By many I have been labeled as a “perfectionist”. Believing people were getting mixed up with my high-achiever characteristics, I thought they were confused. To me, a perfectionist is someone who has a great attention to detail and did EVERYTHING perfect. I never feel like anything I do is perfect, can always be approved upon, and take myself to great lengths to do so.
One day I decided to look up the term “perfectionist” to get a true meaning. The description is written as “a person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection”. Once I thought about the definition, I noticed I never accept even my great work as perfect, always believing I fall short. Meaning I am an actual perfectionist. I thought about my tendencies to get stressed out and complicate my life when my intentions are to have a perfect result, but impossible to reach. I recognize the extent of my perfectionists negative effects on my lifestyle and stress level.
For example, last year for Halloween we had planned to have a few friends over and pass out candy to trick-or-treaters. Weeks before I had expectations as to what the night would be like and my perfectionism started slowly creeping up. I quickly got caught up with who would attend, what we would eat, what we would drink, games we would play, etc. I had ideas of 7 layer spider-web dip, homemade chili, a baked potato bar with gourmet fixings, Halloween-themed cocktails, pumpkin beer, and trick-or-treat bingo with prizes, all while having the house tastefully decorated for the big night.
As the night approached I was clever with ideas thanks to the popular social media sharing site, Pinterest. Pinterest can easily be my best friend and worst enemy. (I’ll call it my frienmy). Pinterest is the first place to search for beautiful décor, tasty and well-prepared treats, and fun party ideas to name a few. It is where all mini-Martha Stewarts or Martha’s-in-the-making corral their domestic achievements. The problem I face is everything shared on Pinterest looks perfect, making my perfectionist tendencies spin out of control reaching for unrealistic standards.
I was caught up in creating the perfect night, and after an exhausting afternoon spent fighting crowds at Party City and Michael’s I felt overwhelmed. That evening my Halloween obsession turned into obsessing over the next couple of months; Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. I went from trying to create the perfect Halloween cocktail to the perfect Christmas card in a matter minutes and was swept up by anxiety. It did not take long for my husband to feel pressured by my perfection, leading us to argue about things that did not matter. When I finally fessed up about the anxiety I had over things being perfect, my husband mentioned we simplify things (at least for Halloween). Instead of all the fancy Pinterest ideas, he suggested we order pizza. It takes a lot less time, a lot less clean up and is a lot less money overall. He reminded me no one else has expectations but myself. In fact others do not even care. I was not completely sold on the idea, but I did like the feeling of relief I felt and was able to put my mind at rest to sleep on it.
The following morning my sister-in-law shot me a text in regards to Halloween. She was asking about the food and drink situation when I told her how I had been feeling. I expressed the pressure I put on myself, and even though it was hard for me to let go of having things perfect, I knew I would enjoy myself and everyone else more if I kept things simpler. I apologized for things not being as pretty and festive as usual, that I may not have enough of everything for everyone, but it was important for me to let go. Her response was exactly what I needed to hear. She said, “It’s okay. I understand! Martha Stewart turned into an Etsy/Pinterest-perfect life has created us all to feel pressure to achieve perfectionism. Especially women and moms. But it’s hard to have that and enjoy the parole around you. You can’t have it all, and if you do you’re not doing any of it all the way.”
Her words were exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. It is true, you cannot have it all, and there must be a compromise somewhere. When it appears I achieve perfection, I am missing out on something. I know this from experience. When browsing through the fields of Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and endless amount of blogs, I am reminded to not compare myself to what is displayed to seem perfect. Nothing is perfect, and the price you pay to achieve perfection is not worth it.