Letting Go of Perfectionism and Embracing the Process

Did your math teachers ever require you to show your work? I remember it being written across the top of each of my tests during my 8th grade year: SHOW YOUR WORK! Even if we got the problem wrong, we were given partial credit for writing our process.

Somewhere in the years between then and now, however, things have changed. Maybe not for math teachers, but for the rest of society. Now, it’s all about BEFORE and AFTER. “Before this product I was ____ but look at me now!” If you watch a show like Fixer Upper they fast forward through the process, glossing over the demolition and nasty rat poop under the floorboards, then quickly take you to the magazine worthy (though not lived in) home. Other than Bob Ross, what artist do you know who showed their process? Other than close friends and family, who ever tells you that they’re doing therapy? When was the last time that someone who wronged you (intentionally or not) apologized and talked it out with you?

Perhaps our highly edited world has perpetuated the idea that change happens overnight, perfection is attainable and admitting our faults is unacceptable. But I’m gonna say that my 8th grade math teacher had it more right.

My kids need to see me fail, try again, fail, try again, fail, try again, etc.

My kids need to hear me admit that something is hard for me.

My kids need to see me get mad/grumpy and not handle things well, then apologize and try to work through my feelings.

My kids need to see me disagree with their dad and watch us work through our differences.

My kids need to see that I can still be gentle with myself when I’m not satisfied with my body/temper/cooking/whatever.

We shouldn’t be ashamed of being incomplete. Failure may be painful, but it doesn’t have to be shameful. It’s more important that our kids see our grit to keep trying than that they see our success. Successes are really just ‘rest areas’ on the scenic highway of our lives where we can get out, stretch our legs and take in the scenery. Most of our journey is a long road with flat tires, gas stations and traffic. But we can make it more pleasant with good company and by choosing to see the lovely scenery we pass through.

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”

― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heartfelt Advice for Hard Times

I’m learning that peace and anxiety can coexist. Gratitude and yearning can coexist. Happiness and stress can coexist. And if that wasn’t all strange enough… I’m learning that happiness doesn’t always feel happy. At least not in the expected ways.

Since everyone else is on their own highway with potholes as well, whats the matter with acknowledging that we are all hitting them? It seems to me that its easier to notice the blue skies or the mountain vistas when I don’t feel alone. “Showing our work” doesn’t mean advertising our weaknesses, it means relating to one another’s humanity and saying “me too!”

I yelled at my precious darlings.

Me too!

I’m worried about money.

Ugh, same!

I argued with my husband today.

Been there!

I often wonder if I’m “enough” and other times if I’m “too much”.

I hear you.

“Showing our work” is really just another way of fulfilling that baptismal covenant we made to “mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort”. It’s freeing to let go of perfectionism and allow ourselves space for our flaws…. space for our growth… space for connection.

*This essay was originally published at Christy’s personal blog, The Dispencery.


Grey clouds, a backdrop to skeleton trees

who bend and groan from the bitter breeze

As frozen crystals swirl around

life of every form slows down

A colorless realm, muted and dreary

souls are heavy and winter weary

But somewhere in my beating heart

warmth is coming, a growing start

a literal and figurative change in season

renewal is rising up without reason

I am a crocus, who blooms amid snow

hopeful, resilient, watch me grow.


*This poem was originally published at: https://thedispencery.wordpress.com/2018/03/01/crocus/


On a wooded path, a tiny red bird perched, and then took flight
The swiftness of the moment meant no camera could capture the sight
It was over as quick as it started, that singular second in time
Never to be recreated, that vision, though blurry, is mine

My eyes tried to imprint the scene into my memory
The fleeting of the moment, though, reminded me of me
Ever learning and forgetting, each day I’m someone new
I’m fleeting like my red winged friend, and so, my love, are you
Transforming from moment to moment, only permanent by name
Love me as I am right now for I’ll never be the same

“Fakebook” or Rose-Colored Glasses?

