overcoming perfectionism

Self love sounds weird.

At least it did to me when I was barely double digits and a woman at a church I was uncomfortably visiting with my slumber party pal suggested that I should “love myself.”

Love myself? What in carnation was this nut-job talking about?

I knew how to love pizza and chocolate. I was comfortable loving the Facts or Life and even Ricky Schroeder. But loving myself? That seemed so strange.

Was that egotistical? Was it even possible? And what does that even look like? I pictured giving myself a hug and my creepy little fingers wrapping around my own narrow shoulders. It. Seemed. WEIRD. Like Silence of the Lambs weird.

Now I realize my childish view of love was rather dim, silly and shallow. I was clueless. But sometimes I still am. And I am not alone.

I look around and I am swimming in a sea, surrounded by capable & lovely women who are drowning in waves of self-doubt, low self-esteem and even self-loathing. Through comparison, guilt, shame and issues of perfectionism, these beautiful God-made women would claim they loved their husband, kids, parents, pets, coffee and stretch pants before they could even fathom loving themselves.

We are stuck in a “I will love myself WHEN pattern.”

And we are swimming in circles.

I will love myself when I start working out.

I will love myself when I lose these last few pounds.

I will love myself when I stop cursing.

I will love myself when I meet the right guy.

I will love myself when I find a job I am proud of.

I will love myself when I get my house in order.

I will love myself when I become a better parent.

I will love myself when I can get back into those jeans.

I will love myself when I look like her.

I will love myself when I have a child.

I will love myself when?

And we are getting nowhere.

And when the “when” doesn’t come we beat ourselves up. When the “when” does come, we find a new “when.” We raise our standards. Because far be it for us to love ourselves now. Why do that when we can always chase perfection?

But there is no perfection.

I am a size 4 (or so). I work out 4-5 times a week. I have worked out for the better part of three years. But there is always “work” to be done. I want soccer legs, and they are not even close to being in that category. I have cellulite and stretch marks. And shaving my legs is a quarterly event that usually coincides with a birthday or anniversary.

My body will never be perfect.

I have read parenting books, marriage books, self-help books and gone to counseling. I pray about, think about and breathe about these things.

My marriage and family will never be perfect.

I self reflect, remain aware, and try to root out my sins and bad habits.

I will never be perfect.

Yet I need to love myself now.

Loving Halo Top ice cream and puppies comes easy. Loving ourselves takes practice.
Yet life is short. Tick tock.

I might not be an expert on the ways of the world but I consider myself an expert on self doubt, guilt and beating myself up for my mistakes. I am still growing and learning how to be kind to myself, but I can’t stand the idea of all the women around me drowning in the waves of self-loathing, so here is what I know TODAY.

I am beautiful. And it’s okay to say that. My face and/or body are not going to show up on your free panty coupon post card from Victoria Secret (if it does, well hey), but I move my body daily, it serves its purposes, and I am happy to still be in it. It is a gift, at its best and at its worst and I refuse to live in a love/hate relationship with something that carries me through my life so well.

I am lovely. And it’s okay to believe that (even when the proof isn’t right in front of me.) I was made by a GLORIOUS MAKER. And He makes no mistakes. My emotions are mine. They are real and they serve a purpose. I will not deny them or punish myself for feeling them. I will forgive myself when I let my emotions hurt me or hurt others. I am human.

I am lovable. I have never met a person who didn’t have a bad day. Some chicks out there make it look easy. They smile more. They bake more casseroles. They wear lipstick to workout. I don’t have to be like them to be lovable. I can be like me: sarcastic, forgetful, grumpy, thoughtful, thoughtless, rash, patient and funny. I can even laugh at my own jokes, have a bad day, or not cook dinner. And I am still lovable.

I can forgive myself. If anyone deserves grace, it’s me. And it’s you. And we have to be the first to let it go and give our mistakes and sins over to God. We don’t have to carry it with us. We can, but we will regret the heaviness and the pain it will cause us. And we will likely regret the million ways it will hold us back from happiness.

I can let love flow through me. Even if I am mad, hurt, wounded, tired or sad. I can let love flow through me. I don’t have to be angelic, all-consumed with the well-being of others or floating on a cloud wearing a halo of baby’s breath. I can just be me, and let love flow through me to the best of my current ability. And I can be okay with that. Some days love will gush. Other days it will be a slow drip. But by golly, I am a conduit of love.

We can even tell ourselves, “I love me.” And it’s not even weird.

I sat in my sunroom the other day and listened to an extra long instrumental version of Hillsong’s Oceans and just told myself the good stuff I needed to hear. And it was GOOD. And the roof didn’t cave in on me. I was thankful that the FedEx guy didn’t show up during my hippy worship lovefest with my eyes closed whispering sweet nothings to myself, but other than an annoying telemarketer briefly messing up my love flow, all was well.

When you love yourself, you can love others better.

When you aren’t consumed with all of your imperfections, mistakes and self-perceived ugliness, you can actually love other people. You can be happy for them. You can be proud of them. And it won’t hurt you one tiny bit.

