If you are perfect you can stop reading now. This isn’t for you.
Now for the rest of us: the imperfect people with messy lives.
For the past year I have been learning about self development and personal growth. Although I have already lived through one education and career cycle. I am on a second cycle starting with my first kiddo being born. It actually felt like my career skidded to a stop instead of a second cycle starting. The combination of not making money as well as setting aside a fulfilling job caring for people was a huge challenge for me and I was left wondering what a stay-at-home mom could actually do that really matters.
Whenever I expressed these thoughts SO OFTEN women who were past the young-kids stage would say “Oh, but you’ll miss these years, they go by so fast.” And “Oh, it’s just this season, so keep hanging in there, it will get better.”
What if I don’t feel like hanging in there is good enough? How exactly does one enjoy sleepless nights and spit-up? I need real help here, not just positive thinking!
For those of you (my own thoughts, in particular) feeling the urge to instruct me with all the reasons why I shouldn’t feel this way, hang with me for second…
When I was working many of my coworker friends told me they regretted not being able to stay home with their kids and encouraged me to stay home if I could. So I looked into it and decided to temporarily leave my career and stay at home for the five or six years until the youngest starts school full time. Enter a sweet baby, and then a somewhat spicy one, and with them came long days and often even longer minutes. I chose to stay home on purpose but my life didn’t feel purposeful. And the time didn’t seem to go by fast. It felt slow and painful and boring. Honestly. There were tons of sweet moments, yes, but my pace slowed from super high speed to barely a crawl.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids but caring for them didn’t feel as important as what I used to do before. (<- yes I said it!) Keeping a healthy baby alive at home is a very different situation than being paid good money to recover a patient immediately after open heart surgery. As my pace changed from professional to personal I was brought to the weak areas in myself. In other words, the personal strengths I used in the workplace weren’t needed or didn’t apply at home with the kids. I remember sitting at home wondering if I was missing something other moms had. Wasn’t I supposed to feel more fulfilled than ever? If so, what was I missing? The answer can’t be to just ignore what I’m feeling and pretend to be positive, right?
For me, it seemed like the ideal mom would be able to give up her career and find joy in every small moment shared with the tiny babe. This perfect mom thinks baby snot is cute and she doesn’t get frustrated when the tiny person decides to throw instead of eat the nutritious organic tri-color quinoa you thoughtfully prepared for dinner.
(Side note: NEVER give quinoa to anyone under the age of 5. No, it’s not dangerous or allergenic,… it’s just tiny and sticky and has the potential to be SUPER messy. Trust me on this, ok?)
Also, the perfect mom buys all the children cute new outfits about every 3 months depending on how fast they are growing and makes sure she also stays in style each season. OH and she schedules professional pictures to document it all. She can do this because she can handle the extra laundry because she is perfect and her kids don’t spill on their clothes and all have easy natural smiles on command.
Enter the lie, and with her comes guilt and exhaustion of personal failure. Even before kids were in the picture I struggled with not measuring up to some perfect ideal- my skin wasn’t clear enough, my body shape didn’t feel slim enough, my personality felt like TOO much, the list went on and on.
No matter what the specifics what I’m missing is being perfect.
I can’t be alone in this… have you heard that voice too? The idea that there is an ideal you and you are a failure because you aren’t meeting up to that ideal?
Whether I attempt to become that ideal in my head OR I just am aware how far I am from that ideal I find myself exhausted! You too? Isn’t that what self development is though? More work?
I used to think self development meant if I just worked harder, slept less, tried more, I would finally be closer to perfect. But the thing is, perfection is the external and unattainable ideal that will empty us to our last reserves if we let it. We will never be satisfied because perfection is a mirage, a shimmering illusion of reality. We will never be satisfied because there will always be a higher destination, a better way, greener grass. If perfection is the reason for self development it will always tire us out.
The thing is, we are STRONG and our own strength can push us really far in this pursuit of perfection. Beware! (Yes, I said beware) This same strength will run us into the ground because we are pursuing an unattainable goal.
So if perfection isn’t the goal, what does it look like to be my best self? Isn’t my best self supposed to be perfect? I have been struggling with this concept my whole life- maybe it has affected you too? Earlier this year I wrote about redefining perfection a how we journey through life as opposed to somewhere we “arrive.” https://www.elisabethbojang.com/2017/11/18/breaking-perfection/
I constantly fight to return to that journey mindset. When I find myself feeling tired out it’s because of two things: I am struggling to be that imaginary perfect version of myself because I feel like my actual self is not enough. I feel like I shouldn’t even start the journey of self development because I’m not perfect.
Self development, when done because you realize you matter and you want your life to be more meaningful as defined by YOU, is life-giving and fulfilling.
If you are listening to voices that lead you to say “who I am is not enough so I need to be better” then of course you will get tired. You are trying to be someone you are not, and that takes so much energy! When you realize who you are matters and is enough, that’s when you can start developing your SELF because you realize your SELF is worthy of developing. Capable of change and growth. You get to choose the voices you listen to when you are aware of the noise. You can choose to start listening to your heart, the real you, imperfections and all.
If my son can be a superhero-knight without having a skyscraper-castle (or perfectly clean playroom HA!) then why can’t we allow ourselves to grow in the middle of our own imperfect situations?
Over the next few months I’m starting a series about common areas of frustration and what resources helped me face them and change for the better. Start paying attention to where you are spending your energy, what feels exhausting to you this week. Do you feel like who you are is worth caring for? Do you value the things that bring your heart to life? Or do you feel like you should prefer something different? Take stock this week of how you are actually doing, not how you feel like you should be doing.
Start with that small step of authenticity with me, and let’s grow together.
You matter. Your life matters. Let’s learn to live like we matter together.
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