Monday, January 31, 2011

Perfectly Imperfect?

When I was trying to figure out what web address I could use for this blog, I came across a lot of variations of "perfectly imperfect."  You hear that a lot, too -- the slogan for Nick Jr.'s "Parents Connect" forum is "Perfectly Imperfect Parents Like You."  And I think it's great that people are embracing imperfection and trying to help others embrace it, too.  The more people out there sharing that message the better!

But it hit me the other day (when I heard that Nick Jr. slogan for the 45th time as my kids were glued to the TV all morning) -- I'm not even perfect at being imperfect.  Seriously.  As much as I try, I still get sucked into perfection mode sometimes.  I worry about appearances too much.  I judge people in ways they don't deserve.  I beat myself up about not doing or being everything I expect from myself, or everything I think someone else expects from me.

So with all that I write here, please know that I am just working on it, like everyone else.  Not perfectly imperfect, but getting kinda-sorta good at it... :)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"I thought I was the only one..."

Have you ever been in a pet store?  You see all the little hamsters and lizards in their glass cases, all stacked up so they're together, but separated from one another.

Have you ever felt like one of them? 

Buying into the idea of "perfection" puts each one of us into those little glass boxes.  We can see each other, but we put up walls that keep us apart. This can happen in all sorts of ways.

We look at the people around us and think, "Oh, they're so perfect.  They must think I'm so awful."  So we never climb out of our own glass box to extend a hand of friendship, just assuming that the other person would have no use for us.  When I first started writing this blog, my dear cousin Tiffany sent me this email (which I use with her permission):

     "In my ward [that's what LDS people call our congregation], there is a beautiful, petite woman with an incredible body that decorates and dresses well and eats healthy food...  I automatically assume that there is no way these seemingly perfect women would want to befriend a chubby, out-of-control with clutter, working mom that is constantly-exhausted and needing-babysitters, kind of girl."

Now, this is exactly how I would describe myself, so I was really surprised to find out that Tiff put me in the "perfect women" category.  But that's the truth of it -- we all see our own faults like we're looking through a magnifying glass, but we see others through a lens that only makes us suffer in comparison. 

But Tiff has a very good head on her shoulders, and her next statement really struck home for me:

     "Sometimes, I pretend that perfect ladies like this are incontinent or have thirteen toes or something.  I always need a reminder that no one is the best of the best all the time.  I imagine it's so hard for _____ if she knows how envied she is and thought she had to keep up to such insurmountable standards."

When we look at someone else's lifestyle or body or well-behaved children or job or whatever, we put them in a glass box as well, so that neither one of us can reach the other.   We feel like we can never measure up to a standard that we've usually imagined up ourselves, and they feel like they can never admit to any weakness without disappointing people. 

When you are in that glass cage, you can't ask for help, because that would be acknowledging that we are somehow not perfectly capable.  You can't build meaningful relationships with the people around you because you have to hold back what makes you human.  You can't appreciate the deep, complicated beauty of the people around you because you are too busy expecting perfection from them. 

A couple of months ago, at a family function, my sisters and I were chatting with some of our girl cousins and revealed some little imperfection.  Nothing serious or earth-shattering -- I would never have given in another second's thought -- but one of my cousins (not the aforementioned Tiff) was literally shocked at what I said.  She said, almost to herself: "I thought I was the only one..."  The moment passed quickly and the conversation turned to other things, but her comment has stayed with me.  How often do we think we're the only one?  We think we're "the only one" who struggles, who makes mistakes, who feels bad or lonely or misunderstood.  We assume others are judging us, or definitely would be judging us if we gave them the chance by revealing our imperfections.

Isolation.  That is the sad by-product of the myth of perfection.  Instead of accepting and loving and helping each other, we lock ourselves away and try to be content with solitary confinement.  It's all part of the prison we create by believing in "perfection." 

Don't let yourself be isolated by creating some imaginary standard you'll never live up to.  Don't isolate others by believing their perfection will never allow them to accept you.  Break down those glass walls -- you'll be amazed how well you can love and be loved, just by being the "real you."

Monday, January 24, 2011

"Thinking Errors" -- A Video Worth Watching

I saw this segment on our local "lifestyle show" the other day, and I thought the ideas in it were really worth sharing. I especially liked the part about not assuming you know what other people are thinking about you...

Click here to see a written version of what the presenter talks about.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Wishes and Resolutions

I hope everyone had a really lovely Christmas season.  Our Christmas was nothing out of the ordinary, but it was just full of sweet moments.  At one point on Christmas day, I thought to myself, "I wish this could just last forever.  Or that at least my kids could take twice as long to grow up as they are."  Because seriously, it seems like I must have ordered the fast-growing variety of kid by accident.

Now, I know that it's not a realistic thing to wish for, but it got me thinking about what I could change that might help.  And that made me start thinking about New Year's Resolutions.  So here are my Christmas wishes and New Year's Resolutions, mostly for my own benefit, but I thought they might give others food for thought as well.  (This got a little long, but I hope you make it to the last one -- my feelings won't be hurt if you just scroll to the end :oD )

I wish my kids could take twice as long to grow up as they are. 
     But for some reason, despite their many amazing qualities, they don't seem to be able to defy the laws of time and space.  And so...

I resolve to be more present in their lives and to make the most of the time I have with them.  I want to spend more time being really with them, and not just around them.

I wish I could be perfectly Christlike and perfectly in tune with the Spirit.
     But that's not likely to happen in the next 12 million years or so. (Give me time, though, I'm getting there...)  And so...

I resolve to be more aware of the needs around me, and to follow the impulses I have to do good.  Sometimes I think, "Oh, I should call this person," or "I bet that person would appreciate a visit," but then I allow everything else to get in the way until it's 11 p.m. and a little late to be calling or visiting (or whatever).  I am going to try to be better at acting on those impressions when I have them.

I wish I was perfect at reading my scriptures and going to the temple and doing all those good things God asks us to do. 
     But this one much too often goes about like the one above, with good intentions being overwhelmed by the mundane until the chance has passed me by.  And so...

I resolve to devote some time to my own spirituality each day, to be consistent in nourishing my own soul with the good word of God.  I also want to commit to going to the temple once a month, because I know that I need it.

I wish I was a super healthy eater and was always in control of my food intake, and that my kids could see from my example the joy of taking care of your body.
     But I'm not there yet.  I am definitely making progress -- in 2010 I really discovered a love of exercise, and I'm also working on my relationship with food -- but it's still a long row to hoe.  And sometimes I let my kids eat way more junk than is good for them.  Then I sometimes freak out that they are going to grow up with the same messed up relationship with food that I have struggled with, so I get too extreme with the no-treats.  Not awesome.  And so...

I resolve to continue working on my food issues.  I will treat my body with respect and love by exercising and by feeding it good healthy food, yes, but also not depriving myself of the occasional treat.  I will model that respect and love for my children in word and deed.

Just one more... I wish I could stick to all these resolutions perfectly.
     But I already know that's just not possible.  Don't we all know that when we set these New Year's Resolutions?  And so...

I resolve to not beat myself up over my weaknesses, my inconsistencies, my bad days, my slip-ups.  I won't let one "failure" make me fall off the wagon entirely.  I know that I am imperfect, but I also know that I will never stop trying to be the best I can be, for myself and my family and all the people I love.  I will keep these resolutions as a goal to strive for to help me become the person I want to be, but I won't despair over not being there yet.

This year, just like this life, is a work-in-progress.  I'm sure it will be crazy and messy and happy and sad and beautiful, and I am going to find the joy in every minute of it.