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In working with women every day, I know one of the things that often holds us back from attempting new things or making changes or doing something we haven’t done in a long time – the biggest thing that often holds us back – is fear.
Fear of failure. Fear of judgment.
And fear of being imperfect.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately.
One of the biggest reasons I fail to start a project is because I haven’t figured out the perfect way to do it.
I mean, it took me months to reorganize my kitchen pantry because I couldn’t figure out the perfect system.
To reorganize a wooden box that contained cans and cardboard boxes.
The first time you do anything, you aren’t going to do it perfectly.
The first time you attempt to walk you don’t do it perfectly.
The first time you cook a turkey you very likely won’t do it perfectly.
The first time you make a painting or reupholster a chair or install a light switch or run a 5K or teach a class or coach a team, you aren’t going to do it perfectly.
You never really do anything perfectly. Even after a dozens or hundreds of attempts.
If you are a parent you know this.
You need like five or ten kids before you get the hang of what you are doing.
That’s why I imagine being a grandparent is so much fun. Cause you know what you are doing by then. (Plus you know you get to give the kids back at some point).
So where does this come from? Especially in women?
Where does this feeling of the need to do things perfectly originate?
Well, yesterday I got my answer to that.
Or at least part of the answer.
I’m one of those all-white-Christmas-lights kind of person. Inside and outside.
We have a bunch of white lights I put up outside every year.
But the kids really wanted some colored lights outside.
So I told them I would get some. And I put them on some of the bushes in front of the house yesterday.
We had one string left over and the kids really wanted to put it somewhere, but we couldn’t find a place where just one string of lights would be enough.
And then Number 5 and Number 7 who were helping me said, “Mommy! What about the mailbox???”
So we found an extension cord long enough to reach the mailbox and then the girls went to decorating it.
I watched them.
They were super cute and super proud as they wrapped the lights around the post and the box.
And you know what I did?
I came over and corrected the way they were doing it.
“Hold on,” I said. “Let me help you. If you -“
“MOM!” Number 5 said, clearly irritated by my intrusion.
“WHY CAN’T WE JUST DO IT OURSELVES? WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE PERFECT???”
She was right.
Why did I have to butt in?
I thought about that all day today.
I had to butt in because people would drive by our house and see and imperfectly wrapped and decorated mailbox.
And they would think, “That mailbox looks like shit.”
I was projecting the judgment of other people onto our stupid mailbox.
A mailbox that people would see driving by at 40 miles an hour and not really have the time to see in detail.
And even if they did see it in detail and think to themselves, That person did a shitty job decorating that mailbox, who gives a flying f*ck what they think?
In reality, I bet anyone who notices the stupid mailbox thinks, Huh! What a cute mailbox!
So I caught myself.
I caught myself sending the message to my daughters that if it’s not done perfectly then it’s not enough.
So I left them alone and I let them finish.
They plugged in the lights, stood back, and admired their work.
“MOMMY!” They said excitedly.
“Come and look!!!!”
“You guys did a great job doing that all by yourself!” I told them.
They were really proud of themselves.
It was another lesson in proactivity and independence for them.
I walked inside with them, as they kept looking back to check out their handiwork.
And as I reflected on this today, I was reminded of the messages I’m sending to my girls and how those messages will last a lifetime, well into their adulthood.
If I’m going to be totally honest, this morning, when I knew they weren’t looking, I also went back and adjusted those damn lights.
I just couldn’t stop myself.
I HAD TO FIX THEM.
I know I’m still a work in progress. I know I still have to work on this perfection thing, too.
Yesterday was a big reality check.
I continue to send messages I don’t want to be sending, and half the time I don’t even realize I’m doing it until it’s already been done.
Thank goodness I have a couple ballsy girls who aren’t afraid to tell their mom to back off.
So I guess I’m doing a couple things right.
And the rest?
Well, that will come with time and practice and the acceptance that nobody does things perfectly.
Especially when it comes to this parenting thing.