Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Being perfectly honest... there's no such thing as perfect.

Hi.  My name is Tomi Ann, and I am starting this blog in an attempt to crystallize my feelings about the issue of "being perfect," so that hopefully I can clearly articulate them next time, instead of spending an hour therapy session with two people that I love bawling uncontrollably while trying to explain.  Although given how incoherent that sentence was, I'm not sure if I hold out much hope...

I think I need to start by telling a little bit about myself and my family.  I am a 31-year-old woman, wife, and mom of 3.  I am a graphic designer a few hours a week and I like doing crafty things whenever I can squeeze that in.    I am a devoted Christian and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon).  People would probably describe me as happy, kind, and scatter-brained.  Perhaps most importantly to this post, I am the oldest of 10 kids, all of whom are now adults.  Our family is complicated, but I've always thought of us as being close and having a lot of love. 

A few days ago (moments before the aforementioned incoherent bawling incident), I was literally mouth-hanging-open shocked to hear my brother (the uber-talented Dan of Single Dad Laughing) say, "Our family just needs to quit pretending everyone is so perfect."  I could only look at him and then ask, "Have you MET our family?"  In our family, we have dealt with (and in many cases are smack in the middle of dealing with) drug and alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, family members in jail, eating disorders, divorce, stealing, lying, mental illness, teen pregnancy, and sometimes just plain being rotten to each other.  And that is just in our immediate family -- if you branch out to our extended family, the list gets longer.  Most of that hasn't been any kind of secret, either.  I thought imperfection was a given.

But my sister was nodding and agreeing with him.  They both described feeling so much pressure to be perfect, pressure that has made them feel terrible about themselves.  Pressure from our culture, our religion, and our own family.  I was shattered.  I wanted to scream at them "There is NO SUCH THING!"  There is no such thing as being perfect.  There are only people, all of us muddling through life as best we can, all of us with strengths and weaknesses and good and bad and ups and downs.  I'm not quite sure why I wanted to scream it.  Maybe because seeing them in so much pain made me want to do something, anything to stop it.  Maybe because I have seen this impossible idea of "perfection" hurting other people that I care about, but I didn't think they would feel that in our own completely imperfect but loving family.  I didn't scream it -- I just blubbered away incoherently.  But I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since then.

Dan hasn't been able to stop thinking about it either, and he wrote a very honest and intense post about what he calls "The Disease Called Perfection," which I think is a must-read for anyone struggling with comparing themselves to others.  Scratch that -- I think everyone should read it whether they think they are struggling or not.  I agree with what he says, and I think the most tragic thing about this disease is that it's something we give ourselves.  The people we compare ourselves to and find ourselves lacking are themselves flawed.  99.999% of the time they have no intention of creating that kind of pressure.  I don't think many people say to themselves "I'm going to make myself look as good as possible with the intent of making other people feel like garbage."  I'm sure those people are out there, but I think most people are so involved with their own struggles that they'd hardly believe they are the object of "perfect" envy. Reading the comments on Dan's post, it's indisputable that every person has their own demons to face.

And yet we feel that pressure.

Where does it come from?  Why do we put our weaknesses up against other people's strengths and then (of course) find ourselves wanting?  How does it feel to be the person who is supposed to be perfect?  Why do we have such a hard time believing the best in ourselves? Where does wanting to be your best cross the line into trying to be perfect?

These are just a few of the questions that I want to work through.  I am very much figuring all this out as I go along, so I'm not pretending to have all the answers.  I'm just trying to create an uplifting place where I can work out and share my own perspective, and hopefully help others in the same predicament.  Because I believe that despite our own imperfections and those of the people around us, the world is a beautiful place and we have so much to share and to give.  We can be "real" and still be positive and happy -- in fact, I believe that being real is the key to true happiness.

Okay, so I promise that my subsequent posts won't be as rambling and confused as this one.  I don't promise that I'll post on any kind of schedule, because I am a busy mom who already tends to over-promise to everyone around me.  But this is really important to me, so I'll be here as much as I can.

Thank you if you made it this far and I hope to see you again soon,
Tomi Ann

P.S.  I am really waffling as to whether I want to go through with this and actually press "PUBLISH POST."  If you're reading this, I've overcome my own fears about this whole endeavor.  For right now, I think I'll just save it as a draft...


  1. Tomi, what a great post. I appreciate your honesty and candor. My hubby, a therapist, has often given me and our kids this simple advice, "don't compare." For me, that has been a key to happiness. My mother once told me that if you campare yourself to someone you could be comparing your weakness to their strength. That has always stuck with me. Thanks again for a great post.

  2. "Comparison is the thief of joy."

    I read that on my cousin's blog. It is true, yet I still find myself doing it. I love your insight and would love to hear more!

  3. Yeah for reading a honest blog!! I feel like even the blog world is a comparing game. I am struggling pretty bad right now in my own life with comparing and feeling judged. All the young, busy, amazing moms who make life look so blissful as they take care of their families, do their church callings, make every craft to be known to man, workout, stay up late, get up early, give and give to everyone. I just can't do it all, and so I get down on myself that I am not "perfect" like all the other women in my ward. I will say something interesting for me is that I don't feel that pressure to be perfect with my nonmember friends and neighbors. So why is it that the women I should be closest to are the ones I feel so far away, because I don't feel perfect?

  4. Tomi, du er så kær!!!! Tak fordi du vil sige dette. (og jeg aner ikke hvorfor jeg skriver på dansk...). de allerkærligste hilsner, Steph

  5. Tomi, this blog is going to be superb. Please keep with it. Love you sis.

  6. I love you Tomi!!! Thank you for creating this blog. It's wonderful. I wrote a 25 page paper at UVU about the culture of perfectionism that we live in. Having lived all over the world and country, I can tell you that Utah County is the absolute worst I've ever seen. I'm not sure why but I do think it has to do with the huge LDS population in this community. That's what doesn't make sense, because this culture is so opposite of what the gospel teaches us. Anyway, thanks again. It's going to be a better day having read your new blog:)

  7. I always love reading everything you write, and this is no different! Absolutely amazing! It reminds me of a statement in one of Chieko Okazaki's books where she says that we all spend too much time comparing our back room to everyone else's living room! This is so true! We all see the dark, the hidden, the secrets in ourselves, but we compare it to what others allow us to see in the day to day! This is often the best because no matter how much we are suffering, we can usually manage to keep a few things together! Thank you for your honesty! I will be a faithful reader!!!

  8. This blog is going to explode with traffic.... well written and on an important topic.
    Thank you and keep it up!


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