Don’t Let Perfectionism Rob Your Family of You
Messages everywhere program us with the notion that we have to be perfect parents.
We need a perfect, clean home with trendy furniture and the latest gadgets. We need to be the choosiest of shoppers where only the best will do, right down to the peanut butter we serve our children. We need our kids to be wildly successful so we can put honor roll bumper stickers on cars, or one-up our Facebook friends' kids’ achievements.
All of it has created a vicious cycle where only perfectionism will do. That can be an unsettling thing, because one guaranteed way to turn off your spouse and children is to let obsessions distract you from being present to them.
I mean, how clean does the house really need to be? I’ve always heard you can always tell a good family by how lived-in the house looks. (At the other extreme, too messy says something as well, but that’s for another day.)
It’s easy to let a child feel inadequate when you’re never satisfied with accomplishments, grades, and things they do. It can become equally bad when you start correcting their work and re-doing things they’ve done that weren’t to your satisfaction: cooking, holiday decorating, cleaning, drawing, etc.
Perhaps you grew up with perfectionist parents and witnessed this constant criticism. That kind of perfectionism can lead to stress, anxiety, and low self-esteem. And not only that, but you’re more likely to continue that generational legacy of perfectionism until you change it. You don’t have to let yourself become a perfectionist, too.
Here are some ways to avoid the perfectionism trap.
Waste time with your kids – The more you spend time with them, you’ll learn from them and be like them. Children may not be as knowledgeable as you, but they’re smarter: they give without keeping score, they forgive more easily, and they are great at sharing and putting others first. How could you possibly want to criticize or correct someone who has an attitude like that?
Avoid comparisons – It’s natural to compare ourselves to others, but when that focus looks only at how you’re not perfect and want what someone else has, it can be all-consuming. The motivation is less on enjoying your own life and yourself, while constantly raising standards to want more. Who cares if your home, yard, or flower garden isn’t perfect? President Theodore Roosevelt once wisely said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Watch how you raise your kids – As stated, bad habits get passed down through the generations. Encourage your children to do their best, but don’t put too much pressure on them or control their life choices, such as the sports they should play, their eventual college major, or who/when they should marry. We can help our family tree to grow and blossom when we don’t focus on being perfect.
Surrender – Rather than having domineering control over everything, just let go and surrender to life itself. Let things happen and flow around you without having to plan out every aspect of, say, your weekends or how the holidays will play out. Planning is important, but sometimes it’s liberating to let things fall in your lap and deal with it on the fly. Take your hands off the steering wheel – you don’t need to drive all the time. It just might help you to feel your emotions without constant judgment of yourself and others.
Perfectionism is dangerous because it can affect everyone around you – including you – because it will rob you of the chance to laugh at your own mistakes.