Perfectionism

I read a lot.  In particular, I read a lot about how I can be better.  A better parent, a better writer, a better human.

Whilst I know I can never be perfect, there’s a small but maniacal part of my ego that refuses to let go of the belief that if I just work hard enough, perfection can be mine.

I’d like to petition the Oxford English dictionary to redefine perfectionism as an illusion of the human mind: a thing of fantasy that should not under any circumstances be pursued, or at least to carry a warning label advising, ‘side effects of intense frustration and self-doubt, if pursued.’

Whilst I believe growth as a person is achievable and a fundamental part of life (why are we here if not to love, learn and grow?) an over-emphasis on achieving a certain level of growth (usually the Instagram worthy kind) is fraught with black holes just waiting for the unsuspecting personal development junkie (me) to fall down.

Every day we’re bombarded with images, stories and content about the ‘right’ way to do things, or the ‘secret’ to whatever it is we feel we’re lacking.  I should know, I’ve been writing about it for months.

I feel like I’m always searching for the path to contentment, and there have been many times when I’ve been sure I have found it.  But no sooner have my feelings of elation bloomed than something inevitably goes wrong and elation turns to deflation, as the balloon of my excitement is rudely burst by that recurring annoyance that is life.

Yep, life, and all its pesky frustrations, annoyances and problems, honed to a point and always waiting to pop my unsuspecting bubble of joy.  Yet could there be any joy without sadness?  Could there be contentment without discontent?  Peace without conflict?  A Ying needs a Yang, after all.

Today I Am Working On…

Being as patient with my own children as I am with other people’s.

I can have an infinite amount of patience with other people’s children, yet there are many times when I struggle to extend this to my own.

Why is this?

Maybe it’s because I don’t take their behaviour as a reflection on my parenting.

Maybe it’s because their behaviour doesn’t hold up a mirror that reflects all of my fears and insecurities back at me (it’s usually one of those illuminated, magnifying mirrors that highlight all the bits of myself I’d rather not see).

It’s time for me to rout that perfectionist part of my ego and accept that I mess up.  We all do.  Every.  Single.  One of us.  Yes, the Instagram parenting experts admit they’ve messed up too, but you don’t actually see video footage of them wailing like a banshee or lobbing stuffed animals at their kids, do you?  So it’s easy to imagine you’re the only one.  And they’re always talking about how they’ve changed their ways and you can too, as if losing your cool can become a thing of the past.  Sometimes it can.  But even if that problem is solved, you can be sure there’ll be plenty of new and ingenious ways to mess up, particularly in the realm of parenting.  It’s part of being human. 

I know I’ll continue to mess up throughout my life.  When I reach the point at which I never make another mistake, I’ll almost certainly be dead.

Maybe the most important thing to teach my children is that we all make mistakes, how to make amends, and most importantly, how to forgive themselves.  I could do with learning this too.

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