For years, I’ve struggled with perfectionism and I’ve come a long way with a lot of effort. Perfectionism is just so stifling and sometimes crippling. Recently, I had an experience that made me realize perfectionism had crept back in when I wasn’t paying attention. I was looking over a list of home project ideas I had created. This list contains little and big things I want to do around the house, like decorating, organizing, and painting. I add ideas as I think of them. I noticed that many of the ideas had been on the list for a while, and then I wondered to myself why I hadn’t done those yet. Had my tastes changed? Did I want to go in a different direction? No, that wasn’t it, I still liked these ideas and still wanted to do them. That’s when it hit me, I was looking at a list of my favorite ideas, the ones I really wanted to do well, even perfectly.
Perfectionists fear doing something imperfectly. Not wanting to get something wrong can mean never daring to attempt it.
Perfectionists find it painful to work through the unknown. We want to be able to picture steps from beginning to end. We want to be able to work through all the ifs and maybes, and form backup plans. Moving forward without all the details is hard!
Perfectionists wait for the time to do things right. And since life rarely offers nicely bundled packages of time, perfectionists can get stalled in the waiting phase.
Perfectionists operate in the all or nothing mindset. When we do something, we go all in and do it right, or we just avoid it altogether.
At some point, perfectionists need to figure out how to expect less of ourselves without the guilt of not expecting perfection. Because that’s part of it, isn’t it? When we consider doing something less than perfectly, we beat ourselves up. We tell ourselves we are lazy, or incapable, and we convince ourselves we are letting ourselves or others down if don’t do it perfectly. We can be mean to ourselves and push ourselves so far that we self-destruct, and suddenly “all” goes to “nothing”.
Honestly, I’m fighting hard right now to find some kind of middle ground. If you notice, I haven’t blogged in over a week. That’s not to say I’ve run out of ideas. I have a notebook so packed full of things to share, I keep having to add more pages. When I look through it, I get excited about all the things I want to share, but when I try to commit to writing about anything, I get stuck and end up re-writing the list instead of just moving forward. I’m not operating at my best right now and it’s getting to me.
The last few months have been hard. Last October I got shingles the week I returned from vacation. Life picked up pace, and I never had time to breathe, let alone rest and heal. I was still dealing with shingles privately when I broke my foot. Through a series of still-can’t-believe-it-happened events, I didn’t see a specialist until four weeks after the break. The urgent care doctor told me I would probably be healed with 4-6 weeks and I wasn’t healing. The specialist easily spotted that my break was much worse than the urgent care doctor realized and that I needed surgery to repair it. Surgery would require 6-8 more weeks of recovery. I’m the mother of four young children and January is the busiest month of all my businesses, but I haven’t been able to really walk in more than 8 weeks. I hobble around to do what I have to do, but it isn’t easy to do anything. To add to the insanity, 2 weeks ago terrible news broke that is too personal to share yet (I’m still dealing with it and am not ready to talk about it). I’m ready to call Mercy! For months now, I’ve been pushing on and just trying my best but lately it has become harder to even try, because my best hasn’t felt good enough. When things start to feel crazy, I revert back to my perfectionistic ways that I’ve worked so hard to overcome. And then I stall.
You’ll have to excuse my over-sharing. I normally shield my readers from personal things like this. I know that you read my blog for good info and I respect your time. But I do have a message from this that I want to share.
Even though writing today was really hard and I tried to do my best to find any reason to procrastinate, I still wrote. I mean, my email is sitting empty right now … that’s how desperate I was to avoid writing. But I’m not going to let perfectionism win and you shouldn’t either. I’m going to give myself grace. And I’m going to tell myself as many times as I need to hear it that my blog posts have value, even if they aren’t done perfectly. I can still be a good wife, mother, and friend without being perfect.
I will not let fear of failure stop me from trying, because that only guarantees failure.
If you’re a perfectionist like me, you’re not alone. Don’t give up and fall into the “nothing” category. Don’t wait to declutter, organize or decorate your home until you can do it perfectly. Take the time to think about what your perfectionism is really doing to you, then take back your life.
Learn to live imperfectly.
From my home to yours,
Mary K says
Thank you, Mary, for being so open with us. I also struggle with perfectionism and will try to remember your wise words. I’m hoping that whatever it is that you are struggling with now can be resolved soon. Will be sending good thoughts your way!
