When I had very small children at home I chided myself constantly because I could not be the perfect mom, no matter how hard I tried. Not knowing then that I was losing a lot of myself and the precious things around me by expecting too much of myself, I forced myself to be all and do it all. I wanted to be the mom to my kids I never had.
I rocked my babies to sleep, showered them with kisses and hugs, read them stories, and got on the floor and played with them. I kept them clean and well dressed, and did all I could to keep them happy, well fed, and safe.
It wasn’t just over motherhood that I was a perfectionist. I was my worst critic and people often told me, “You’re too hard on yourself.” Everything I did had to go through a rigorous examination, only for it to usually be tainted by some small flaw I managed to find.
In my home I kept the floors swept, carpets vacuumed, toys organized, did my best to keep dishes at bay (we did not have a dishwasher), the house dusted , kept up with the laundry best I could, kept the house well decorated, and had dinner ready on time. All this in spite of the fact that I had three children under four and rarely had emotional support or help with the kids. After my children’s daily baths, stories were read, and they were tucked in before 7:30, I was exhausted and ready for bed myself, yet felt like a complete failure because there was so much more I felt I should’ve been doing. In all that activity and in my quest to do everything just so, my nows often blurred before me as they sped by until the years grew into decades.
One year, I made two-toned, creamy lace and baby-blue-fabric Victorian-style curtains for our living room picture window; and I made pretty bow ties for the sides. During nap times I worked feverishly to make the ruffles just so. And once the curtains were done and hung, I was very happy with them—until I found a flaw.
The ruffle was not as “fluffy” in one area as I wanted it to be. Suddenly the curtains I was so happy with seconds before, had an un-fluffy, six-inch section and that bugged me. I was considering taking the ruffle apart and fixing it when a sweet friend stopped by.
“Oh, I love your new curtains,” she said. However, I was expecting her to add how sad it was that the section of ruffle to the right wasn’t as fluffy as the rest. She didn’t. She’s just being her sweet self, I thought.
When she continued to praise the curtains, I said, “Unfortunately, I will have to redo that small ruffled section because it’s just not as fluffy.”
She looked where I pointed. “Where is it not as fluffy?”
My friend was artistic, I couldn’t believe she couldn’t see it so obvious in front of her. “Right there,” I said as if the flaw was as big as the window, and stepped up on the couch to point it out to her.
She looked at it with a questioning look on her face.
“You know, I would have never noticed that.” She paused thoughtfully and said, “You’re a lot like me,” then she chuckled, “someone will compliment me on something, and all I focus on is the flaw they missed.” I still remember that comment to this day and that was over 25 years ago. I am not completely over things being just so, but I have come to not sweat the insignificant things that once would have burdened me.
Perfectionism is good in that it can drive a person, and it pushes us to go beyond what we thought possible but if we let it go untethered, it also diminishes the results. Perfectionism stunts our growth and impedes our God-given abilities.
Perfectionism is a thirsty skeptic that boos your best work and always demands more and more; and then some more. It steals your joy, distorts true beauty, and chokes out love as it points to the most microscopic flaw that can easily go unnoticed. Don’t let perfectionism capture you, it will eventually become a foe you will have to fight hard to get rid of.
When a person can truly say, I did my best, that person should be able to rest without perfectionism biting at their ankles.
To young moms and to everyone else I say, don’t forget the gift of today, of this very now moment.
We can get so caught up with the sadness or hurts of the past, in perfecting our present, and hashing the worries of tomorrows that we roll over now, the only moment we are assured to have. We are only promised one now, and that is right now. It’s the time we can begin over, change ourselves with God’s help, and make a difference.
Don’t forget that our nows often affect our tomorrows.
My son, Jonathan’s life was taken in a motorcycle accident at the young age of 27. That moment was the end of his now on earth. This awakened me to the fact that our tomorrows are never, ever guaranteed.
Don’t overlook your now in your haste to get to tomorrow. Life comes at us one now at a time.
No matter what life throws your way, enjoy now and be sure to make good choices. Do not let perfectionism steal from your very best. And don’t forget to thank God when you count your blessings.
By ~ Elizabeth Yalian 2013-2014 ©http://hiseyeisonthissparrow.com. ♛