Lowering the Bar Confessions from a Recovering Perfectionist

A dear friend of mine sent me a self-help book she loved as it spoke to her on multiple levels. I read chapter after chapter in which the author, Shauna Niequest, writer, speaker, wife and mother of two worked on remaking her overly hectic life after experiencing mega burn-out.

Although I had empathy for the author, as I took in her story I could not relate to her situation. You see I am hawk-like about guarding my calendar from over-scheduling.  I pride myself on this because it’s one of the few things I did not have to learn the hard way.

About three-quarters of the way through the book, I found a chapter aimed directly at me. Yes, this one had my name on it. My author-guide talked about her incessant desire for perfection as she planned for a holiday she knew looked so much better in her mind’s eye than how the whole event would actually shake down. After much soul searching, the writer came to the conclusion she must choose, “present over perfect.”

As I read, sentences like “perfect has become as near a dirty word to me as hustle, prove, earn, complete and push,” popped up making sense. It all came to a crashing crescendo when she wrote, “Perfect and the hunt for it will ruin our lives.”

Okay, I give up. I’m guilty of trying to create the perfect this, or the perfect that, and day-after-day continually disappointing myself. When I go to bed at night and start counting my blessings, somehow the “Perfection Princess” who lives in my head starts recounting all the things that did not live up to her standards. Reading on I got some advice on how to turn my quest for perfection on it’s ear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the author professed, “It’s all about learning to show up and let ourselves be seen as we really are,” I thought wait a minute. If that means leaving the house without make-up, forget it. Not going to happen, at least not yet anyway.

Knowing I had to start somewhere, I chose entertaining. We invited another couple over for Saturday night dinner and drinks. Aha! Instead of spending hours scouring recipe books to design the perfect menu like I usually do, I opted for a simple rustic Italian dish created in the slow cooker. I really blew the lights out on dessert. Finding a cool creation on Pinterest involving store bought ice cream sandwiches and whipped cream, I put it together in under seven minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The evening went well. Simple as the menu was, my guests ate with gusto. We all relaxed and enjoyed just being together over food and wine. When dessert was served I must admit, it looked like something a 3rd grader cooked up. But guess what? I didn’t care. It provided my guests with fits of laughter and some really good bites.

So cheers to “present over perfect.” I’m getting there. If you can relate to any of this, let me know and I’ll send you the recipe.

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your comments on how you deal with perfectionism.

You Can Scale Your Mountain or Conquer Any Barrier

 

Opening the text on my phone, I found a picture of a beautiful woman in a red dress accompanied by an interesting vehicle. Smiling I realized my friend Carol, forever an inspiration to me, was not going to let a broken foot keep her down. She knows how to conquer obstacles. Here was a perfect example of one of my mother’s favorite expressions, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Studying the picture, I realized Carol was following doctor’s orders by using this cool four-wheel vehicle to keep off her broken foot. Her knee rested on a plank allowing her good leg to push her around scooter-like. Again I was reminded of something a friend’s mother once said: “Everything is figure-out-able.” I remembered laughing at the made up word, but loved it nonetheless.

Carol’s actions, and the mother-isms I love, are life lessons. Often situations in everyday life trigger road blocks dotting our life landscape like immense mountains or menacing walls. Don’t let those barriers stop you.

Assign a Label

Need a suggestion to help design a way to tunnel under or scale your wall like Superman leaping tall buildings? Begin by labeling your wall. It could be limited thinking. For example, what if Carol believed the only way to heal was to stay in bed with her foot propped on a pillow accompanied by a bell used to summon family members to wait on her. Well you get it, she wouldn’t be wearing that red dress looking like she’s ready to conquer the world.

Perhaps your label is fear of the unknown. I once wanted to accept a teaching position in Australia. What stopped me? Anxiety over being halfway around the world removed from friends and family. Regretfully, I allowed fear to squash my adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Pity Parties

Once you uncover the cause of your frustration, get over it! Sounds harsh, but don’t waste time feeling sorry for yourself. You lost the sale, got laid off, had to cancel a much needed vacation because your car broke down and fixing it sucked up precious leisure funds.

Stop the pity party. Want the vacation? Get a second job. Lost the sale? Figure out why and take another run at it. Got laid off? Write a dynamite resume and begin your job search.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deal With It

Find a way to deal with the hand life dealt you. My friend Barb gave me this tea towel which clearly illustrates my point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or, if limoncello is not your thing, let me remind you of a bumper sticker I once saw to drive home my message: When life hands you lemons, throw them back and demand chocolate!

Get the picture? Scale your wall, move your mountain, get the job done I know you can because as wise women once said, everything is figure-out-able.

It’s About Time ...the clock is ticking!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have fond memories regarding my formative years. For one, I never missed a meal. Due to my father’s excellent cooking, I looked forward to gathering at the dinner table.  Dad made the best fried chicken in town. It was his claim to fame. Neighbors enlisted him to cook his special dish for every party on the block.

One day I breezed through our kitchen as he worked on a batch of golden fried poultry. My father looked up from his task and asked me to stay so that he could teach me this culinary art.

I smiled, and politely declined thinking there was plenty of time to learn trade secrets from this home chef. As it turned out, the clock ran out. I did not respect time.

I have a friend, let’s call her Kelsey. She never arrives anywhere on time but comes prepared with an excuse, sometimes creative, sometimes reasonable, often quite lame. Kelsey does not respect time.

My cousin Jimmy has been known to totally blank out on appointments. He claims he practices calendar management, but on occasion admits to losing track of the moments that lead to hours. Jimmy  clearly lacks a respect for time.

 

 

 

Valuing Time

What’s my point? My friends and I are guilty of disrespecting the one thing that stops for no one, time. The late author and motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, aptly sums it up for us:

“Time is of more value than money. You can get more money, you cannot get more time.”

At some level, we can all gauge of how much time is worth. If this article were about time management, or work life balance, I would direct you to a website to help you track and gain productivity. But, today, that is not my message. I’m talking about respecting time.

Time Analysis 

Right now, do a deep dive on your treatment of time. In fact, it might be helpful to drop down to the bottom line. How much time do you think you have left on this earth? Perhaps, 20, 30 or 40 years? Maybe more, maybe less?

As you contemplate time, quiz yourself. What exactly do you want to accomplish in the years remaining? Are you on the right path? Given the limited supply of your banked hours, how can you manage your time to live life filled with happiness and peace while adding value to those around you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those are personal questions only you can answer.

Time to Change

I will never have the opportunity to learn the art of frying chicken from my favorite chef. Life dealt a difficult lesson, but it taught me to revere the clock.  Value your time and the time of others. Remember, it’s a limited commodity.

 

Thanks for reading. Please leave your comments. I love hearing from you!