Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Perfection or Justification?

I really want to thank all of you who left comments on my Routine Post yesterday. Seriously, your experiences have helped me out so much! There was one comment that sparked the inner-workings of my brain and reminded me of something I have been thinking about lately. I decided I needed to write an entire post (all be it, short) about this idea, and it is! Thanks to Katie for leaving the following comment: another LDS mother of four little kids, I do have a suggestion. Give yourself a break. We live in such a culture of perfectionism that we sometimes forget that we are expected to TRY--not to have it all figured out *right now*. And I know that is difficult since everyone around you looks like they have it figured out already (or, at least, the ones around me usually do). So I'll tell you my reality. My house is messy. My kids spend most of the day in unstructured play (which is healthy for them to have, really). Sometimes dinner comes out of a box (or a takeout). And sometimes I'm preparing for my calling in Young Women up until right before I leave for mutual (heck, sometimes I'm still doing it while the girls are walking in the room). My husband and I were talking about this last night. It is so easy to lose perspective when you think of all of the things it seems like you *should* be doing. But as long as you're keeping your family first, you are doing what you need to. The rest falls into place.

She has a similar perspective to a lot of LDS women, I've noticed. Many LDS women feel the need --nay, the right --to give themselves a break. And I don't blame them! I actually agree with this, because sometimes women are very hard on themselves. Comparisons to other women (to the ideal) along with pity for their failures, women are their own worst critics.
But somewhere along the way, this attitude of "giving yourself a break" has taken a nasty turn in my opinion, and personally? I think that's what prompted Sister Beck's talks in the Relief Society Meeting (Oct. 2007) and in General Conference.

LDS women don't have time to wallow. We don't have time to engage in notorious amounts of self-pity. And believe you me, dear reader, I wallow and pity myself. A lot.

I think that if LDS women are truly to live up to their potential, they need to stop engaging in both of these harmful attitudes. They need to stop expecting perfection, and they need to stop slacking off.

Where is the happiness in demanding instant perfection? At the same time, where is the happiness in constant justification? Honestly, if I would just pick myself out of Satan's Pity Trap and get to work, I would be happier. I know this, because I do it over and over and over and over...Thus the post about routines. I knew I needed help, so I got it and now I'm movin' on. Will it be perfect? Heavens, no! Will I probably have to re-visit the subject again and again? Fo' shizzle. But will it help me stop wallowing for a time? Hallelujah, yes!

So, dear reader, how do you view these types of things? Are you too hard on yourself? Or are you too easy on yourself? Where do you fall? And what are you trying to do about it?


Kelly A. said...

I'm all over the board. I wallow in self pity, doubt and donuts until I am sick of myself. Then I dig in and go 100 miles an hour in every part of my life, get things whipped into shape, get myself straightened out, realize life is much better when I am productive and vow to never lose control again...until the next time I lose control. Then I start wallowing and telling myself I am deserving of a break.

I'm a work in progress. I big crazy mess in progress, but pretty awesome too!

Good luck getting your groove back. You can have mine in about a week, I'm due for a meltdown.

Anonymous said...

I am too hard on myself. And then I'm too easy on myself. And then I go back to being hard on myself. Until I tell myself to just lay off already. In between I might actually get some stuff done.

TftCarrie said...

Honestly, I'm practically perfect in every way.


Julie said...

This was the entire jist of that Motherhood journal entry I once did. I know we shouldn't be hard on ourselves, but for crying out loud, most of us (or maybe just me) can do more and better than we are doing. Especially in the most important aspects of our lives. So, yes, I agree with you. And I'm much more productive when I find myself somewhere in the middle.

Leslie said...

Of course...LDS women are notorious for being too hard on themselves, but we can also be way too easy on ourselves. Isn't that why Pres. Hinckley always told us to to a little better. He wasn't are just doing all you can Sisters, take a break.

I think we do have a tendency to expect perfection from ourselves and then get all depressed and angry because we aren't perfect. We compare ourselves to the perfect woman down the block, next door, at church, etc. and we feel that we just don't measure up. This is what we have to change.

We need to stop comparing what we are and can do with others and simply ask the Lord, "What do you want me to do." He certainly knows our abilities and strengths and he most definately knows our weaknesses...and He doesn't want us to be beating ourselves up, but He certainly wants us to be tring to do better.

So...where am I? Some days I'm too hard on myself...some days I'm too easy on myself. I'm working on figuring out the difference.

Long comment...don't know if I'm making much sense...If this is crazy...just know that my brain is pretty much useless at the moment.

m&m said...

I have thought a lot about these kinds of extremes lately. I personally think that the tendency to go to one extreme or another in almost any facet of our lives is part of the 'natural man.' It's easier to be at an extreme, because there is no nuance there, no opposition, no need to look to God for guidance, help, direction, strength. If I'm already perfect, I don't need Christ. If I convince myself I can't do anything, I am in the mode of a sort of learned helplessness or paralyzing addiction to failure (the Osguthorpes talked about this at Women's Conference... so amazing). If we are in that mode, we sort of stop trying, which means we also stop reaching upward to a degree.

Balance. That is my quest. Hard quest, but doable!

Jamie J said...

I think I mostly let myself slack too much. I should be more motivated to do things. Yeah I'm busy and things eventually get done but I'm usually pretty lazy. I'd like to be more structured and stay true to my goals about not wasting time on the computer, but I don't. There are other things I wish I did better, but a lot of time I'm just lazy.

Lanette said...

You know everything goes to weight loss for me - people think they have to be perfect to lose weight - they always find they can't be perfect so many GIVE UP and eat whatever they want until they get depressed enough to try to be perfect again. I have learned - as I know you have - that health is found somewhere in the middle. It's that way with everything - we long for excellence - it's our birthright, but we'll always fall short and that's OK as long as we keep trying.

