Sunday, October 9, 2011

Lies my mother told me

I experience such a flood of recognition when I read this post by One Wee Spark that I'm pretty sure I stopped breathing for a second. She writes about lies that you grow up with in a hoarded home, one of which being "if I can't do it perfectly and complete it right now, I should wait until I can."

My mother had several stock sayings that she repeated throughout my childhood (one of which being, "you make my life a living hell," but that's another post). I remember her telling us kids that "if it's worth doing, it's worth doing well." On the face of it, this is a worthy sentiment. In our house, though, the meaning somehow morphed into something more akin to, "if you can't do it absolutely perfectly, then don't even bother starting." When applied to most areas of life, this misguided perfectionism basically paralyzes your ability to function. In my adult life, this translates into being an excellent procrastinator, which then translates into stress generated by a to-do list that gets longer rather than shorter. If I can't get it done perfectly and completely, I'd rather not even start.

Lately I have been giving myself permission to do things less than perfectly, so I can just get them done. I can vacuum the dirtiest part of our house and leave the rest for later. A short phone call to my grandparents is better than not calling at all. It's immensely freeing to start letting go of the pressure I put on myself. And the more I let go, ironically, the more I realize that trying to do everything perfectly has often kept me from accomplishing anything at all.

1 comment:

  1. This is the meaning of the old saying "The perfect is the enemy of the good".