I appreciate you working to write this. It is just what I needed to hear. I am struggling with this very thing right now and feeling like I just can’t get ahead of things. It is clear that I have been putting it off because I am not 100% certain how to proceed because I don’t want to make a mistake. Going to try to take your words to heart and get going!
I’m so glad this could help you. I think there are more of us than we realize. 🙂
I really needed to hear I am not alone in this!!! Thank you!
You are definitely not alone!!!
Wow. You put into words what I didn’t really realize what has been happening with me for years. I have struggled and struggled to get things done, but then I get so discouraged because I may not have time to do the full job or get something completely perfect. Your last 91 day challenge gave me the opportunity to work at a reasonable pace, and even in the midst of it when it seemed like things were getting worse instead of better, your words of encouragement helped so much. My home and life are far from perfectly organized, but I am slowly but surely learning that little steps are better than no steps, and this blog post just solidifies that so much more! Thank you for being our cheerleader/mentor through your own struggles. I sincerely hope and pray that whatever you are having to deal with is resolved quickly and easily.
Yes, little steps are definitely better than no steps. That can be so hard to learn, but it sounds like you are on your way!
Prayers for you, Mary.
Thank you. 🙂
Sharon Essary says
Mary you’ve got this. You’ve got a great family. Sit back and let them take care of you for awhile. I know that’s totally wrong to any mother and especially a perfectionist but you have to let thm do this for you so you can be ready to take over again. It will work out just fine and everyone will be stronger for it. Especially your girls who will have such a great feeling taking care of you.
Thank you, Sharon!! You are totally right, but why is it so hard to let people help?!
Sometimes, God slows us down so that others may grow!
Yes … I just hate slowing down, but I can still God’s hand in lots of good things. 🙂
Mary, you continue to help so many of us. I am praying for peace, comfort and healing.
Thank you so much!
Mary your words, thoughts and blog posts change lives. I know because following you has changed mine and so much for the better. Thankyou from your friend across the pond x
Thank you, sweet friend. That means a lot.
Thank you, this came at such a good time! I really needed to hear this today. I hope that you heal quickly and I’m sending positive thoughts your way that you can deal with the other issues in your life without becoming too overwhelmed.
Thank you, prayers are very appreciated.
Hey there Mary. I’ll be praying for you. We’re all human and while it seems like some around us aren’t and can do it all it’s impossible. All we can do is the best we can. I appreciate your honesty in opening up; it shows you’re human 🙂 Take care of yourself and above that let your family take care of you and love you. I’m sure they want to and as moms I think when we’re down we tend to take that gift away from them that they want to give. We just seem to have a hard time with others doing for us and helping us. I need to work on that myself. God bless you for all you do for us with your blog.
Ha! Yes, I’m definitely human!!! It seems like there are a lot of us that have this struggle. I already knew that theoretically, but the response to this post has only confirmed it. We can each be so hard on ourselves!
Me encanta tu blog! Tienes tanta razon. Solo espero que la situacion de salud mejore pronto, y la otra situacion que tienes Dios proveerá para solucionarla a Su Tiempo y con muchas bendiciones!!!☺
Wow! This is exactly what I needed to read today! Thank you for writing and sharing! Wishing you health and happiness!
Thank you, I’m so glad this helped you.
Nikki K says
Mary, I’ve only recently found your blog but enjoy your spirit and approach to this crazy life. Today, especially, hit home. Whether it’s hormones or the completely accurate description of my life as a perfectionist, this post brought tears to my eyes and hope to my heart. God’s timing is ALWAYS perfect and not only did I need to hear this but so does my mother. So off I go to share it and please know that when I pray for courage to start, regardless of the outcome, it was inspired by your perfect post about an imperfect life.
Yes, God’s timing is perfect!!! Such a great reminder.
Thank you for sharing! You are such a wonderful person who helps so many (myself included). You will be in my thoughts and prayers.
Thank you Stephanie! You are so awesome, thank you so much for your support!
Your words of wisdom have really helped me since I discovered your so useful blog. Reading it today brought tears to my eyes. I am many thousands of miles away from you but just wish I could be with you to say hang on in there, you will be fine. Julia
Yes, it will be okay! It really will!
