Wednesday, 19 December 2012

In pursuit of Imperfection

I unboxed this "perfect" doll, and we've been playing with her, that's a big step for me!
I'm a perfectionist by nature. This has benefits; ask me to do something, and I'll bloody have it perfect or die in the attempt. But it also is a curse. In the past I've said no to opportunities where I could have learned something new, because I was afraid of not getting the hang of it quickly. I've begun and abandoned so many projects that could have been great, because they were getting too challenging. Instead of asking for help or trying and failing to gain the skills needed, I walked away. Some of those projects had an initial investment of money, and that money's essentially wasted. It's ok, they're sitting in cupboards, in the attic, all these half-finished projects, and I always tell myself I'll revisit them at some stage and sort them out. I feel a twinge of guilt when I think of them.
I'm great at some things, partly because I've only done these things forever:
I speak and write French, Spanish and Italian, but have given up trying to learn Latin, Japanese and Polish.
I'm great at cooking, but can't iron a shirt.
I'm good at science and logic, but couldn't pick out many counties of Ireland on a map.
I'm great at driving but can't draw to save my life.

I know everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, and it may sound like I'm being harsh on myself, but the thing is, I have a mental list of my skills, and if some new experience comes along that's outside of my skill set I'll run a mile/make an excuse why I can't commit.

Having kids is chaotic. Before children I swear I could easily spend 90 mins getting ready to go out, now I'm lucky if I get 5. BC (before children) I kept all my appointments in a pink Filofax, and knew exactly what each day would hold. Now I'm ringing a friend asking "Were we supposed to meet on Tuesday? Oh, what? This is Tuesday?"
Since kids it's like my life's been thrown up in the air, and I'm watching to see where the pieces will land. It's all new. It's like a lobotomy, and I've to work extra hard to click into the "business area" of my brain (like trying to add/subtract numbers or remember details of yesterday). It's fuzzy, it's cosy, it's definitely a bubble. And that's fine, it works mostly, unless I have to make a call to a bank or do a tax return, then I get all frustrated because I'm desperately trying to access areas of my brain that have been dormant for a long time.
But that's wafflin', cuz this post is about perfectionism.

I'm fully aware that a need for perfectionism is a fear of making mistakes. And having children has shown me that life is unpredictable, messy and far from perfect. And I no longer have control of what's happening in my life - two little boys predict that.
(If you are a mother but "in control", and don't get my last point: They control what we do by virtue of their changing energy levels, interests, states of health etc, so if I've planned to do something but one of them is sick we'll have to cancel the plan etc.)

So I've been challenging my perfectionism, in little ways, kind of tricking myself into doing things, leaving them imperfect. It's easy because I don't have the energy to put into projects like I used to, so they are by their nature imperfect from the start anyway. It's been a good kick up the ass for me, because I always get to the "why bother, this is going to be shit" point, but now I recognise that's just the fear talking, so I push myself to get through that, and actually get a finished project. Like the recent Superhero cake here, it wasn't perfect, but it looked damn good. But the "old me" would have scrapped it and re-baked all the sponges once I realised they didn't stack "right".

Fine from the front...
... but who's rear is perfect anyway?

Case in point: I wanted to make a gingerbread house with my son the other day, so I just did. I found a recipe for gingerbread men, guessed the sizes of walls, roof pieces I needed, baked it on a non-flat baking tray (so it ended up askew) and just flung it together with lots of icing and hid the mistakes at the back. Bingo, we got a gingerbread house. Previously I'd have stopped at the measurements part, deeming it too much hassle. And the decorating? Instead of doing it myself, positioning all the sweets perfectly symmetrically (?) and ending up with a cookie-cutter (pardon the pun) house, I let my son do most of the decorating, and we got a unique house, with a candy-cane chimney, a sofa inside (he dropped a sweet through the roof) and he got the feeling that he had a big part in it.
It's been fun to look at, and we dug into it today, and because it wasn't "perfect" it tasted so good!

So I'm making little steps to relinquish the idea that I need to control things in order for life to run smoothly. I'm hoping it'll help other areas too, and my sons will feel more relaxed about getting things done "just so".

Nee x

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree with you on all of this. The hardest part of becoming a parent for me was letting go of my perfectionism. It took me a long time to learn that there is no "right" way to parent and to be happy finding my own way instead. Housework is still the one I struggle with - I cannot manage to keep the house neat and tidy and still have time to have fun in it. So I've had to deal with the fact that maybe the floors don't get swept today, but that's okay because we're going on an adventure building a fort in the sitting room for the afternoon instead. I know which memory I'll cherish more when I'm older - and it certainly won't be clean floors.


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