12 STEPS AWAY FROM PERFECTIONISM
Updated: Sep 17, 2020
"Perfection is the lowest standard any human can have." -- Heather Forbes
Think your child needs a perfect parent? Think again. In fact, your quest to be perfect gets in the way of loving your child unconditionally, because it stops you from loving yourself unconditionally. You can only give your child what you have inside.
So let's just renounce perfection. Aspiring to be perfect doesn't get you any closer to being perfect; it just makes you less loving. In fact, perfection is the lowest standard a parent can have. We aren't going for perfect. We're going for love!
1. Drop that list of all the ways you need to be different before you're good enough in your own eyes.
You know what I mean. That voice that says you should be a little more together, a little thinner, a little nicer...a much better mother or father. That's right; if you want to heal your ability to love unconditionally, you have to start by loving yourself unconditionally. That means with no conditions, as in, you love yourself exactly as you are, "faults" and all. (This gets easier if you look at your faults as an opportunity to grow, not by making yourself more perfect, but by loving yourself more!)
2. Choose love.
If you pay attention, you'll notice that life holds constant choices. Should you be harsh with your child because you're frightened that if you aren't, he won't learn? Should you point out to your spouse that you were right? Should you let yourself stop cleaning and instead have a pillow fight with your child?
At core, every choice is between love and fear. Choose love as often as you can.
Your life is the sum of your choices. You'll make bad ones, sure. But those mistakes you've already made? They don't matter in the long run. Because you get new opportunities every single day to turn your love ratio around. No one can go back and change the past, but anyone can start today to make a new future.
3. Notice the fear.
If you recorded the chatter in your mind, you'd think you were supposed to be perfect: "That was dumb....What an idiot I am....If only I were a better mother/father.....What have I done wrong that she's acting like this....Have I damaged him for life?...I should have known better..."
Unfortunately, our minds run on old belief systems that are designed not to keep us happy, but to keep us safe. So our thoughts worry constantly and find fault with everything, so we'll keep striving to make things better! Whenever we buy into those belief systems that we aren't good enough and are making a mess of things, we reinforce our fear. Fear is the opposite of love. So we need to notice this habit of fear running our thoughts, and...
4. Shift into your heart.
The only way to stop the vicious cycle of negative thoughts is to shift out of those thoughts and into the heart. Your heart can't be negative. It functions at a higher level. Your heart is looking for connection and growth. It can only be compassionate.
So next time you notice a negative thought about yourself, just Stop, Drop (the thought) and Breathe. That deep breath unplugs you from the tape loop in your thoughts. Now you have a choice. Put your hand on your heart and breathe love into your heart. Use a mantra if it helps, like "I am more than enough, exactly as I am." Consciously choose to feel love, and watch your whole sense of well-being shift.
5. Change your internal chatter to support and reassure yourself.
Anne Lamott says, "Take yourself through the day as you would your most beloved mental-patient relative, with great humor and lots of small treats." So why not transform that inner critic, so you become your own fairy godmother?
Every time you notice self-criticism, remind yourself that your goal isn’t perfection. Your goal is loving yourself and others. Retrain your mind. When it starts catastrophizing, change course:
"Nobody bats 1000....You can handle this....Two steps forward, one step back still gets you where you want to go...Easy does it... This too shall pass....Two steps forward, one step back still gets me where I want to go.....I am more than enough....My child is getting better parenting than I got, LOL; he will be ok....I don't have to know what to do, I just have to love him through it....I can trust my instincts....Love never fails."
6. Forgive Yourself.
Ok, you made a mistake. That's not because you stopped striving for perfection, it's because you're human. We all make them, all the time. Really. Can you still have a happy, responsible, fabulous life and be a good parent? YES! The key is to forgive yourself, so you can accept your imperfections graciously. That makes it easier to admit when you mess up, and to make amends. You can't be compassionate to your child when you're beating yourself up inside. Just commit to doing better, and take a step in the right direction.
7. Make Reparations.
So you're mature enough to see that you made a mistake and you've created a problem. What a terrific role model you are for your child! Focus on solving the problem you've created, not on blame and guilt. As long as you can forgive yourself, you'll be find a way to repair those little rifts with your child, a way that strengthens your relationship. Your child will survive your mistakes. In fact, when you acknowledge that you messed up, and apologize, and work to repair the relationship, your child learns some of the most important lessons in life.
8. Don't even try to be a perfect parent.