Five years ago I listened to a man on NPR talk about his fear of failure. Do you ever listen to something you know to resonate within your soul, but not know how to take action on?
The man talked about how he felt like his entire life he never failed, and he thrived off his own perfection. However, eventually, he had a break down when he could not keep up with unrealistic standards. Of course, the problem with perfection is: it’s impossible.
My office mates have been teasing me for weeks, “Is everything you do perfect?”
My husband tells me, “You never mess up. I wish you would sometimes.”
The toll of my own perfection is exceptionally exhausting.
Never miss an email, return every call, every decimal point is rounded perfectly, every color combination matches, and no word is spoken out of turn.
My inner critic has no end to my own faults. I ask Del five times a day if I’m a bad mom. Yesterday I asked if I was a bad mom because I was washing Carly’s bottles instead of holding her. Facebook has taught me that if you don’t spend every minute of your life staring at your child, you will miss SOMETHING and regret whatever other thing you were doing in the minute.
Friends of mine came up with the term “round up.” Research shows that women consistently underestimate our abilities. We don’t apply for jobs unless we meet most criteria, and we don’t push for raises unless we’re 1,000% certain we deserve them. Instead of underestimating our internal (and numeric) value, we need to round up.
A few weeks ago, I took a day off of work because I was exhausted. One day turned into two. Then, the week-end hit, and I spent most of it sleeping. My brain finally hit the breaking point. Between being a wife, motherhood, and work, the voice telling me I was not doing enough – and I was not doing it perfectly – burned me out.
I spent a long time thinking of my inner critic. It’s that idiotic little voice telling me nothing is quite as good as it could be. My hair is straight, but there are a few strands always out of place. That report is 98% perfect, but that 2% is enough to ruin everything. After careful consideration, I know where the voice arose and how it kept growing. But honestly – that is all too much to process in one blog post.
But knowing the source, I did something different: I finally gave up.
I put a sign on my computer last week: “Don’t let perfect get in the way of good.”
Last week I hit send on emails with typos. Last week I stopped overthinking my answers at work and just started muttering. I had a few Facebook posts without commas, a few reports where the font in the table didn’t match the font in the body. But somehow, the world kept turning and no one died.
As it turns out, the inner critic was never keeping me safe – it was holding me back. He should have been telling me I’m beautiful, talented, and my level of detail is unparalleled. But he’s kind of an ass face, and does not like to say nice things.
Lent is upon us. One year I gave up drinking a pack of cherry cola a day. For four years I tried to give up swearing (but that shit never takes….). This year, I’m giving up on my inner critic, and my implausible quest for unattainable perfection. I’m going to think less, react from my gut, and start to tell myself “Damn girl – round up! You got this.”