Perfectionism may have been my greatest and worst asset growing up. It may have kept me from rushing things and making a mess of them and yet held me back from doing what I really wanted. It was the catalyst to some of my greatest desires to be good at what I did and was the fear that I wasn’t good enough. And in some ways it is still all of those things.
I grew up grateful to have a mother who always offered words of encouragement or life lessons. Three of the things that always stuck with me were her constant reminders of “This too shall pass,” “Do it good,” and “Eat what you can.” Odd combination, I know… but I strongly believe they all go together.
I remember a long time ago a mentor of mine said, “You are either going into a problem, In the middle of a problem, or coming out of a problem.” The good times, just like the bad times, never last. We live on a cycle of time. Things come and go, the night turns to day every 24 hours. And then it happens again. And each time it does, we have a new shot at creating the life and the opportunities and the positive experiences that we wish to have. This too shall pass, just like the good, just like the bad, just like the mistakes and the triumphs. It’s the cycle of life that we can always be sure of and we are always somewhere in between.
When my mom started using the phrase “do it good” it was just always something she said. I didn’t give it much thought, until much after the fact. I realize now that she didn’t say “do it perfectly” or “don’t mess it up.” She said do it GOOD. I always took that to mean that I should always do my best no mater what, but not to be preoccupied with perfection or worrying about making mistakes. I knew there was room in between having to be perfect and not giving all I had.
I also often struggled with not being able to finish my food sometimes when I was younger. I wish that struggle was still something I dealt with today, but nonetheless it was real when I was a little girl. I remember feeling upset if I was full and didn’t get to the rest of my food on my plate or if I took too much by accident. Mom always told me “Eat what you can.” Those words always made me feel like I wasn’t going to get in trouble if I couldn’t finish it or if I wasn’t able to join the clean plate club that night. It took the stress off of having to make sure I didn’t take one string bean more than I could eat or made me cry looking at the last lonely potato on my plate that I just could NOT find the room for in my stomach. I knew there was this place in between where I would be ok.
I think that is one of the most subtle yet wonderful lessons mom taught me growing up. I swear I can hear “Everything in moderation” in her voice as well. She taught me to strive for my best and do what I could. But she always taught me that there are moments when we show up and find ourselves naturally in the “in between.” The stress of perfection and the guilt of not being good enough was never her M.O. She knew better. A kid who already have perfectionist tendencies would end up paralyzed if she was told she had to be perfect or if she was told she was never good enough. Unfortunately in my travels I have seen athletes and children alike who are struggling with this feeling. Sometimes maybe they just need to be told that in this moment they are ok just where they are. The stress is enough to make them crumble.
“This too shall pass.” “Do it good.” “Eat what you can.”
Because truly, when we are on the right path between not enough and perfectionism, may we all find ourselves somewhere in between.