Good Enough is Great
There’s a beautiful line in the love song “All of Me” by John Legend that gives me goose bumps and causes me to stop and think.
All of me loves all of you —
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
I love the idea of a man loving a woman’s curves AND her edges (maybe because I have plenty of both). But I really love the phrase “perfect imperfections” — the irony and the truth in it. Yes, he’s talking about his relationship with his supermodel wife Chrissy Teigen, but I think it applies just as well to how we treat ourselves. Accepting our imperfections as “perfectly” normal. And knowing we are good enough in spite of them.
If you’re like me, life can feel like some weird Broadway play, where I’m expected to be performing at 100% in every role — mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, employee, housekeeper, PTA member, friendly neighbor. It seems everyone wants a piece, usually at the same time. Most of the time I’m showing up strung out, and forgetting my lines. And the bad reviews (usually my own) are pouring in.
In a connected world, we have more and more demands on our time and energy. But we all have our areas where we could let go just a little.
Researcher and author Brené Brown says that when perfectionism is driving us, shame is riding shotgun, and fear is that annoying backseat driver. In other words, where are these expectations really coming from? A neglected sister? A neighborly neighbor? The overworked PTA president? Or are they the impossible standards that we hold for ourselves?
In a connected world, we have more and more demands on our time and energy. But we all have our areas where we could let go just a little. Mine is a clean house. I work at home, and clutter can make me feel closed in and unproductive. And I’ll admit, I can drive myself and everyone else a bit nuts trying to keep it all in order. It would be a good idea for me to consider what one of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott, has to say:
“Clutter and mess show us that life is being lived … Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation…Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here.”
If we buy into it — into this ridiculous notion that we can do it all AND be great at it, we find ourselves believing that the mother across the playground makes it to every soccer game (on time), puts a healthy, homemade meal on the table each night, talks to her mother — and mother-in-law — every evening, kills it in a business meeting and is the first in the carpool line, as well as a loving, doting wife on average 5.5 days a week.
But this is real life. And real life takes compromise. There are days when we hit the mark on one, or if we’re lucky a few, of those things, and there are days when we fall so short, it shows off all our ripply parts.
As Lamott points out, these perfection messages are nothing new. We’ve been getting them from the time we were kids: Don’t make a mess. Never give up. We hear it when entering the business world: You can have it all! (and presumably it will all be ideal). We put it on our résumés: “Detail-oriented. Ability to multitask.” Multitasking, by the way, is code for: I can do it all and never miss a beat, but will ultimately crash and burn by the weekend into a giant bowl of cheese dip.
Could it be that in an effort to do it all/be it all, we are multitasking and perfecting our way into a more stressful, shameful, fearful way of existing?
I think I’d rather go with what Salvador Dali was getting at when he said, “Have no fear of perfection; you’ll never reach it.”
Letting go of the need to please, and focusing our energies on one or two critical areas at a time seems to me a better path — not to mediocrity, but to reality. If it’s taken care of – the kids are fed, clothed, safe and loved (not necessarily in that order), sometimes that’s good enough. Even great.
I think Legend was on to something when he asked lovingly of his wife:
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning
There’s nothing wrong with giving it our all, but it’s how we live with the shortcomings, with the knowing that we are imperfect creatures, that’s the real test.
If only we could be so sweet with ourselves, as forgiving about something like our parenting. There’s nothing wrong with giving it our all, but it’s how we live with the shortcomings, with the knowing that we are imperfect creatures, that’s the real test. Will you kick yourself while you’re down and vow, from now on, you will read with your child every single night of the week? Or will you loosen the reins a little — and be content, for now, with just a little extra snuggling?
In the end, I don’t think it would hurt for us all — wives, mothers, daughters, sisters — in this day and age, to say every once in a while (if only silently to ourselves): You can have whatever I have left to give. And that’s good enough for today.