If we really believe in the atonement we'll do our best and know it's enough.

Janelle said...

I think this issue is why the story of Mary and Martha is included in the NT. We just need to learn to choose "the better part." Sometimes the better part is a disaster of a house because the kids need us or a calling "calls." Other times it is forgoing a GNO because our husbands need us at home more. Sometimes it is choosing to not let our kid participate in the all stars game because its on Sunday. Choosing the better part requires individual attention to the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

Last year I had a friend tell me that I was a horrible wife and mother and cited my lack of cleaning, cooking and what she saw as a motivation to serve for praise. OUCH. If you are screaming at the computer that these items were none of her business, I would agree with you. And yet, I doubt that any conversation has changed me more (well maybe one or two) The conversation led to a lot of introspection and heartache. My husband had not complained, but I knew I could do better. Because of this I learned how to cook and I'm now in the process of learning to clean. My alms have been in silent and more meaningful. Well this is a long post but I think that "choosing the better part" will lead to more peace, love and tranquility at home. Let us all be Marys when in comes to spirituality.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Janelle. You just put much more eloquent words to what I was trying to say in my original comment. It isn't that I think we should give ourselves a free pass, just that we should prioritize and not feel guilty about the things that we have to let go.

I remember being in a nutrition class several years ago and having the professor talk about the fact that LDS women are much more likely to suffer from eating disorders than women in the general population. She believed it had to do with our stress on perfection leading some women to resort to that extreme sense of control with their food. I always think about that when women in the church get discouraged about what they aren't doing instead of focusing on what they are. It can reach an extreme that takes us to physical harm.

I really like the Mary/Martha analogy and the idea of focusing on the "better part."


Mother of the Wild Boys said...

I too have up days and down days. Overall, I feel the best when I am actively pursuing something. I just try to vary the things that I am pursuing so that some are more for fun (blogging) and some are more of a challenge (going back to college). But I'm like you Cheryl, I like to be busy.

I have to add, I was much harder on myself (and had more depression issues) before my injury. Back then I really had no reason not to think that I could do it all. It was a big wake up call for me when I became unable to walk, care for my kids, or even make meals. I had to stop and look at my worth outside of the "stuff" that I was used to doing. I found my worth as a daughter of God, and I try to keep that image in mind as I "judge" myself and/or my progress.

Rochelleht said...

I don't think I'm too hard or too easy. When I'm sucking it up as a mom, I acknowledge and fix it.

I don't really every compare myself to other moms. I let that one go long ago. Too many unhappy years waisted on the comparison game. It really is useless.

Cheryl said...

Thank you! Your comments have given me a lot to think about and I really appreciate all of your insights.

Btw, just for the record, tftcarrie really is practically perfect in every way. Almost. :)

Amanda said...

I agree with Julie. I KNOW that I could be doing better. But I let myself slack, because "I deserve it." I really need to work harder...

Lanette is also spot on. I am having those EXACT same thoughts. Last night I ate crackers because I feel like I can't do it. But then in a few weeks I will be so annoyed with myself and try to be "perfect" again. Sigh.

Someday (soon) I'll get this figured out!

Julie said...

I like that Mary/Martha comparison. I've always been intrigued by that story. Christ didn't stop Martha from doing her work and only when she stopped to complain and compare herself to Mary did he point out the "better part." He knew that what Martha was doing was good and important (we all have to eat and live in a decently clean environment) but he also wanted her to understand that in the moments where we have the opportunity to choose to learn at his feet, we should choose that better part. Sometimes I wonder how things went before he got there...what were those sisters doing? And sometimes I think I don't relate to either of them -- I think I'm more like their little sister Matilda who was in the other room watching TV and didn't even know Christ was there. I want to be a little bit Martha AND a little bit Mary. I guess that means I want to be like Christ. And amazingly, he can make that happen if I'm willing to allow it.

Lizzie said...

I'm not sure why I haven't commented on this yet... odd. Anyway, I totally agree with you on this Cheryl. I'm the person who is RARELY too hard on herself. I'm usually the one who needs to check herself and crack the whip. At least since I started being a stay-at-home mom. For me, I think it ties in to being ADD, because I do very well under extreme structure. But the job of "mom" doesn't have the same sort of structure as the outside working world. I think for so many years society didn't give credit to the amount of real work it takes to run a household, which is completely unfair, but unfortunately has resulted in a reverse backlash where now there is an overall thought in Stay-at-Home Mom's that "See, world, this IS a hard job! So hard, in fact, it's ok that it doesn't all get done. Just give me the credit I deserve for trying!". I think some SAHM see themselves as Saints for just taking the job, but don't want to actually do the work. I find for myself, I really need to look at being a Mom as my JOB. Wayne works all day at his JOB, and his reward is the money our family needs to survive. I work all day at my JOB, and my reward is the orderly house and educated/reared children that our family needs to survive. When I start to slack off, I usually have to have a personal inventory day, where I sit down and really think if I'm doing all I can at my job, as if I were in the work place. At all jobs, there's always more work to be done than can be done, so you do your best and in the time and manner that can be reasonably expected. So I transfer that to my work at home. The house needs to be clean. Right now, with a wild 3 year old that also requires a lot of one-on-one therapy time and being 9-months pregnant, is it REASONABLE for the house to be spotless and completely scrubbed at all times? No. But is it reasonable for me to pick up the house and keep it within santary conditions? Yes. Would I rather lie in bed and watch tv? Of course, but then I wouldn't be doing my job, and if I was in the working world, I'd get fired.