Sunday, August 21, 2011

Perfecting Perfectionism

After reading a couple of thought-provoking posts here and here about not being ashamed of who you are and not judging others, it really got me thinking.  Not so much about the judging others part but more in lines of the soul searching and being honest about myself.

Hello, my name is Danielle and I'm a self-diagnosed perfectionist.  That may seem harmless to some but for me, it's a giant thorn in my side, even crippling at times.  I wish to begin the 12-step recovery process but I honestly don't know how.

I'm not sure when this all started, this whole nothing-but-the-best-will-do mentality but it goes back as far as I can remember.  I can remember getting math tests back and reworking the problems that I missed to make sure the teacher did, in fact, have the correct answer.  I remember the process of getting ready in the morning and redoing my hair 3 times until I got it just so with not a single hair out of place.  I remember hanging my clothes in order, so as to not repeat an outfit.  Okay, now I'm starting to sound neurotic!

Now I've allowed it to rear it's ugly head in my parenting techniques.  I want to be the perfect parent with the perfect child.  I want my children to do exactly what I say, when I say it and feel I've failed if (when) that happens.  I know there's no such thing as a perfect parent but I continue to try to convince myself I can somehow achieve that unattainable title.  I have read numerous books to try to make the perfect child and be the perfect parent but wow, it's overwhelming.  For every book that says to do it one way, there are 3 more that say to do it another way.  Don't reward.  Do reward.  Don't try to figure out the why and just deal with the issue at hand.  Do try to figure out the underlying cause.

This rigidity creates a good deal of undue stress.  It manifests itself in ways I'm not even aware of sometimes.  Take for example at dinnertime when it's time to feed Sawyer.  For whatever reason, I feel I'm the only one capable of properly nourishing our child.  I know Wes is more than capable (and even does it on his very own during the day when I'm at work) but this crazy mind of mine leads me to believe my way of putting the spoon in Sawyer's mouth is somehow better than Wes'.  Is it that I put more or less food on the spoon?  Is it that I don't allow myself a bite in between his bites, so as to not allow any whining, crying, or whimpering?  Who the heck knows!  But I do know it happens every day and I do know the result is a stressful meal for me, created by me, and executed by me.

Or how about when someone offers to help me with nearly anything and I literally feel my stress levels rise because they don't do it exactly as I would have, never mind the fact the end result is usually the same.  It's just very hard for me to see that at the time and let go.  I usually interject and either take over for myself or resist asking for help in the first place.

I have a tendency to compare myself to others and I never seem to be satisfied with who I am or what I have.  I'm a very blessed person and while I understand and appreciate that, I always seem to want more.  I want to cook as good as Ina Garten, I want to blog as well as The Pioneer Woman, I want to be as fit as Jillian, I want to host parties like, well, someone who hosts parties, and I want to do all of these things while raising 2 sons, working full-time, keeping house, and being a caring wife and daughter.

I know the first step is admission, so I can check that one off.  But what is the second step?  Where do I go from here to change my incessant ways?  How do I teach myself that's it's okay if everything doesn't turn out perfectly, that it's okay if I don't scrapbook every single memory and document every single dirty diaper?  Some people enjoy those details and choose to take time to document them.  I get it and that's great for them.  Maybe those people don't cook dinner every night like me.  Maybe they do that while I'm watching reality t.v.  My point is, I get that it's okay that I don't have time to do everything that I want to and it's okay that others do things better or more efficiently than me, but how do I teach my mind to accept that and not beat myself up so much?  How do I just let it go?   

This blog only showcases the brag-worthy things in my life.  But I'm here to tell you it's not all sunshine and roses.  There is another, far less perfect person, who lives here.  For me to open up and reveal this about myself is pretty big.  Thank you for listening and if you have any advice or words of encouragement, I'm all ears.  I feel like I've just aired my dirty laundry but I also feel better letting you know that I'm not perfect.  Baby steps!


  1. Danielle, such an honest post! You seem to be a great parent, great daughter, and I'm sure you are a great employee and great at whatever else you do during the day. I appreciate your honesty. You are doing an awesome job! Try not to get too overwhelmed by everything. Take care!

  2. I think all of us gals have a little bit of this dreaded disease. :)

    Like you, I'm trying to learn to deal with it. Great post.

  3. Girlfriend, I understand completely. You are not alone! If you find the secret cure, let me know :)

  4. I can relate - I have some perfectionist tendencies, but have gotten a lot more relaxed as I've gotten older. Part of it is that I don't care what other people think anymore and the other part is that I don't want to miss out enjoying any part of my life by taking the extra time to do XYZ perfectly. I know you're doing an awesome job at everything you do and I hope you can relax more too :)

  5. Thank you for being so honest! So many people struggle with this - I do - but as life has gotten more busy, I have learned to let things go. I know I cannot do everything and be everything to everyone all the time. You have completed the first step - you recognize the problem - way to go! Start saying "no" more. Prioritize what is most important to you and try to relax about the other things. You can do it! Life is more relaxing and enjoyable without all the pressure we put on ourselves!

  6. Well written. I'm sure there are some men that have same issues, but it seems like as mothers, we put all this stress on ourselves to be perfect. The perfect housekeeper, mother, wife, cook, employee...and the list goes on. And if you were already a perfectionist, I'm sure it's even worse for you! You're a great mother and you have two healthy, happy, gorgeous little boys to prove that. And at the end of the day, that means more than almost anything else!

    P.S. I love that you chose Ina Garten as the person you would like to cook like...I LOVE her!

  7. I can definitely relate. I'm currently going through the situation with my new house. I want it to be beautifully decorated and trendy and casual and comfy at the same time. There's no way I will achieve the level of perfection I want. Unfortunately, I don't really know the answer of how to make yourself feel better besides realizing no one or nothing is perfect. Other than that, I'll keep looking for the perfect sofa pillows. ;)

  8. I really appreciate the honesty here and feel like I could have written most of this post ... it's just that Anna's not eating solids yet : )

    A friend of mine with a 3 week old came out to a cookout a few weeks ago and afterwards I commended her on making it out of the house with a baby that young and told her I was still a mess at that stage. She responded "I read your blog and know that's not the case." I told her that what goes on the blog is what I choose to share and it's definitely not all smiles and baby faces, there is a lot of imperfection, messy rooms, days I don't shower, take-out, etc. ect.

    I feel like I've made strides lately by taking a step back and thinking "in 5 years will this be worth my time or stress?" That often times helps me prioritize time with Mike or as a family over things that don't require or deserve my attention or stress at the moment. That said, I think for most people it's an ongoing battle and there's never a right answer. Like you said, admitting is the first (and a HUGE!) step : )

  9. Thank you for sharing.

    This couldn't have been easy to write; this I know as a recovering perfectionist myself. Sounds like you're doing the right thing (or the right thing as it was in my case, that is); acknowledging the problem really is the first step. For me, it also helped to realize that my family & friends didn't love me any more when I got things "perfect" - in fact, the stress I generated in attempting to make things just so seemed to have the opposite effect.

    Best of luck with this!