For the Recovering Perfectionists

I host­ed par­ties and starved my body,
Like I’d be saved by a per­fect kiss.”
~Taylor Swift, You’re On Your Own, Kid

When the world was cre­at­ed, the Navajo god­dess Spiderwoman emerged from the ink-blank noth­ing­ness to help humans weave a life of mean­ing. It is said that if you touch a dew-filled spi­der web just as the sun ris­es, allow­ing the dew to wet your fin­gers with­out break­ing the silky strand of the gos­samer maze, you shall be blessed with a life of peace.

Peace is promised, but per­fec­tion isn’t. 

To this day, tra­di­tion­al Navajo weavers will twine a delib­er­ate imper­fec­tion in every rug they design, a nod to the fact that per­fec­tion is only for the god­dess and is not the stuff of human lives. 

As a recov­er­ing per­fec­tion­ist, I am enam­ored with the idea of peace over per­fec­tion­ism. Perfectionism is a trau­ma response and a com­plete­ly valid reac­tion to a world seem­ing­ly gone mad, a way for us to (seem­ing­ly) exert a sense of control. 

It worked for me for many years. I stud­ied my way into a 4.0 GPA. I exer­cised my body into sub­mis­sion (where per­fect is a syn­onym for thin). I tack­led every obsta­cle, from becom­ing a wife, then a moth­er, then a busi­ness own­er, as a rock to roll up the moun­tain, Sisyphus on steroids. I gave up pas­ta and sleep and my insan­i­ty toward the ridicu­lous myth of per­fec­tion. I thought that if things looked per­fect, then per­haps they would feel that way as well.

In a 1774 let­ter to his son, Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, wrote, “Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.” Geez Philip. Chill out.

There are plen­ty of things that are worth doing poorly. 

Now, there are things that I just nat­u­ral­ly excel at. 

I’m a good mom. I have been test­ed in ways no par­ent­ing book ever pre­pared me for, and I’ve shown up again and again. 

I’m a real­ly good yoga teacher. I know how to build com­mu­ni­ty and help peo­ple cul­ti­vate more joy and peace in their lives. 

I am a loy­al, ride-or-die friend. If I choose you to be in my inner cir­cle, there are few things I won’t do to ensure you know you’re deeply loved and cher­ished. I will trust you with my deep­est secrets and hold yours in the vault of my heart.

But there are far more things I am just OK at, and I’m final­ly OK with that. 

I’m a mediocre gui­tarist. I will prob­a­bly nev­er be more than a mediocre gui­tarist. But I enjoy strum­ming and singing, so who cares if I nev­er mas­ter the solo on Stairway to Heaven

I’m an apa­thet­ic cook. I prob­a­bly could cook well if I gave more effort, but I am the def­i­n­i­tion of girl din­ner, total­ly fine eat­ing a hand­ful of cheese and grapes straight from the fridge and call­ing it a meal. 

I would like to think I am a great writer, but I’m pret­ty sure I’m bare­ly aver­age. Maybe that’s my imposter syn­drome rear­ing its ugly head (I don’t have an MFA in Arts!), but maybe it’s also just coura­geous accep­tance. I’m prob­a­bly nev­er going to be offered a pub­lish­ing deal. 

I’m a dis­tract­ed dri­ver (“Oh my god, is that a hawk?!” she screams as she swerves into the oth­er lane of oncom­ing traf­fic). I’m bad at math (If I am ever audit­ed, I’m prob­a­bly screwed and it’ll be com­plete­ly unin­ten­tion­al). I’m incred­i­bly bad at fol­low­ing Google Maps (What even is 900 feet?! I have con­sis­tent­ly proven that I lit­er­al­ly have no idea). 

And it’s fine. Actually, it’s all bet­ter than fine. It’s such a relief to set down the ban­ner of per­fect. I spent far too many years striv­ing for a bar that is sim­ply unat­tain­able. No mat­ter how much we try to do things right, to plan for every imag­in­able out­come, most of what hap­pens to us is out of our con­trol. Each of us is a Navajo rug, a mag­ic car­pet that’s beau­ti­ful and messy and cap­ti­vat­ing and flawed and col­or­ful and shab­by in a myr­i­ad of ways. 

I don’t want to be per­fect. I just want to be peace­ful. Peaceful, not perfect.

— Sponsored content —

You might also enjoy...