Although I've known about it for a while, it's recently been more apparent to me how wide of a streak of perfectionism has existed throughout my life. It's interesting because I have specifically done work to let go of it in recent years. What I've started to see, though, is how it has carried on to my kids.
I got a particular glimpse into how perfectionism may have spread while attending a teacher conference at my daughter's school today. Her teacher glowingly spoke of her kindness and presence class, neither of which surprised me at all.
As we moved into the nitty-gritty of her work, however, I started to get a gnawing feeling as I envisioned her school experiences. My daughter agonizing over showing her work on questions that she was finding difficult... Her last minute, complete rewrite of an essay because she didn't like the draft... Last year's conversations with her teacher describing her struggles to commit her otherwise very clear thoughts onto paper...
While I don't know for sure, I started to get the sense that the issue was her need to get it right before anyone else is allowed to see her work. It's the perfectionist's trap, one into which I've fallen countless times over the years.
As I allowed the conversation to wash over me I felt a sense of dread, a tightening in my gut. I sure don't want my child to be dogged by perfectionism. And as I thought more about it tonight - and talked to all of my children about the wonderful power of making mistakes & being wrong - something occurred to me.
There is a way to be perfect, to embrace perfectionism: If I am perfectly me, I will absolutely succeed.
In fact, I don't even have to try to do that. Ok, that's maybe not 100% true. There are things I need to put effort into every day. Mostly I need to remember to continually check in with myself - physically, emotionally, and spiritually - to see if I am honoring my values in my actions.
Using the combined powers of acceptance, honesty, and my values I am able to live perfectly into my own experience. I won't always get it right. In fact, I'll often get it "wrong". And all that means is that I have a new experience to learn from, which isn't so wrong after all.
I'll be sharing this with my children, hoping they get to discover the key to perfection sooner than I did.