I had always thought that being a perfectionist was a positive character attribute. When people would ask me to describe myself, I would often announce my perfectionist tendencies with a hint of pride. Little did I know that these same attributes that I so greatly enjoyed could easily turn toxic when left unchecked.
First, I started thinking that I really could do it all. Our lifestyle of homesteading naturally adds a greater level of activity to our everyday life, but apparently I still didn't think that was enough! In addition to my long list of daily homestead chores, I was attempting to make ALL of our food from scratch, keep the house and yard meticulously manicured, and maintain an active social life. Not to mention being a full-time mama to our busy 15 month old in the process.
As I added more and more to my to-do list, I never allowed myself to make healthy compromises or "relax" my standards at all.
As a result, the garden was never weeded enough for my tastes, the lawn was never mowed just how I wanted it to be, and the floors were never spotless enough. I was running a thousand different directions, never allowing myself to enjoy my work. I was only able to focus on the things that had yet to be done.
In order to stop this downward spiral, I've had to stop and re-evaluate the purpose behind my perfectionism. And my conclusion?
It has a lot to do with pride.
When "perfection" becomes an idol and a point of pride in your life, then you need to do something about it. Fast.
While there is nothing wrong with keeping a reasonably full schedule or desiring a tidy home, we must be careful not to elevate our desire for "perfect" over our relationship with God or our families.
Here are 3 of my best tips for fighting toxic perfectionism:
1. Make a list of priorities. Make a reasonable list of the things that need accomplished that particular day (or week). Cross them off as you go, then do not allow yourself to add any other items to the list for that day. Allow yourself to enjoy the completed tasks!
2. Compromise. When I finally realized how burned out I was becoming, I started to compromise in some areas. I decided that some tasks could wait (the dining room doesn't HAVE to be painted today...), and I even purchased some food items to lighten my load in the kitchen (Buying store-bought bread was painful, but I survived.)
3. Let it go. When all else fails, just stop obsessing over it. Couldn't get the laundry folded today? Then close the door and allow yourself to enjoy the evening. Fretting over it won't get it done.
It's a journey, but I'm thankful that I finally recognized the toxic perfectionism in my life. So what's on my to-do list for the fall? Playing with my daughter on the smudged kitchen floor, eating a sandwich or two on store-bought bread, and sitting out on my un-manicured lawn enjoying a sunset.
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