My daughter often calls me to tell me stories of what my granddaughter, Clarke Elizabeth, has done. It is fun to share the joy and laughter with our children and our grandchildren. Everyone thinks their children and grandchildren are the most intelligent, advanced, beautiful and talented beings that were ever born. I guess I am no exception.
I didn’t believe I inherited the “grandparent” gene. My Mom has it and my sister has it. I was never dying for my daughter or son to have a child. I didn’t think it would matter to me all that much and I always found it so interesting when people posted tons of pictures of their grandkids. I loved seeing the family resemblance and I loved seeing how my friends bonded with their children’s children. I just didn’t think much about it until she was born.
Grandchildren are wonderful and fun. I get it now. I think, for me, it is like a second chance to be important in a child’s life. You are someone important to them. It is fun to be a part of their milestones, to enjoy them and not have to raise them. I get to be the superhero in Clarke’s life. I believe I am the most fun person she knows. I have the best snacks. I play hide-and-seek better than anyone and I have a princess dress-up wardrobe for her in my closet. I am finally cool again, at least to her!
This week, my daughter called, and I answered the phone to her laughter.
“What’s going on”? I asked. She was laughing uncontrollably. When she finally calmed down enough to be able to speak, she began telling me how it was Clarke’s bath time. Clarke did not want to have a bath. She normally loves baths, but she was busy playing. Samantha told her, “it’s time to go take a bath”. Clarke looked at her, rather disgruntled, and said, “Mommy let me live my life”. It was funny picturing a, barely turned, two-year-old even thinking to say this.
I laughed along with Samantha then thought about how incredible that she could say no in such an articulate way. Now that said, she got her bath, but she has already learned at the age of two how to push back against something she didn’t want to do. When did we forget how to do that as we got older?
How often do we do go along with what someone else wants that may not be what we want?
Why do we do that?
We do not want to let people down. We do not want to give people a reason to not like us. We want to be accepted. We want to be found worthy. We want to be enough. We want to be loved. I am a people-pleaser, and I am a perfectionist. Both of those are a part of me. I never looked at the negative side of being a perfectionist. I truly never thought about it until I got to that part of the book, I am reading this month for Twisted Sisters Book Club.
We are reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. This is a book about letting go of who you think you should be and embracing who you are. She calls it a guide to a wholehearted life. The book is divided into ten sections that talk about various parts of the wholehearted life. In the second section (guidepost #2) she talks about perfectionism. She writes that perfectionism is not about striving to be your best or even about improving yourself. She states, and I believe her, that perfectionists are hiding behind a protective shield. The shield protects us from the fear of failing, of disappointing others and from letting people see all the pieces of us.
I see that now. I was surprised at how much her book resonated with me. I never realized that I was using it as a shield to avoid the pain of judgement. Reading this book, I spent a lot of time on this section. I looked at the ways I have worked towards perfectionism in my life. I love cooking and I go to great pains to be a good cook. I began cooking for my father when I was 3-4 years old (according to my Mom) and I was always rewarded by praise when I made something for him. Cooking has been a way I have always been able to please people. There were never any negative words said about my cooking. No one judged the way I looked when I was cooking. Another way I have strived to be perfect is in my home. My house was always in perfect order when my children were young. Never anything out of place – that meant (in my mind) that I was a perfect mother and wife. I could go on and on and on listing ways I have tried to create perfection.
I have released the feeling that I have to make things perfect to be worthy of love and belonging. I now cook because it makes me happy and helps me feel relaxed.
I will always be on the lookout now for perfectionism sneaking in my life. Brene Brown stated, “perfectionism is addictive because when we invariably do experience shame, judgement, and blame, we often believe it’s because we weren’t perfect enough. Seeing the places where I am most likely to fall into being a perfectionist keeps me on the lookout. I also think I’ll grab hold of Clarke’s words and when I find myself slipping, I’ll say to myself – “let me live my life”.
Live my life with joy and love and acceptance. Not just from others but most importantly, from myself.