Be Imperfectly Perfect
For Christmas this year, my mother-in-law gave my two-year-old daughter I am Enough, a children’s book about loving who you are and respecting others. It’s a good read, chock-full of positive messages about diversity, perseverance, and self-worth that I hope to instill in my daughter as she grows.
Believing you are enough is no easy feat, but it’s a far more realistic challenge than believing you have to be perfect, or that you have to be the best. Our society isn’t good at promoting being enough, not to mention social media isn’t doing us any favors. In fact, research is being devoted to studying the negative impacts of “perfectionist presentation”—the tendency of people to present flawless versions of their lives, particularly on social media—and the way other people react to it.
I grew up believing that being “good enough” was unacceptable. In our house, getting a ‘B’ on a test was not really okay because if only I had tried harder or studied longer, surely I could have achieved an ‘A’. Playing a musical instrument was expected, and playing two was even better. And, of course, excelling in athletic endeavors was also expected. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up with two loving and supportive parents, to whom I attribute many of my successes in adulthood. It’s not a bad thing to push your kids to put in their best effort, to try their hardest. But recognizing when that effort has occurred and the end result isn’t first place is invaluable in developing your children’s sense of self-worth.
Trying to constantly achieve perfection, especially in every aspect of life, is not sustainable. This became increasingly apparent to me as I delved into the demands of adulthood. Years later, it pretty much smacked me in the face when I became a parent. Suddenly there was less time for everything and a whole new, very important, element of my life that demanded (and deserved) a lot of attention. At this point, I realized the being enough philosophy was one I had to adopt if I wanted to maintain any sense of accomplishment, let alone sanity.
Parenting changed my expectations about what accomplishment looks like. When my daughter was a newborn, I remember feeling pretty darn good about myself if I took a shower and did a load of laundry in a day. I believe most parents would agree that a good majority of the time parenting involves trying your absolute hardest in hopes of simply making it through the day without losing it entirely or yelling something potentially psychologically damaging at your spouse and child.
Like other working moms, I struggle in balancing the demands of family and career, but I no longer strive for perfection. Instead, I take stock in attempting to give my best effort each day as a wife, a mother, and a psychologist. On some days, my best is better than on other days. I make mistakes, and sometimes I fail, but even then, I know this is part of being enough.
In raising my daughter, I reward all of her efforts towards achievement, not just those that are perfect or fully complete. I’m trying to teach her if it’s your best effort, it’s good enough. At two, my daughter has a fierce determination to do things herself. Rather than give up because it wasn’t perfect, she tries again when she fails to climb a ladder on the playground or zip up her coat. I model imperfection for her daily and hope she will grow up truly believing that being enough is perfectly okay.