When we are waiting on something about us to change before we can throw caution to the wind and live, we miss out on a lot of opportunities for joy, love and life. And we can’t get it back.

I don’t know what’s going on with you. Maybe you stink at managing money. Maybe you like cookies a bit too much (there’s not really a too much, but just roll with it). Maybe you just don’t want to live the life that someone else has picked out for you. But does that mean you can’t go ahead and take the plunge and LOVE YOU? Now?

What’s the worst that could happen? If being hard on yourself isn’t working, maybe being kind to yourself will do the trick. I promise you one thing: once you try self LOVE, self hate will be out the dang door. It serves NO purpose and will never, ever help you reach your goals or your destiny.

I heard this recently, “Even a rat in a maze will change directions when he hits a wall enough times.” Well I ain’t no stinkin’ rat y’all.

So I’m going to back away from the wall, wrap my little fingers around myself, tell myself “You got this. You are lovable. God made you by design”, close my eyes and just meditate on that till the FedEx guy gets here.

And the world will be better for it.

Ryan Gosling called. He said to tell you, “Hey girl, love yourself.”

And who are we to argue with that?

 

 

I feel a deja vu coming on.

I think I have called myself a recovering perfection before, years ago, and yet here I am…still recovering.

Perfectionism is no joke. Perfectionists are so busy being perfect that they can’t see how imperfect their way of thinking is, or how difficult they make things for those around them. Perfectionists are not just hard on themselves but on everyone they “care” about. In fact, that’s how we show we care…by improving our husbands, our kids, our friends, and sometimes-even strangers.

I am not sure when my perfectionism started. When I was first told that I was a perfectionist I didn’t believe it. I thought, “I never do anything perfectly.” The counselor said my response was classic.

I can actually remember the height of my perfectionism. It was Christmas 2000: Jackson’s first Christmas. I made wreaths for everyone because I wanted thoughtful gifts that saved money. I made my own wrapping paper, because I was stone-cold crazy and Martha Stewart hadn’t been arrested yet. I made ornaments, baked goods, and cards. I probably mailed over 100 cards that year, writing a personal message in each. I don’t remember Jackson’s expression when he opened his gifts. I do remember nearly drowning. I don’t mean figuratively either. I poured so much lavender in the bath that night; I fell asleep in the tub.

But that was not the end of my struggle. It continued for many years, keeping me from spending time with my kids to the degree I desired because there was always more work to be done. Some of these pressures were external; many of them were internal. Years later, I am still unraveling myself.

Here are some things I am doing to change my ways, but you will have to take a look at yourself and pray through some steps you can take:

  • I am planning less stuff to do. My days are more open and more flexible and every moment doesn’t have to be accounted for.
  • I am letting my house be messy, dusty and even letting the small piles sit for weeks at a time WHILE GUESTS COME OVER. This is HUGE. I used to power clean before letting the bug man in, and lit no fewer than 15 candles for a board game gathering. I wanted my home to be perfect. I am now forcing myself to refuse to let it be a reflection of my character or worth.
  • I am making more frozen pizzas and letting my kids fend for themselves. They are learning to cook a little, and I am spending more time hanging out with them and less time yelling at them about the kitchen. I am not letting my family fall victim to scurvy or anything. But I am often choosing time with them over photo-worthy meals. My kids are 12 and 14 and every moment with them is worth a little heartburn 😉
  • I am letting others own their messes. I still ask that the kids clean their rooms (once a week), but I am letting more stuff “slide” and am not obsessing over their crap. I have learned to CLOSE THE DOOR. Their rooms are not a reflection of my parenting.
  • I am sitting still more. I sat around in my underwear for a while today staring into space. It was grand! And the best part of my week was a two-hour nap with my hubby on Sunday. I have had more time to think, my feet aren’t constantly throbbing and I occasionally watch an episode of Downton Abbey (I am way behind so don’t spoil anything for me!)

I think God has said, “Be still and know that I am God,” at least a million times over the last year. I am learning to take this literally. I don’t plan on turning into a slithering slovenly slug whose skin grafts to the furniture, but I am enjoying the downtime and rest that I have denied myself for so many years.

This week my kids told me that they would rather live in a mess and have time to hang out as a family than to have a clean home and no fun. But perfectionism tells us that good could be great, and great should be better. Perfectionism robs our peace of mind and replaces it with irrational insatiable striving for approval that is ever rising and never within our reach. Perfectionism erodes our relationships and the confidence of those around us who can never live up to our lofty ideals, causing panic and unrest.

I use to think “balance” meant balancing everything perfectly: beautiful home, profitable career, attractive image, public approval, etc.

Now I know that balance means finding a harmony between responsibilities and enjoying relationships, between making a home and making memories.

No one will say at your funeral, “Her stainless steel was always spotless.” But wouldn’t it be nice if they said, “She always made time for me when I needed her.”

That my friends, is balance.