My mother calls it “the curse.” It’s the multi-generational, subconscious, uncontrollable need for tidiness and order. Our house growing up was spotless, beautiful, and orderly. Everything had a place, every routine was down pat. It was a really un-stressful way to grow up. Honestly, I think it shaped some of my best qualities. There was no uncertainty, just calm routine.
*Mom is #goals
Because what happens when it goes beyond tidiness and maintaining a calm routine? What happens when perfection is chased in bodies, careers, social situations, parenting and self images? Left unchecked, it can bring us to our knees. Trust me, I’ve tried.
Perfection is painful. It’s painful because we’re judging something (our situation, our experiences, our relationships, our body). When we judge, we label, and when we deem something as “bad,” we tend to wish it was otherwise. We are rejecting what is, and what cannot be any other way (at that moment).
We think things are out of order, our children can’t be controlled, we need to lose 10 pounds. We clean and clean, we obsess over calories, we make everything just so, because then FINALLY we can be in control of the “bad things” and other people will see that our lives are “good.” We’re so embarrassed when we fall short. What will people think!
But what if the ticket out of the destructive spiral of perfection is not to make everything perfect? What if the ticket out is this: Radical acceptance + Gratitude + Don’t care.
Things simply cannot be different in this very moment. They’re not good. They’re not bad. They just are. It’s scientific fact.
Labels tend to cloud our judgement. They elicit emotional responses. The dishes should be done, the kids should behave like I want them to, I should be a size 2, I should hostess like a magazine, I should climb the corporate ladder, I shouldn’t be angry. Should, should, SHOULD.
Let’s use “I should be a size 2” as an example. I, personally, am NOT a size 2. Not even close.
Acceptance: My body size is what it is today. It cannot change at this very moment. I care deeply about my health and do what I can to make good decisions.
Gratitude: But damn am I grateful for what this body can DO. It’s climbed mountains, it’s created humans, it’s capable of things I couldn’t even imagine.
Don’t care: There will always be someone thinner AND bigger than me. I give caring about my body size a big, fat, MEH. But for real, people who judge other people for the size of their body are jerks. If you’re judging someone for their body, it says a lot more about you than it does about them. We’re all out here doing our best. Also #yolo.
One more example: “The dishes should be done.”
Acceptance: They are not done. There are 3 options. Do them myself, bribe someone else to do them, or ignore them for now. I can either change it, or not.
Gratitude: Having dishes in the sink means we have food on the table. It means the people I love were here.
Don’t care: Is anyone in danger because the dishes aren’t done? Probably not. Also, people who judge other people for having dishes in the sink are hypocrites and jerks. We’re all just out here doing our best. Plus, they’ll get done eventually.
We can focus on our health, and on creating a sense of calm in our households. We can aspire to do well at work. But join me in trying to remember to check our stress levels when it comes to all the “shoulds.”
What is, is perfect. And you are enough.