In the past a five years I have experienced some pretty incredible and drastic life changes. I went from being a single Carrie Bradshaw-esque New Yorker to a married stay-at-home-working mom of two under two. I had the very specific life dream to be married and “have a couple of kids” by a certain birthday- I met my goal with 48 hours to spare. But things were and still are far from perfect.
I know I’m not alone. I am not the only woman who suffers from “perfection-itis” (Shout out to Doc McStuffins). Most women, not all, but most have this ingrained, yet completely unnatural, compulsion to be perfect. We want to be the perfect wife, perfect girlfriend, perfect mother, perfect friend, perfect sister, perfect daughter, perfect boss, perfect employee. THE PERFECT PERSON!!! We want it like there’s a prize to be had.
I’m dying to know where this idea of attaining perfection came from. Did it start with my mother or the Kardashians? Does it go as far back as supermodels or the whacked-out image of the 1950’s housewife that our own mothers and grandmother’s were killing themselves to emulate? After a “come-to-Jesus-meeting” with myself about it, sadly, I understood I’ve been attempting perfection most of my life. I’ve only just had the realization that my attempts have been in vain.
You see, a few days after the birth of my first daughter while lamenting, what at the time felt like an epic fail in my mothering and life skills, a girlfriend said to me, “Karith, you can be perfect…or you can be happy. The choice is yours.”
Now, that’s when the heavens should have opened up; angels begun their chorus and my friend should have been showered in a golden white light equivalent to the epiphany I should have had in that moment. Unfortunately, I was too tired and foggy to appreciate the power of those words. I know now, that was one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received. Her statement was simple and nonjudgmental and while it made me smile and feel good on the surface it took years of marinating to help me get to where I am now.
So how with two kids under two, a relatively new relationship/marriage and a very demanding career, did I get into the right headspace to choose happiness over perfection? The first thing I had to do was acknowledge that it IS a choice. The second thing I had to do was recognize perfection for the lie that it is. There is no such thing as perfect and that is okay.
In order to stay on my track for happiness and not be sucked into the veritable pitfalls of perfection I developed a guide for myself. I call it sticking to the B.A.S.I.C.S.
Be kind to yourself. It is amazing how readily we beat ourselves up but are so quick to be sympathetic to a friend. You need to be your own best friend and treat yourself as such. This also means be your own biggest cheerleader so that others know how to treat you. People take their cues how to treat you from how they see you treat yourself.
Ask for help. Even I still need work on this one. But I’ve realized I can let my pride stand in the way of my success and be miserable or I can ask for what I need and 9 times out of 10 get it. This isn’t about taking advantage of another person’s time or energy it’s about putting what you need out there and in doing so taking care of yourself so that you can then pay it forward. Why do you think companies hire employees or start-ups seek investors? They need help to get the success they desire.
Stop comparing yourself. To whom you may ask? To your mother, your sister, your brother, your cousin, your best friend, the Super PTA Mom, the mom blogger you follow, anyone on Pinterest, your Facebook frienemy, your boss, your nemesis. If you’ve not picked up what I’m saying -essentially anyone who makes you feel less than when you compare yourself to them. Your #1 job is to be THE BEST YOU you can be.
Ignore the critics- that includes you. Don’t let anyone talk you out of your dreams, don’t let anyone create doubt. Be open to advice and guidance for sure, but there is a distinct difference between someone who is trying to support you in their critique versus someone whose trying to bring you down.
Celebrate even the smallest of victories. Say you stepped out of your comfort zone and you did something, like, oh, I don’t know asked for help? Or maybe you’re a new mom and you’ve not slept in more than 3 hour increments in weeks. Celebrate that stuff. Have a Hershey’s kiss, do a 60 second “happy dance”, get that 10-minute shower Girlfriend!
Say thank you. Show gratitude for even the smallest things. Sometimes we have days where it seems like everything is going wrong, like we can’t catch a break and if one more person gets on one more nerve you’re going to lose it. But before you do- stop. Take a deep breath and quickly think of 5 things that you are truly grateful you have in your life. It can be as simple as access to clean water or as deep as both of your parents are still alive. It doesn’t matter what you’re grateful for, just reflect on it for a moment until you’re grounded again. Don’t just do this when you’re upset. Make this a regular exercise. I don’t know why it works this way, but God/The Universe hears/feels this gratitude and for some reason rewards you with more to be grateful.
I am in no way perfect, nor is this article, but I’m happier for putting it out there and I hope you take what you need from it. Remember, perfection is in the eye of the advertiser, the casting director and the photoshopper. Happiness is in the heart of the beholder.