On Being a Perfectionist…
Note, this article was originally published in Thrive Global and featured in the book, For Mothers, By Mothers: Stories & Reflections Of Wisdom Along The Journey Of Motherhood. It is a heartfelt share of my struggle with perfectionism in my life and business.
I’m going to share with you how I had to lose my eyesight in order to truly see myself.
Sounds dramatic? It was, I was, everything was.
I was exhausted, physically, mentally, all of it. My lifetime struggle of being the perfect designer, perfect business owner, wife, mother and stepmother left me quarantined in the hospital with a life-altering case of shingles the day my daughter was born.
I thought shingles was something old people got, not a 30-something woman. Shingles the result of a weakened immune system, it’s the result of overwhelming stress.
Let me make this real for you. I’m a creative graphic designer. I was paid to design the perfect website, perfect logo, to create THE award-winning design that was going to launch your business into the world and create massive success.
I met the love of my life and became an instant stepmom to two boys. I didn’t know how to be a mother, much less a stepmother. I compared myself to other moms, “perfect” mothers, and always saw the lack in what I was doing or not doing, so, naturally, I tried to do more.
A year later we had our baby boy and I was scared to death that I wouldn’t be able to handle my business, being a wife, being that “strong fearless businesswoman” and now completely responsible for the life of this little human.
Don’t get me started on the comparison game, I did it everywhere.
Who was I? Wife? Mom? Business Woman? Woman? Yogi? I started to lose my sense of identity. The first thing to go? My sense of self.
I was doing “all the things” at an incredibility high level. I was on the board of directors for the most prestigious graphic design community in the world. I was making more money than I had over before in my business.
I knew I had to find some peace…so, like any high-performing perfectionist, I thought, “Hot Yoga with weights! Perfect, I can get the workout + 10 minutes of peace and prayer in 1 hour flat, nailed it!”
Everything in my life was at this high level of intensity.
Fast forward 2 years and I wanted to have another baby. Get this: I created a power point presentation with images explaining to my husband how having another child would be ok because I calculated the number of loads of laundry we do a week, how much we drive, shop, and all the other to-do’s that I had “completely handled, no problem.”
I was well aware things were going downhill, I felt the mounting pressure, I felt like a sham. So, what did I do? Started a non-profit creative community with a writer and photographer, because why not? Deep down I had a huge fear of never being in the creative community again. I thought I would be that overweight mom in yoga pants, with two kids in the suburbs. I couldn’t let my perfect businesswoman persona be scarred by motherhood.
I hated being pregnant. You know why? Because I had no control.
As my baby did cartwheels in my belly I felt all control slip away and I fought to find an inkling of myself. By the end of my second pregnancy, I couldn’t walk a single block, I couldn’t pick up my son because my body was too weak and my soul to exhausted.
A few days before my scheduled C-section my left eye started to itch. I ignored it. I had too much going on, too much to do.
When I woke up from my C-section with my beautifully perfect baby girl I was in quarantine in the left wing of the hospital. The doctors and nurses had to wear protective gear to come into my room, and the left side of my face was swollen to the size of a football and electric red. , I could only see her out of one eye.
They told me I shouldn’t hold my baby because I might infect her. I was crushed.
Here was my baby I couldn’t take care of her.
I couldn’t do what I do best: take responsibility for all the things, take control of all the things so I could be perfect.
But, perfect for who? For what?
Here I was, a visual designer and I had a full-blown outbreak of shingles, which scarred my cornea and I lost my perfect 20/20 vision. Forever.
I was broken. I realized my life went in this order: kids, business, husband, social media, then, on a good day, I could squeeze in some me time. I’m literally so tense sharing this with you, I can feel my body getting nervous and hot.
This default way of being, was me, all the time. I had created my life to operate in full-blown stress mode. And the worst thing about it was that I had no idea, I thought this was “normal”
I asked for help.
It took a team of doctors, holistic healers, two life coaches and a Buddhist monk to help me recreate who I was for myself first.
My default lifestyle and quest for the high bar of perfection was (ridiculously) unattainable.
And here’s why, when I set the bar, I didn’t know what perfect was for me, which meant I could move that bar all over the place, never reaching it, never being perfect enough.
It’s taken me 4 years to own my story and share with you. I wear a hard corrective lense in this eye that squeezes my cornea enough that I can large type.
I have occasional outbreaks when stress creeps back in, because, hey, nobody’s perfect.
What this experience taught me….and listen to see if this resonates with you:
I exceed expectations to prove I’m valuable
I create perfect work to show you I’m worth it, I’m enough.
I work harder than anyone else to prove I can do it all.
I don’t know what “it all is”.
The pressure for women to have it all is beyond popular in motherhood, entrepreneurship and life. It leads to stress, insomnia, missed periods, massive headaches, and immune disorders, and it’s not normal, you don’t have to be that way.
I’m willing to bet you know someone who needs to hear this message, that the quest for perfection, the quest to have it all will never happen.
I want to let you know that I see you.
You can have it all, you just need to know what it all is for you.
You are perfect, you are more than enough.
Feel free to share with anyone you think may need to hear this.
Be bright in love,