Last week I started this little series discussing the three things I’ve identified that often steal my joy. Perhaps you struggle with these things too. If you missed Choosing Joy – Part I, click here.
In addition to comparisons, perfectionism steals my joy. All. The. Time. I don’t know exactly when it all started, but it’s pretty typical for first-born children to be responsible, Type-A perfectionists, so I suppose that’s where it came from.
I was an honor student all the way through college. I usually completed all my assignments well in advance of the deadline. Being a journalism major also encouraged my perfectionism, as accuracy in reporting and grammar are crucial. Making a mistake can make you feel awful and propels you to try harder to be perfect.
While being a perfectionist has served me well in some areas of life, it can also be my enemy at times, especially in my mothering. But I’m slowly learning to fight against it.
Last week on the way to school, I asked my kids to sign a Veteran’s Day card for my brother so I could mail it later that day. When we arrived at school, I asked them for the card and the pen, which I had taken from my purse. They handed it back and the cap was missing. They didn’t know where it was or which one of them lost it. Ugh! Anger started simmering within me. I felt myself ready to lose my cool. Now I can’t put the pen back in my purse because it’s going to mess up my purse, which means I won’t have a pen and goodness knows I need a pen in my purse!
I realized that spewing this on them as they left my presence for the day to walk into school was probably not the best idea. Who wants their mom to go crazy on them? Over a pen cap? Yeah, me neither.
So, I took a deep breath and told myself that I could look for the pen cap later or find another pen to put in my purse when I arrived home. I hugged my babes and walked away satisfied that I hadn’t let perfectionism steal the joy from my day one moment longer.
We can end up ruining ourselves and our relationships on the false altar of perfection because nothing will ever be perfect all the time! Instead of asking “Is this perfect?” I now try to ask myself, “Is it good enough?”
This question often makes all the difference in how I treat myself and others. It allows me to take pressure off myself that I self-inflict because I’m striving to make things perfect. It allows me to give grace to others and to embrace the beautiful messiness that is life. It helps me to choose joy.
Right now, there are Happy Meal toys scattered around my living room, kids’ crafts are piled on the counter and shoes strewn about. Is my house perfect or perfectly clean? No. But the messes remind me to be thankful and joyful for this evidence of living with my husband and kids.
Remember: Joy isn’t happiness, it’s choosing to be at peace with your purpose in your current season.
Do you struggle with perfectionism? The next time you’re frustrated when things aren’t working out perfectly, remember to ask yourself, “Is it good enough?” Be happy with good enough and don’t let perfectionism steal your joy!
(In case you were wondering, I’ve still not found that cap or put a new pen in my purse and the world did not end! But since we’re talking about it, I may as well do it now before I forget.)