I was recently musing with a fellow parent about this crazy job of parenting: when to bring up life skills (e.g., money management and finances, getting a job, learning to cook and clean), how to talk about potentially sticky topics (social media use, anxiety and depression, etc.), and any number of things we have no idea about yet but that will need to be addressed. How do we fit these into the day to day without telling or sounding weird? How can we make sure our kids listen? Because this stuff is important!
She wanted to do it right. She wanted to be ahead of the curve. She wanted to best support her kids. Such beautiful intentions. AND — the worry about doing it “right” and the “best” way was gnawing at her insides like crazy. Because what if she did it wrong? What if she didn’t prepare them well enough?
What I know: We can’t do it “wrong” — there are no Fs at life. Her efforts are enough and will be enough.
Sure, her kids may (no, will) stumble sometimes — regardless of any and everything they’ve been taught. It may be painful, really painful. Things won’t be smooth for what feels like an endless period. Things will be uncomfortable sometimes and yes, it will be messy. And — THAT’S OKAY. They will learn through the messiness. Trying to predict and stop every stumble, fumble, and fall? No possible. And not useful to our kids. Stumbles and falls are really useful teachers.
“Perfect” is not required in parenting (nor anywhere else). No. What our kids need instead? Us showing up. Us trying. Us learning with them. Us learning to take better care of ourselves and/or set necessary boundaries in our own lives. Us bringing up a topic at the dinner table, even if it feels uncomfortable, weird, and/or gets an eye roll. Showing up will always ultimately lead the way home and plant useful seeds.
And a few more considerations while we’re in this vein:
There is no “perfect” in life (nor “right” or “best” way to do something). There may be a moment that is achingly, joyously beautiful, a moment that feels perfect (or right/best) — and it will be a moment.
There is no life level where we get to “perfect” and then stay there forever and ever and ever. So let’s quit trying to get there (or thinking we need to be there) — in any and all of the myriad of ways we are expecting perfection of ourselves. We will never get there. Level Perfect doesn’t exist. (Note: This isn’t about giving up or accepting a sub par life, or becoming complacent or lazy or the like. Rather, it’s about stopping the self-binding of expecting ourselves to get “there,” to “perfect” — because the belief in needing to get to/be “perfect” is unhelpful; it doesn’t support us in growing. On the contrary, it can keep us stuck in the muddiest mud, shrinking. And it stinks there.)
Go for messy. Go for action. Go for effort. Go for the teeniest, tiniest, smallest, most seemingly insignificant step you can get yourself to make in the direction you’d like to go. Example: Want to write a book? Start by opening a document and writing one word or sentence every day for a week (and then two+). Feel free to write more if you feel like it. And keep doing that.
What’s useful here isn’t doing it “perfectly” — it’s DOING it, taking an action, however small, in the direction you want to go. Open document and write a word — any word. A random word. A squiggle of letters, if you can’t think of a word. Write something — consistently. In doing so you will create practices and habits (and start creating things) that will help you build a life that feels good, better, useful, with purpose — all better than perfect. Because there is no “perfect” where we stop and stay. There’s only growth, effort, trying on the messy path.
Life doesn’t demand perfection. Life doesn’t require you to be constantly fearless, confident, or self-assured. Life simply requires that you keep showing up.Marie Forleo