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Perfecting Imperfection One Mistake at a Time

“I feel like I can’t do anything right. That no matter what I do, it is just never enough. I am never enough” said every perfectionist ever.

High standards and expectations can leave us constantly chasing a ball we will never actually catch. We work every day to reach some unattainable goal set far too high that we ultimately won’t reach. Then, when we don’t reach it, we will feel even worse for ever attempting. These goals can be things like never making mistakes as parents, always being available for everyone, never messing up a project at work, always looking like you’ve got your shit together, or always having an answer. These goals usually have perfection as the standard and expectation to meet and exceed. Being the perfect parent, friend, partner, child, sibling, professional, and family member is not attainable no matter how much we convince ourselves otherwise because perfection isn’t attainable. Not only that, but it can distort and cover some really beautiful parts about us and moments we experience. The mom who is constantly trying to bend over backwards for her kids misses the opportunities to model boundaries and teach her children how to make mistakes with grace. The spouse who is always trying to please their partner prevents their partner from truly understanding and connecting authenticity. The person intently focused on achieving the end goal perfectly misses the opportunity to learn from others and experience the joys of the journey. Those we admire most aren’t perfect by any means. They are just people who dared to let their imperfections show and somehow, we loved them more because of it.

Redefine your standards and expectations.

For most of us, our standards were set for us long before we had a say. They started as soon as we came out of the womb. There were milestones to meet and goals to achieve. A clear path to acceptance, praise and approval. Other messages, some overt or covert, intentional or unintentional, were infused into our lives too. Messages about what love looks like, what it means to be healthy, what a successful parent/spouse/professional looks like, what binary gender looks like and how we are supposed to engage with gender based on what the doctors pronounced us at birth. First step to freedom from perfectionism, is throwing all of this shit out. These messages and scripts about the way that the world is and how we are supposed to act in it are useless. For most, they keep us from being honest with ourselves, sharing what we need, fostering meaningful connection with others and living our most full and fulfilling life. These messages and scripts are cages and boxes that we were never meant for. Throw them out and then redefine them. You get to decide what a healthy happy parent looks like. You get to decide what love feels good. You get to decide what passions are worth growing. You get to decide who you want to be and how you want to show up in the world.

Stop comparing. No permission needed.

You don’t need permission or approval for your new standards and expectations. There is no need to worry about what Jordan is doing or thinking about them or if Jordan is doing or thinking the same thing. Their opinion is irrelevant to you show up for your life. There may be times where your new standards and expectations upset others. As Todd Kashdan said, “If you zig when nearly everyone else zags, you are going to upset somebody. This is the currency of rebelliousness.” Let them be upset. Rebel against the perfectionistic standards and expectations given to you. Just keep on zigging.

Find extraordinary in the ordinary.

Extraordinary moments don’t exist in large, elaborate, perfect moments despite what television and social media trick us into believing. Extraordinary moments are small, ordinary, mundane and completely imperfect moments. Moments that come as quickly as they go. Ones that we would likely miss if we blinked too fast or moved too quickly. Extraordinary moments are belly laughs with friends, the crisp chill fall morning, a welcoming hug home from your partner after a long day, the comfort of a good book, the way each snowflake is completely different from the rest, the sound of waves landing on the shore, a 10 second snuggle from your energetic toddler, the way your dog greets you, and the quiet strength of starting again. Our job is not to create extraordinary moments. They are already occurring around us all the time. Our job is simply to find the extraordinary in the moments that appear ordinary and recognize the imperfection that lies within them all. Absorb it. Then remind yourself that extraordinary is both the farthest from and closest thing to perfection. You, my M.A.D. Friend, are extraordinary exactly as you are.


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