By Julia Connolly
It’s an ideal tactic for a person like me, who spent most of her lifetime hoping for second chances. Because whether I’m baking a cake or writing a poem, chances are the outcome will be somewhere between okay and not bad. And you know what? That’s perfectly (imperfectly?) fine.
For many years I struggled with being a low-functioning perfectionist, the girl with the tidiest locker wearing a sweater with the cuff unraveled. The woman with all her fridge magnets aligned who was growing an alien life form in her produce drawer.
You see, I was raised by over-achievers. My dad thought nothing of perfecting his wok cooking technique while beautifully remodeling the dining room, starring in a local play, and advancing his successful career. My mother would work a grueling 10-hour nursing shift, cook a nutritious dinner for the kids, and slip into a perfect dress for a night out with my father. Everyone said they were the best dancers in town.
Trying to follow their lead was misery. Expectations were high; perfection was the norm. I was the exception.
The quest for perfection was slowly killing me. I’m bi-polar. I have ADHD. The very idea of sending in cookies for the school bake sale would paralyze me. I’d plan to shop for the ingredients, imagine myself wielding the rolling pin with ease, delight in how jealous the other mothers would be of my creations. But it would never happen. I’d spend so much time imagining the perfect outcome that there would be no time to execute the plan. Cookies from a Pillsbury tube would have to be good enough.
Learning it’s okay to not be perfect has taken most of my life. I’ve learned to embrace moderation and take small steps to reach a goal. I’ve taught myself not to feel I have to find the best, most meaningful wedding gift when the happy couple would rather receive the toaster on their registry. I make dinners that my family enjoys even though the recipes aren’t clipped from Gourmet magazine. To fend off the demons, I avert my eyes when passing the checkout line magazines that implore me to be skinnier! More organized! A great dresser! and decorator! and casserole maker! Better in bed!
Why? Because I’m fine just as I am. That may sound arrogant, but it’s truly my way toward sanity.
I have friends who really can do it all, and I applaud them—conjuring a festive dinner party with a can of soup and wedge of cheese, raising kids that breeze through Yale, dressing perfectly for every occasion, every time. But they are not me.
Understand that I’m not a low-life defeatist. I love to learn, to experience new things, to rearrange the furniture, to be a good mom, to fix my hair and wear nice clothes.
Despite how far we’ve come, women are still expected to be excellent cooks, housekeepers, entertainers, planners, the primary child-rearers—all while working full time and looking beautiful and sexy. Even my cleverest friends cannot do all that, and certainly not consistently nor perfectly.
But we’re made to feel inadequate and guilty if we don’t, and that is simply wrong.
This self-proclaimed New Year, won’t you consider giving yourself a break and joining my cause? Enjoy making a pretty good dinner, an okay herb garden, a not-half-bad painting. It’s fine to strive for perfection in some things, but trying to be the best at everything can leave you feeling like nothing.
You are fine, just as you are.
Categories: Sister Sirens