Monday, April 11, 2011

Progress Not Perfection

I usually try to stay positive and share funny things and crafty tidbits here on our blog but today's post is something I've been ruminating and pondering on for a few days. I just can't seems to figure it out and don't know how to change it. So this is my attempt to get it all down and try to make some sense of it.

Progress not perfection. That has become my mantra in my adult life. I have always struggled with the idea that somehow I am supposed to be perfect, do everything right and never make mistakes. While I know that this is not realistic or even possible, I have never been able to fully let go of this idea. I do not have this expectation of others. As a matter of fact I am very forgiving and understanding of the mistakes of others, after all they are only human! But try as I might I can't accept this idea for myself. Yes, I know this is my own crazy issue! It's one that I usually try to keep hidden but it's come to the surface this week. When Nature Girl was born I learned to let go of some of my internal need to be perfect. She was fussy and had to be held 24 hours a day. I couldn't do things to my previous standard so I learned to let go a little. Apparently not enough!

It seems that Nature Girl has inherited a bit of this perfectionism. Her report card came home last week. Students are graded on this scale: S- = standard not met, S = standard met, and S+ = exceeds standard. Nature Girl's report card was all S and S+ with the exception of two little areas that were S-. Both areas are skills that just require a little bit more rote practice, which we will ensure she gets. My husband and I were pleased with her report card. We praised her as we reviewed it together. When she saw the first S- she started to cry. I felt so terrible!!! To see her so upset about it was heart breaking! She's just in first grade. It is not our expectation that her report card be perfect but it seems to be her expectation. She has always been a child that does not like to be wrong, make mistakes or lose( I wonder where is got that from?!!).

So this leads me to wonder is perfectionism a trait that is inherited? How can I teach her from a young age to stop reaching for something that is a myth and is never possible to achieve? Better yet how do I teach myself that so I can teach her? Being motivated and ambitious is not a bad thing but feeling terrible when you haven't done something perfect, even when that something very small, is a bad thing! I don't want her to struggle through life with this. Somehow I need to remember the mantra - "Progress not perfection." - and teach her as well. So how do I do that? Telling her that she's not perfect and we don't expect her to be isn't enough. We've already been doing that so it's time for a new plan. I just haven't figured it out what that plan is yet. Wish us luck!


Mama Said Sew said...

That's a tough one. As a perfectionist, I'm not much help on this issue. I'd recommend researching online or finding books about kids and perfectionism. Good luck Jill!

jovaliquilts said...

I hear you loud and clear! In my family we all suffer from perfectionism and, like you, I was aware of mine and tried not to pass it on to my children. We tried to be open about it, say phrases about not being perfect (like you are doing), and also when the kids were in preschool and grade school we had what became almost a little game. When something came up in which either my husband or I was wrong, we'd laugh and say, "Oh, no, I made a mistake! First time ever!" And the kids would shout, "No it's not! Everyone makes mistakes!" It's a hard balance between caring about what you do/doing your best, and realizing that we're not perfect. Good luck! It's a process.

Apryl said...

I suffer from the same thing. I know I'm not perfect but I'm very unforgiving of my own faults, or things that I see as not being perfect enough. We try to teach H that he must always do his best, not be perfect but to try to do his best work in everything that he does and we are happy when he does that. It's easier to be forgiving of others than ourselves. I'm not a driven person probably because I hold myself back with my constant fretting over everything I do.

good luck. I hope you find a happy balance. All we can ever do is try to do the best we can.

val said...

children learn what they live....she sees YOU being hard on YOURSELF, expecting perfection. Ease up on yourself, laugh at your mistakes and let yourself be at ease with things not quite the way you'd like them....she will soon follow suit.
Remember, even non verbal ques are easily picked up. If you do something
less than perfect and she sees you roll your eyes or call yourself stupid....she will do the same......

Karen said...

My daughter was an over-acheiver when she was little too. She'd ask for extra credit work and was used to winning all kinds of awards. She won an honorable mention once and as soon as we got home, he threw the certificate on the ground and stomped on it. I realized that she was watching me in my quest for perfection in all I did. I'd spend days cleaning my house before a party and then be so stressed during the party that everything was just right, that I didn't even enjoy time with my guests. I actually read an awesome book about hospitality that really helped me to realize that people were coming to my home to see me, not my home. That has rolled over into all the other areas of my life and now I see that same "ease" in my adult daughter. I think it's harder for women/girls because we try to be everything to everyone. 4 words I try to remind myself "Be kind to yourself" and the rest will fall into place. You are an amazing woman and I'm sure your daughter is going to grow into an amazing woman as well :)