I have always been a perfectionist. For a lot of my life, I wouldn’t even attempt anything new unless I knew that I would be good at it. And then I became a mom. And every single day there is something new. And it’s completely impossible to be perfect at any of it. Some days I feel like just giving up altogether, and other days I think I should stop being so hard on myself and lower the expectations I’ve set, but I’ve found that true self-compassion means something different.
No one is perfect, but that doesn’t mean problems have to be permanent
After Charlotte was born, postpartum depression combined with lifelong anxiety and a whole slew of other life circumstances hit me hard and rushed in quickly. Even so, it wasn’t as hard as it could have been because of the thoughtful words I had read and heard of others going through similar hardships. I knew that mental health problems were nothing to be ashamed of. However, there is one thing that has always bothered me slightly when people share about these kinds of struggles, so when I decided to add my voice to all those who are fighting to end the stigmas, I expanded on the message.
You see, I have heard way too many times that depression is normal, anxiety is normal, postpartum struggles are normal. And while yes, it is very common, and it’s not anything wrong with who you are, I would argue that it is NOT normal and that’s precisely why it’s okay to go get help!
With all of our difficult circumstances as well as our flaws, the feeling of isolation and thinking we are the only one who has ever felt this way can be extremely damaging, but accepting it as a normal part of life is barely any better. Having imperfections doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or did anything wrong, but it also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything to change it.
Never settle for slipping down the slope
I remember one day when I had a toddler and a newborn, I overheard two moms talking about how crazy life with kids is, laughing about finding dirty underwear behind the books on a shelf, and I thought to myself that I would never ever be like that.
Flash forward to the days when I have two boys potty training plus a third baby and I have to admit I’ve found dirty undies in random places too.
BUT, I still refuse to be okay with that, I refuse to make that my new normal. Because I don’t want to go down that slippery slope. If I stop caring about having toys all over the playroom instead of being neatly put away at the end of the day, then soon they’ll be all over the living room too, and if I stop caring about toys all over the living room, they’ll start ending up in the kitchen as well.
No, I don’t get every toy beautifully lined up every single day, and I don’t beat myself up on the days when there are toys all over the house, but I also don’t accept it as no big deal, and I don’t stop trying to end the day with a clean house.
Be kind to the person you are, but keep pushing to become better
So if I still refuse to settle for anything less than perfect, where is the lesson? How am I still being compassionate to my very much NOT perfect self? Here is what I’ve learned about continuing to push myself, but being kind to myself along the way:
- Pushing yourself means starting each new day planning to do amazing things
- Being kind to yourself means ending the day proud of what you did do, not upset about what you didn’t do
- Pushing yourself means working to be your very best self
- Being kind to yourself means understanding that being the best that *you* can be *today* isn’t the same as being *the* best *every* day
- Pushing yourself means looking to the future
- Being kind to yourself means letting go of the past
- Pushing yourself means making goals and not letting anything get in your way
- Being kind to yourself means acknowledging today was hard and that’s okay
- Pushing yourself means trying again tomorrow
- Being kind to yourself means accepting that you won’t be perfect every day
- Pushing yourself means not lowering the bar just because you didn’t hit it yet
- Being kind to yourself means knowing you are enough just as you are
- Pushing yourself means doing a little more and being a little better
- Being kind to yourself means your mistakes don’t define you
- Pushing yourself means not giving up on your dreams
- Being kind to yourself means loving yourself and your life for the way they are now AND for the potential of what they can become
- And truly, pushing yourself IS being kind to yourself because it is knowing you are amazing and strong and capable and you can make good things happen for your life!
Accept the reasons, but never make excuses
I am obsessed with Ruth Soukup’s “Do It Scared” podcast. One of my life mantras that I’ve learned from her is “no excuses.” It really resonated with me, because really I’ve never believed in the concept of a “good excuse.”
We all have reasons for why we are or aren’t able to do things, and some of them are very, well, reasonable, but no reason is good enough to be an excuse because it doesn’t make up for whatever it was you didn’t do, it doesn’t change the fact that you didn’t do it.
At the end of the day, making excuses can help others around you feel better about why you did or didn’t accomplish what you set out to do, it can make them feel okay if you let them down or make them think more of you because of what you’ve endured, BUT excuses do nothing for you. It doesn’t matter how good of reasons you had to not do something. If you didn’t do it, then you didn’t do it and no amount of excuses will change that. You didn’t make your life any better.
Don’t feel sorry for yourself, forgive yourself
Something that is very important to me is not teaching my kids to respond to “I’m sorry” with “it’s okay.” It’s not okay that someone stole your toy. It’s not okay that someone hit you. Instead, I teach them to say “I forgive you” and “I love you.”
And that is exactly what we need to do with ourselves. No, it’s not okay that I didn’t vacuum for two weeks straight and my baby girl was crawling around snacking on leaves and dog hair, BUT I can forgive myself, I love myself, and I can move on from today and still be okay tomorrow!