them that they are ‘perfect to me’ because they are but I also tell them that they don’t need to be perfect, nobody is perfect.
In your role as a mother, lover, sister, friend, employee, employer, teacher, carer and any other role you play, be the best version of yourself in this moment and while you are waiting to figure it all out, to find what it is you are meant to do, remember to lower your pedestal and trust in the process. It’s time to let go of perfectionism and just be the best we can be for today, and if you fall flat on your face just do what this girl does:
With love and a less than perfect version of myself,
p.s. Don’t forget I’d love to hear from you! Are you a perfectionist? Has any part of today’s post resonated with you? Please leave a comment below, it will make my day. My big dream is to secure a book deal so I can share so much more with you but if a publisher looks at my blog and sees no one is commenting they will think no one is interested or inspired, so please leave a comment; it will help me to achieve my dream of helping you to achieve yours! And if you want more you can sign up in the side bar, just hit the ‘follow’ button and enter your email address.