I’ve decided it’s time we parted ways.
We’ve been together a long time. I’m not even sure how it happened, but somewhere in childhood you became my constant companion.
You came with me into adulthood and by that time I thought you were an asset. I believed you when you told me that perfection was always the best result and that I had to keep working hard to achieve it. Perfection seemed so appealing. Even necessary. Of course I wanted to do my absolute best and work as hard as I could! Why wouldn’t I give my all?
I felt proud to say I was a perfectionist. Like it was honourable or that it showed I was so committed and willing to go above and beyond for a great outcome.
At times, it seemed to work for me and you made me look good. My overworking and high achieving ways won me compliments and successes. I looked confident and like I had it all together, but it was hard to enjoy my wins because I always felt there was more to do, or that I could have done better. The satisfaction was so brief. Striving for perfection is never ending because there’s always another goal, or someone better to compare yourself to.
You told me that people love perfection and excellence. That when I reached your standards I would be loved, accepted, valued and people would be proud of me. Failure would mean criticism, judgement or rejection. Because of this, I was so scared of failing and I attached a lot of my worth to what I achieved. Sometimes you urged me not to even set a goal, because without a goal, I could avoid failure.
You told me I needed to plan and control everything. Always taking the lead, thinking of every detail and not letting anyone help if they couldn’t meet my standards. But you forgot to tell me that I’d never be able to control all the variables and people that were involved in my plans. That I couldn’t prevent things from going wrong sometimes.
I thought I had to always make the right decisions. There’s so much pressure in that. Endless researching and overthinking, when in reality few decisions are final and we often can’t know the outcome until we try.
You made me think I had to excel in every area of my life. That good enough was settling or just plain lazy. That inconsistent motivation, commitment or achievements meant I wasn’t trying hard enough. I believed I couldn’t rest until everything was done. But everything was never done.
You told me that I had to live up to the expectations of others. I had to walk the traditional paths of success. I listened to you and often ignored that quiet voice of my intuition that was trying to show me that something else might make me happier.
You never mentioned that perfection is actually unattainable. In all my trying, I looked like I was flourishing, but I was slowly burning out.
I kept so much of this to myself for so long and so, it’s strangely satisfying to see it all written here in black and white. Why did I think this was all to be kept between you and me? Where there is fear of rejection or criticism, we cannot speak freely. It’s too emotionally dangerous. But I can see now, that the danger that felt very real often never happens, and when it does, it is not because there is something wrong with me.
I’ve been able to step back and see things more clearly now and I’ve decided it’s time to say goodbye, Perfectionism.
I don’t want to be perfect anymore.
I’m putting down the burden of constant striving, worrying, overworking, overthinking, self-criticism and fear.
This is my life. I get to choose how it feels for me. I get to choose how I will approach and respond to the things that happen to me. I get to choose the example I set for my family.
I choose to be good enough.
I choose to be my authentic, vulnerable and beautifully imperfect self.
I chose to run my own race.
I choose to let my intuition and heart be my guides.
I choose to set my own expectations.
I choose to treat myself with kindness and compassion.
I let go of control.
I accept help with gratitude and love.
I embrace the natural ebs and flows of my motivation, inspiration, energy and commitment.
I invite ease and flow into my life.
I celebrate the ways I am growing and learning.
I celebrate my achievements, regardless of size.
I don’t need to be the perfect woman, wife, entrepreneur, mother, stepmother, daughter or friend. I need to be ME. That is already good enough.
I don’t want you to tell me who I should be. I want to be ME.
I will still strive to be my best, but my best doesn’t need to be perfect.
I am grateful for what you have taught me but I don’t need you anymore.
I know from time to time you might pop back into my life. It’s hard to end things so suddenly after so long. Just don’t be surprised if I give you a wave and say “Hi there Perfectionism, I’ve got this.” and send you on your way.
This is my time.
A note to you lovely mumma
I hope you enjoyed reading this letter. I chose to share it with you for two reasons:
1. Motherhood and perfectionism are a difficult match
I love to help mums who struggle with the need to get everything right. You may or may not see yourself as a perfectionist, but if any of the elements of this letter resonate with you, then I encourage you to explore this further. Perfectionism and motherhood are a difficult match.
Motherhood is a fast lesson in the fact that we cannot control everything. There are many mistakes and loads to learn. You won’t love every moment. The work and demands on you are never ending. There is also no one right way to do it. We’re all figuring it out as we go along and what works for one family or child, won’t necessarily work for another in the exact same way. If there was one perfect way, you wouldn’t be able to bring your uniqueness and that is what makes you the mother you are. Your children need YOU. Not some cookie cutter mum who ticks all the “shoulds”.
I’ve been working with my 5 year old son on not needing perfection. Even so, he recently said to me, “I know things don’t need to be perfect mum, but I just prefer them that way.” This moment gave me even more inspiration to role model the fact that we are good enough when we are imperfect.
2. Our identity evolves and sometimes we need to let parts of us go
Sometimes we need to let go of parts of our identity that are no longer serving us. This can be a lengthy and gradual process when we have been holding onto that identity for a long time. Making some sort of declaration (even within yourself or the safety of your journal or a trusted relationship) can help to make it more real and tangible. You could try writing a letter, like I have. Some people like to write it and destroy it or throw it away as a symbol of removing it from their life. If you’d like to keep it shorter, you could simply write or state an intention such as “I no longer hold X as part of my identity. It is not serving me anymore. I now choose to believe I am XXX”.
If you’d like to talk further about perfectionism or your identity, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with me on social media @moretomum. I’d love to hear from you!