Once when I yelled at my sisters’ kids, I berated myself for hours feeling like I would never be a good mother. I used to be the kind of woman who wanted to do everything perfectly. If I wasn’t good at something, I didn’t want to attempt it because I was too afraid to fail. I was even afraid to have children because I thought I wouldn’t do it “right.” In this age of Pinterest happy birthday parties with color-coordinated cupcakes and packed lunches that look more like a four-course gourmet meal than a kid’s lunch, there are a lot of ways to feel like we’re not quite measuring up. We feel like we’re just a few steps behind the curve, that if we could push harder, do better, we might reach the haloed pinnacle of Super Mom status.
I’m done trying to be perfect. Here’s what I’m doing instead. Below are 4 ways to stop trying to be perfect.
1. Perfection shouldn’t be your goal
No one is perfect, nor is perfection something we need to strive for. The most important thing we can do as women is to learn to love who we are and celebrate our unique qualities. We need to learn to love what we’re good at and let go of what we’re not. We need to surrender the idea that if we’re good enough, people will love us more. The truth is, if we love ourselves, we’ll have more love to give away and we’ll actually be better mothers. If we authentically love who we are and forgive our frailties, our kids will see our authenticity and be empowered to be who they are as well.
2. Stop trying to please everyone
Making other people happy isn’t necessarily a virtue, but we’ve made it one. The truth is we can’t please everyone, nor should we try. We think sacrifice over taking care of ourselves is more highly esteemed, but we end up martyring ourselves and then feeling resentful. We can’t make every soccer match or cook for every bake sale, we can’t sew a costume for every recital, or remember to pick up the dry cleaning and still manage to be loving. We can actually decide to only work on being there for the people who matter most to us: our husband, our kids, our closest friends, and not worry about the rest.
3. Letting go of the busyness
If we stopped to listen to our insides, what would they say? Don’t join that committee. Let the house be messy for a minute. Say no to that request. I’ve learned that I was using busyness to crowd out the voice in my heart that said I was hurting and I needed tending, or that I was spending more energy on things that didn’t really matter. One day I just had to say “Stop!” I need to listen to my heart and rest. I need to go for a run or sit outside in nature, I need to turn off my phone and really pay attention to the kids. Letting go of busyness has allowed me to be present to the relationships and things I truly love.
4. Stop comparing myself to others
Comparison is the greatest enemy of joy. My house will never be decorated like my sisters, I’ll never make a quiche like my mom, my children will probably never be dressed appropriately for church. But this is my one life, not anyone else’s and I need to learn to love it and stop trying to be someone else.
Readers, what do you do to avoid overthinking and letting the ideal of perfection steal your joy?
Sarita Hartz is a life coach, writer, and recovering perfectionist who speaks about wholehearted living and self-care in her blog Whole.