Prayers for you Mary…fighting perfectionism is the art of letting go. Take the time to heal, decide what you can let go of for the time being. We will wait for you. We are going anywhere. <3
I meant to say….we aren’t going anywhere.
I knew what you meant 🙂
The art of letting go … sounds so elegant, but so true. Yes, there is so much to let go!
Thank you!!! I so needed to read this today! Thank you for sharing. It’s great to know I’m not the only one! I have enjoyed reading your blog. Many of your suggestions have really made a difference in my life and my families. Also sending prayers your way.
Thank you so much for letting me know that the suggestions are helping. That is so wonderful to hear! Thank you!
Thank you for your words. I find myself not starting things because I won’t have enough time to finish them in one sitting. Perfectionism? It happens often because I have fibromyalgia and some days I don’t have the energy or pain gets in the way. Prayers for your issues known to God. He will sustain you.
Thank you, and yes, I believe He will. Prayers for you too!
Mary, Nearly thirty years ago I was in a situation similar to yours – a badly broken leg, a one- and a two- year old, and found out in the emergency room I was pregnant. People from my family and my church took care of our meals, babysat for us, and yes, cleaned my house. That was when I had to let go of my perfectionism since no one did things the way I would do them,and It was very, very hard. But it was also one of the best things I went through at the same time – although a the time I could not see any light. I learned how to save my perfectionism for things that mattered and how to let go of some of the things that in the long run didn’t matter as much. Hang in there. No matter how you feel now, there are better days ahead.
Maybe this will be the story I tell thirty years from now. As hard as this time has been, I am learning a lot.
You put what I have been feeling so elegantly into words! Thank you for sharing. It is good to be reminded that other people live that way too! May things start to look up for you and your family.
There are sooo many of us that live this way!! My prayer is that we each find a way of living imperfectly in a happy way.
Liz Wada says
Thank you for sharing. Keep sharing it makes you human! Things come up good and bad so please keep sharing. Hope you share what is too hard to share right now but we can’t help you or be here for you if you don’t share.
Thank you so much. It really did feel good to share, especially with this response!
have been quietly following and partially completing your declutter challenge. I’ve never posted or commented but I thought you were very brave to write this and I want to join the crowd owning up to their perfectionism and expressing the hope that things will get better for you soon. With your great attitude I have no doubt you will weather the storm. Very best wishes from Ireland.
Thank you, Eleanor. It means so much that you’d come out of your comfort zone to say something kind to me.
Thank you Mary! As many have said “perfect” timing as His timing always is. Perfectionism has always been an issue for me and I have several unfinished projects to prove it 🙁 As you stated I have gotten better but when life is caving in I tend to go back to the familiar but at least once recognized I now know where I should head back to. You have done so much for me with your blog and challenges I will never be able to thank you enough. I thank God for you everyday and you and yours are always in my thoughts and prayers. Take care of yourself <3
Thank you, Diane! I’m so grateful for you too!
Hi Mary…. I just found your blog today (from your homemade frozenlemonade concentrate pin). Reading this couldn’t be more timely. It must have been really hard for you to write/share about your struggle with perfectionism, but it’s one of those posts that truly resonates to the core of many women. Thank you for opening your heart. You have helped more women than these comments will ever show.
Thank you so much! And speaking of that lemonade, I actually have some made in my fridge right now. Got a great deal on lemons a few months ago and made a ton of concentrate. Mmmm. 🙂
Pamela G says
Hope things improve for you soon.
Yes, I am a perfectionist, too. It really drives me nuts. Since I am in my 5th decade of life I can truly say that I struggle with this curse every day. So much so that my health is being compromised. I wish you luck with your battle. Just know that you are not alone.
Thank you, Renee.
Andrea H Johnson says
Wow! I enjoy following your blog and find it very helpful in many ways. I have to say that I felt like this particular post was written specifically for me! You found the words to describe me to a tee!! I really am overwhelmed. Thank you for this, for your continued encouragement, and for your thoughts. Praying that you find peace, strength and comfort in the midst of your struggles. I have faith that the Lord will lead you through this and that everything will be just fine on the other side. Blessings to you and yours!
Thank you so much for your prayers and kind words! I hope you have a good, imperfect week. 🙂