A while back I read a blog post that struck a chord with me. Several variations of this post have gone around, but the general thesis is that people should stop sharing the airbrushed versions of their lives on social media and should be more authentic. The author talks about how these idyllic pictures and status updates breed envy, comparison and a false idea of what our lives are really like. Yeah, there’s truth to that, and I’m all about being “real” and not just projecting edited versions of ourselves. But there’s something deeper that I feel is the real issue. It’s not how we portray our lives to others, but how we perceive life for ourselves that really causes our dissatisfaction and trouble.

All of us have beautiful moments and rough moments that fill each of our days. What’s wrong with focusing on the beautiful moments? Not to get ‘likes’ on social media or give the sense that things are better than they are, but to have a genuinely positive outlook of the life you’re living?

As a new mom I could probably get as many ‘likes’ for either the airbrushed version of my life with a beautiful baby or the raw version that includes messy diapers and sleeplessness. (I personally think that I shouldn’t be posting at all if external validation or lack thereof is going to affect how I feel about my life.) How I portray my life to others is less important than how I portray/perceive my life to myself.

The same experiences, seen with and without rose colored glasses, look entirely different. Why NOT wear rose colored glasses when looking at our own lives?

Here’s an example of my day today:

Georgia slept until 6:30am!
I was trashed by 10am but took my first nap in years
Georgia and I took a walk by the river with lovely weather
RJ came home for lunch AND we had an hour together at dinner before his Church meetings
Georgia enjoyed bath-time for the first time and was soo sweet all day without being too clingy/needy
I wore yoga pants and no make-up and felt zero guilt about it
The whole day flew by-I’m not sure where it went

My outlook was fairly positive already, but when I put on rose colored glasses I could also add:
Dear friends and family checked in on us today
I haven’t worried about work in weeks
RJ and I had wonderful conversations about our family, future, and random stuff
Our amazing pediatrician responded quickly to an email to assure me all was well
The simplicity of my current life is surprisingly fulfilling
I am in love with motherhood, and Georgia is an ideal baby
I’m passionately in love with my husband
The generosity and kindness of others has fed us for weeks, outfitted the baby’s whole life, and taken a huge burden off of us physically, time-wise, financially, and emotionally. We are SO supported.

Now here are the less pretty parts of the day:
Georgia blew out of her pants. Twice.
I have to change my own clothes as much as baby’s because all of her spit-ups and diapers get on me
I live in a run-down neighborhood in an old drafty house which makes it hard to keep the baby warm.
I don’t have a dishwasher and I hate doing the dishes.
The river we walk by is so polluted the city workers wear hazmat suits when they go near it.
My clothes still don’t fit.
I didn’t shower until 3pm.
My body is still recovering from birth and adjusting to nursing. We’ll leave it at that.
RJ has been horribly ill for 9 days, coughs like crazy and feels horrible. Therefore he can’t touch the baby (more diapers and holding a crying baby for me and a less happy baby and daddy)
My memory/brain seem to have transformed into mashed potatoes. I can’t remember or accomplish anything on my to-do list, and my capacity to form complex thoughts is diminished.

I personally like what I saw through the rose colored glasses today and making the list of the negative things made me less happy about a day that felt wonderful before. It’s easy to think of our days in terms of what we ‘do’ or in terms of what was good and bad. Maybe not so easy, but perhaps better, is thinking in terms of what we see throughout our day. And personally, I prefer what I see through rose colored glasses.

People have different reasons for what they put on social media. Maybe they are asking for support, seeking validation, wanting to share their happiness, trying to keep up with friends, or just bored. Whatever their reason, if we receive their posts with a compassionate heart, we’ll probably be less irked or envious. Instead, we can rejoice with those that rejoice and mourn with those that mourn. But beyond social media are all of the posts that are never public, but are written on ‘the fleshy tablets of the heart’. Let’s look deeply at those around us, and offer our support “likes” and encouragement “comments” there, as well.

This essay was originally published at https://thedispencery.wordpress.com/.