As we begin a new calendar year, diaries and journals have pristine pages. Potential awaits. I used to love the excitement of a new exercise book at school with its blank leaves. I’d endeavour to keep it ‘perfect’ but I’d make mistakes and soon – in my eyes – the book would be ruined. Yet, the mistakes were part of my learning. I still feel the thrill of a new notebook with its empty pages and potential. A friend has been given this beautiful daily journal for Christmas.
It’s so stunning I’d be afraid to use it for fear of spoiling it but its purpose is to be written in, with words spelt incorrectly, sentences crossed out and tear-stained pages. It’s a tool to help us grow and it doesn’t have to look perfect.
As a young girl, I read and re-read many of the boarding school classics: Malory Towers, St Clare’s and the Chalet Girls. These schools had prefects – an unfamiliar word which I misread for a while as ‘perfects’. I wanted to be ‘a perfect’. I still want to be ‘perfect’.
I’ve been reading The Perfectionism Book by Will van der Hart and Rob Waller. They describe perfectionism as:
- Setting impossibly tough goals or high standards that can never practically be achieved.
- Continuing to pursue these goals despite evidence of harm, usually to our own emotional health.
- Basing our self-esteem partly or completely on whether we have met these goals.
This sounds a lot like me. I often feel under pressure to be a perfect parent with perfect children, to not make any mistakes at work, and to have a flawless house. But nothing and nobody is ever perfect – and I’m slowly learning that’s okay!! I experienced a small moment of liberation recently when I read in the New Baby Survival Guide: ‘We’re all just sinners raising sinners’ or to put it another way ‘I’m not perfect and I’m raising children who aren’t perfect either‘.
My friend who blogs here writes: ‘People now think that if we verbally share our intentions to change – this makes us more likely to succeed and if we change with someone else this makes success even more likely‘.
So here are my intentions to change – guidelines (not rules!) I’m going to try and follow this year:
- Pray I will understand God’s grace more deeply – his love for me doesn’t depend on my performance or achievements
- Try new things I won’t be very good at (I’m planning to do Go Ape and go canoeing when on holiday)
- Give myself permission to make mistakes
- Aim to receive criticism without being defensive, maybe even ask for feedback
- Continue to bat back the negative thoughts saying ‘I am a rubbish parent’ when I do make a mistake or am having a bad day
- Be vulnerable – I love this quote from Brene Brown which I read in The Perfectionism Book:
‘Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.’
I’m hoping these reflections will be a tool to help me become less perfectionistic and more free to be the person God created me to be.