Want to be happy?
Stop trying to be perfect.
I love it when someone asks a thought-provoking question and then listens intently to the answer. One of my dear friends did that recently. We sat down for coffee, holding our cups for warmth, and she cautiously asked if she could ask me a personal question.
That's not like her. Usually she just throws her truth out there and has no hesitation in saying what she needs and feels. So as I looked up, I really looked at her. I saw sadness in her eyes. That surprised me. It was like looking at someone I knew really well and loved dearly and discovering that something was going on that I had no idea about. My heart knew to tread softly and gently.
"Of course," I said. "You can ask me anything. I'll tell you the truth as I see it, if you want to hear it."
There was a long, unexpected pause. A small tear overflowed her eye and slowly moved down her cheek.
I said, treading on tender ground,"Oh sweetie. Tell me what's wrong."
Quietly she said, "How do you do it? How do they do it? How do those women be such a great mom and wife and friend and daughter and employee? How do they do it all and do it so perfectly?"
She said that she just felt all "dried up,"as if the life force that had always been so vibrant inside her had just faded away or died when she wasn't watching. She said she felt like an absolute failure. She works full time and has small children. And she's tired. So very tired. All the time tired. She has put on five pounds. Her house is a mess. She is a mess. She doesn't feel pretty, let alone sexy.
She also voiced that she felt guilty. After all, she loves God and shouldn't that be enough? She said she kept making mistakes
and hardly recognized the person she was becoming. She had no patience for anyone or anything.
I just listened and nodded my head.
The one tear became several and then a flood let go and her words became sobs. We were at Starbucks and there was lots of hustle and bustle so she wasn't too conspicuous. I asked her if she wanted to come to my house, have the rest of her coffee and we could talk there. She just nodded.
When we got to my home and she sank into the sofa, I put a big comfy throw around her. I exchanged her coffee for some chamomile tea, got some chocolate (my answer to every problem in the world) and we picked up our conversation once again.
"Look at your home" she said with a dash of self-condemnation. My house is a disaster all the time."
I held my cup of tea and slowly looked up at her. "You have small children, sweetie. Of course your home is a disaster. It's supposed to be. Our home was once too when we were raising children. It's just Bert and me now so most things stay clean.
But we miss having all that fabulous commotion. So when our grandchildren come over, we look forward to the mess. It reminds us of when we were your age."
And then I said, as softly as I could, "When did you start beating yourself up this way, being so hard on you?"
And more tears flowed.
As she finally found the words she shared how she wasn't skinny enough, or smart enough, or pretty enough. She didn't fit a model she had in her head about being a perfect wife, perfect Mom, perfect friend, perfect employee, perfect daughter.
Ahh... so much pressure.
I share this story (with her permission) because I have been wondering lately about how so many women are hard on themselves, feel so sad about being imperfect and beat themselves up non-stop.
I have been there.
I hear it all the time from women who have struggled all their lives and women who are extremely accomplished and you would think had better self esteem.
Not only as women are we hard on ourselves, we may be extremely hard on each other. Silent and not so silent judgements and criticisms about the kind of parenting you do or the imperfect role model you are or the size of jeans you wear.
*Thank goodness for Jesus and His love and forgiveness.
*Thank goodness for getting older and wiser and letting go
of those unrealistic expectations that just weigh heavy
on our hearts.
*Thank goodness for those women who are so authentic and
vulnerable and can chuckle about being imperfect.
Like many women, I grew up in a family where pretending to be perfect was the order of the day. It took lots of energy for my Mom to hold up the facade. Often times the pretense led her to depression and sadness. What a relief it was, after my father died, to see my Mom be more vulnerable and more open about her thoughts and fears. More open about her imperfections.
As she allowed herself to be more human, and showed her imperfections without shame, she became more attractive and open and authentic to everyone around her.
What a huge relief, a breath of fresh air!
And at 68, I am on the journey of letting go of the desire for perfection. I am so genuinely happy to be around authentic women who can be who they really are. We can laugh about our imperfections and we try to no longer put ourselves under a daily microscope. We are learning to be more content, more genuinely happy about who we uniquely are, who God made us to be.
Even though God is in our heart, we can be grumpy or impatient or want to scream our bloody heads off. Even though
we pray and ask God to help us, we may still want to drop kick someone to another state. And then we find ourselves humbly telling God that we are sorry, truly sorry. We pray for patience
and to walk like Jesus walked and talk like Jesus talked.
I not only love being with women who know they are imperfect, I love reading the stories of women who share their imperfections and tell it like it really is.
Want a great read, a great chuckle, a great heartwarming look at being a woman and Mom today?
Read Amy Wilson's
When Did I Get Like This?
Oh my goodness. In her own words....
" Over the last seven years of long days with little children
I have had many moments of joy, calm, and peaceful reverie.
This book is about the other moments..."
As I read Amy's words, and laughed until my sides were sore and cried loads of tears at her pain, so many memories popped back. And she spoke about embracing our imperfections because we all are imperfect.
And finally I have to agree with Brene Brown, in her book The Gifts of Imperfection, when she asked this question to women.
"Want to be happy?
Stop trying to be perfect!"
Well said, Brene, well said! Yes, I do want to be genuinely happy and I am working on embracing my imperfections.
"We are all just walking each other home." ...