I see it in every personality test I’ve ever done over the years. That one word that makes it easy to identify which box or column or group of letters I belong to best – Perfectionist!
I even remember when that need to be the best and excel began to emerge: as a 12 year old, recognising that with some extra care and a whole lot of hard work, I could bring home the A+. It felt so good hearing my parents talk about how proud of me they were.
The thing with perfectionism is that the older I got, the harder it was to excel at everything I was involved in. I started to feel like a failure over and over again. Just thinking about trying to be the perfect woman, mother, wife, friend, MOPS Leader, Physiotherapist, Church member, Committee member, Event Coordinator, Little Athletics Coach…GASP*** It exhausts my mind just listing those roles, and the depression starts to settle in and threaten to send me into a corner that I just don’t want to come out of.
I keep thinking, even if I could commit 24/7 to improving just one of those areas I would still feel like I was always falling short!
Over the summer season I have tremendous fun volunteering as a Little Athletics Coach. Twice a week I get to enjoy being outdoors and seeing kids who are passionate about this sport work towards improving in their event. But recently I noticed something I’m not so happy about. This constant fixation of the kids to come out and always achieve a personal best. They fixate on getting that tape measure out, desperate to gain even just the smallest distance. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the fact they are passionate and want to work hard and commit the time into learning so that they improve. But this concept that they will always be able to get a personal best is just plain unrealistic and I start seeing over and over their faces drop as they start to lose confidence or feel repeatedly disappointed.
Why can’t they always get a pb? Because life happens. There are days when they are going to be tired, or haven’t eaten before coming out, or the weather’s just too hot or humid. Maybe they’ve had an injury or a growth spurt overnight and those extra two inches have created arms and legs they just don’t know what to do with yet. Some days their best is not actually getting a personal best (PB), it’s just turning up, listening to their coach, going through the drills and practising the movement; 100% heart and effort even if the tape measure stops short of their expectations.
I have to remember that as a perfectionist what I’m really doing in life is expecting to get a pb in everything at every moment of the day. And that just isn’t possible! Some days I need to learn to be gentle on myself, appreciate all the circumstances that might be stopping me from reaching some new pb and recognise that my best is still my best; it’s just a different measurement to that unrealistic tape measure that exists in my mind.
It is a constant conscious decision to let go of that unrealistic tape measurement and just enjoy being in the moment; to work hard and give my best, realising that my best is sometimes just turning up, listening, learning and loving being in the moment.
I remember once as a teenager crying because I scored 75% for an extremely hard maths test. My mum hugged me and asked me a question, “Naomi, did you try your best?” “Yes!” I emphatically replied. “Then I love you and am proud of you. That’s all we could ever ask of you”.
I need to remember her voice speaking Love the Loudest to me at all those moments I start to do the measurements in my mind. “Naomi, did you try your best?” “Yes…given all the circumstances going on right now, this was my best.” “Then I love you and I’m proud of you and that’s all I could ever ask of you.”