My daughter came home from school yesterday with some news. I was waiting for her to tell me she had done badly in some tests, she got her work wrong, somebody upset her or wouldn’t play her game, that she only got 18 out of 20 in a test and it wasn’t good enough. These are all the usual things which we deal with on a daily basis. But to my absolute surprise she announced something good. Something about her day that she was proud of. So proud in fact that she was able to share this with her family. And of course we were so proud of what she had achieved but it wasn’t the fact she had done so well that made my day it was actually that for the first time since she had entered into the Juniors she was not only acknowledging that she had done well but proud enough to tell us. This was a huge step for her. And a momentous moment for me.
And the reason this was such a big moment in her little life is because in her mind ‘good’ is not enough. She strives to be perfect. I’m not sure if perfect would even ever be enough. The interesting thing about all this is the timing. I recently read a wonderful piece by one of my favourite inspirational writers at the minute. She never fails to make you see things in a different way. She wrote;
“Whenever I think about our living true selves, I think about shop windows. Each and every person decides what he or she puts in the window-what we want to show the world…I plastered on a smile even when I was miserable…empty…overwhelmed. The sign I put in my window was ‘PERFECTION.’ I sacrificed showing the world who I really was because I wanted things to look perfect.” Rachel Macy Stafford – Only Love Today.
And thats when it hit me. All the time I had been telling myself I don’t put pressure on my daughter, I tell her it is good enough and that she shouldn’t be so hard on herself. Not to focus on where she went wrong and that she did so well. But in that moment I realised it wasn’t about what I said to her, it was about me, how I acted and what she saw me do. For years I have put ‘perfection’ in my window. I would plait her hair and re-do it because it just wasn’t good enough, there was a hair out of place or something. I would make her sit there whilst I painstakingly re-did it. She would make her bed but it wasn’t up to my standards so I would re-do it when she went to school. She would do her own hair feeling so grown up and proud of herself and I would ask if I could do it again because it was a bit messy. I’d make her change her clothes if she got a drop of milk or toothpaste on them before school because I didn’t want people to think I wasn’t taking care of her properly. I would clear up before we left the house even if it meant me getting stressed or being late. I’d moan if something wasn’t just so or I did something wrong. And once I started paying attention I noticed how often I used the word perfect and I still catch myself doing it now. Of course I was putting pressure on her. Of course she felt everything had to be perfect. That was what I was displaying. If I asked her to do 5 things before school (get dressed, wash her face, brush her teeth, make her bed and put her clothes in the wash) I would focus on the clothes left lying on the floor not the four wonderful things she had completed!
And so now I take a breath, a step back, I bite my tongue. I let her go to school with messy hair and laugh when she tells me the teacher had to re-do it during the day because it fell out. I smile when I see her clothes on the floor or the bed not made to my standard. I smile because she has tried. I smile because its not perfect and that’s ok. And please don’t get me wrong, it is so hard. But if the reward is going to be as big as this…as big as her recognising her achievements, not beating her self up for getting two questions wrong, for focusing on the good instead of the bad. Well then I am willing to fight. I am willing to change my window display to good enough. Because whatever we do and whatever we achieve it is good enough!
Thank goodness I saw it before it was too late because now I am reaping the benefits. I’m letting go of perfect and you can too.
Credit to Rachel Macy Stafford for her quote “Letting go of perfect.”