Expectation versus reality: Finding the good enough in good enough
My name is Shannon and I am a perfectionist.
As part of our yearly tradition, my five year old and I sat down to decorate a gingerbread house. Unfortunately, when I opened the box, the pre-built house was a pretty accurate depiction of 2020, with a crack down the center of the roof and the whole thing barely staying together. When we started to apply the icing it got worse, the construction tumbling down while I desperately repaired it.
It didn't turn out like the picture. Turns out I'm not known for my sugary carpentry skills.
The perfectionist in me hates this kind of thing. I want it to look like the picture on the box. I want to be the Martha Stewart mom who perfectly decorates gingerbread houses for her kids. And my perfectionism was ready to come out full force as I gripped the crumbling roof pieces together.
But there's one quote that stood out in my mind, as it has many times this year, by public speaker and social worker Brene Brown. If you happen to be a mental health worker right now, there's a good chance that you've worshiped at the throne at Brene Brown. Or at least know some of her disciples.
“All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.”
If you're reading this quote in context, you'll see that she's talking about our judgment for others. She's inviting us to assume that when people blunder it is not because of their innate evil, but simply their humanity, that we see.
As a perfectionist though, this quote directly applied to my self-talk. I often assume that people are doing their best, but I just as often exempt myself from that category. Holding on to this quote reminds me that not only am I doing my best but that my best is a fluid concept. My best is the best that I can do in that moment, with the knowledge that I have in that moment. My best when I am tired is not the same as my best when I am refreshed. And they are both valid.
2020 has been a whirlwind of a year. Within those whirlwinds I hope that we've all been able to catch snippets of value. For me, it has meant to manage my responsibilities as well as I can in the moment and really let "good enough" BE good enough. In the case of the gingerbread house, it meant grounding myself, telling my perfectionism to go sit in the corner, and enjoying the moment with my kid. The finished product won't be gracing the cover of Martha's magazines anytime soon, but it made my kid smile. It brought a little bit of Christmas into our home. And I did my best. I'm choosing to give myself some grace this year, and I hope that you will as well.