I have always been a perfectionist. In everything I do. If I was going to run, I wanted to be the fastest. I wanted to win the race and qualify for the Boston Marathon. If I was going to have a baby, I was going to do it in the healthiest way possible, without drugs, and nurse the longest. I wanted to master everything, be the thinnest, write for the best publications, go to the best schools and win all the points. No matter what. Anything less made me feel like crap.
But perfection is exhausting. It’s fine to want to be the best, but the pursuit of it can feel less like you are doing the things you enjoy and more like you are torturing yourself. The running that used to feed my soul became a chore so painful, I’d often puke after speed training and bleed from friction during my long runs. And rather than feel empowered, I felt demoralized, like I should have been faster, stronger and better.
And forget being perfect in parenting. That’s just a ridiculous ask. No matter what I wanted, my kids wanted something else. Keeping the house clean became a joke. And eventually, I had to give up. Perfection? Never. I just couldn’t do it anymore. And once I surrendered, some funny things happened:
1. I started enjoying
I have three kids and four pets. My house will never be spotless. There will always be a mess somewhere. Once I stopped caring about that, I was able to embrace the people in the house more. I noticed their smiles and jokes and cared less about their messy lunches all over the table.
2. I became more grateful
When I stopped to actually smell the roses (and stopped caring how they were arranged), I learned to let them into my life more. I slowed down and noticed the simple pleasures. The way the cushions feel beneath me when I sit down to eat, the way the perfume smells when I put it on my wrist, the way the flowers my kids picked for me look in their little vase. Instead of worrying about the hurry I was in or the work that needed to be done or the dirt the kids tracked in the house with the flowers, I noticed the beauty of the moments and was grateful for them.
3. I got more done
Once I stopped wasting time on perfect nails or hair, I started spending that same time working on my yoga and my handstands and playing with my children — the things that make me actually happy, not the things that make me “look” happy.
4. I got more fit
For me, qualifying for the Boston Marathon was a driving force in my life for years. I wanted “perfection” in running. But there is no such thing. I came awfully close when I ran a 3:48 marathon, but once I let go of that time goal, I also discovered cross training and yoga. Both of which have changed my life — and my fitness — for the better.
5. I found real, true love
I decided early on that I wasn’t looking for a “perfect on paper” mate. I was looking for a perfect for me one. There is a difference. When I found him, it was like a puzzle piece snapping into place. Perfect for me? Yes. Perfect in general? No. Letting go of the laundry list of shallow concerns helped me focus on the things that matter — how he looked at me, how he made me feel, how he listened to me and held my hand. Ivy League schools and high salaries matter a lot less than those things.
6. I discovered my true style
“Perfect” style is about living up to some Pinterest- or Instagram-worthy look. My style is something else. I only found the slouchy, relaxed, bohemian look I favored when I gave up on being Martha Stewart’s wannabe cousin.
7. I started to really live
Everything that matters in our life isn’t perfect. Trains get delayed. Weddings get rained on. Children stumble. I wasted a lot of time trying to be perfect and forgetting to enjoy anything but the goal. Once I gave up the ghost and started actually taking pleasure in the moments rather than the end game, I realized the truth: I was missing everything while trying to reach something unattainable. My only shot at really living was to allow myself to be a little messy, a little crazed and a lot more real.
This post was sponsored by TNT’s Good Behavior.