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Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar: You’re in the middle of something, something big and important, and you know that you have to push through to the other side… but you freeze with that perfection anxiety so you stop yourself from even taking the next step forward because It’s not good enough so why even bother? It’s the party favors you found on Pinterest. It’s that work email you just can’t send. It’s that cup of coffee that isn’t warm enough. It’s the easy workout that promises you’ll lose 20% of your body fat simply by sneezing. It’s X because of Y.
Hi, this has been me for the past few months.
I have been caught up in the idealized perfection anxiety that has stopped me dead in my tracks on what feels like 7,000 different things… and because I couldn’t knock it out of the park, I just stopped. Stopped dead in my tracks and stopped caring.
Well, not not caring, I should say. More so unwilling or unable to move across the finish line because it wasn’t precise and perfect and all of these self-imposed things that have done nothing but hinder me moving forward.
Done is better than perfect. You’ve probably seen this idiom running around in some iteration around the internet. It’s used in reference to work or parenting or eating or something… and the idea is to rouse you from that perfection anxiety, that stranglehold in your life that prevents you from moving forward and is supposed to equip you with the chutzpah to at least move forward because, all together now…
Done is better than perfect.
Here’s the scary thing about that: I haven’t wanted to do certain things if I wasn’t perfect at them. Done wasn’t simply good enough. Done was just another partial checkmark, not the final tally. But a bullet journal full of ideas that have not yet come to fruition tell me that I’m obviously screwing something up and if the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results could have been a header, it would have been. Or should have been. Or something.
Here’s how this changed for me. And I wish it was some earth-shattering revelation that made me rival the angels singing in Heaven, but it was something so incredibly simple.
It was a parent-teacher conference for our kindergartener.
In advance of our conference, I had already looked at our daughter’s report card. I could see the tallies, and I saw that she was meeting expectations in most areas (except reading… which somewhat baffled me). I was somewhat prepared for the meeting with her teachers… until I got there… and I wasn’t.
See, I had prepared to beat myself up that we weren’t reading to or with her enough, we weren’t doing her sight cards, we weren’t doting enough or attentive enough or something that we were lacking sorely impacted our daughter and she wasn’t going to be Harvard-bound.
Spoiler alert: that’s not what happened at all.
Through it all, her teachers were exceptionally effusive about our daughter. They told us what a joy she is to have in class. They told us about her love for math, that she actively wants to work on writing out numbers. She’s figured out how to do formulas and skip counting. She is dearly loved by her teachers and classmates. She is athletic. She is compassionate. She is nurturing. She is all these wonderful things, better things than I could ever imagine.
And she’s turning out to be a pretty damn good kid even though I let her watch more TV than I would like when my husband travels.
She’s turning out to be a fine human being even when I feel like quitting.
She is confident and quirky and wonderful even when I’m phoning it in.
So yes, the flip side is How much better would or could she be if I showed up more? and on some level, I can internalize that. But that doesn’t feel like the lesson I’m supposed to get here. And that doesn’t feel like the lesson I’m supposed to share.
Even when I am just getting through the day and my parenting well is tapped out – when my daily motto is done is better than perfect by default – my daughter is still turning out wonderfully and beautifully.
That’s an insanely wonderful kick in the teeth, isn’t it?
To be sure, it is an inspiration to get back after it… whatever that may be. It’s an inspiration to get back after Whole30 (changes that I have let fall by the wayside because I wasn’t perfect in the execution). It’s an incentive to reconnect with my Beautycounter business. It’s the motivation to actually be a leader for my Java Momma teammates. It’s the drive to check off things in my bujo because – repeat after me – done is better than perfect.
This treacly saying is now my battle cry and rally. Done is better than perfect is going to rouse me from keeping one foot in the grave… and moving it in front of the other. Done is better than perfect is going to propel me forward to accomplish all the things I want to this year, and I’m going to force myself to not care a wit if it’s not Pinterest-worthy. Done is better than perfect is going to give me the permission to say, It’s OK that this isn’t knock ’em dead perfect. Otherwise, perfect will knock me dead.
Done is better than perfect is going to help me show up every day even if that’s all I can accomplish.
Does this or any other saying help you let go of perfection? Share it in the comments below!