This is not my laundry closet. I believe what I have is more appropriately called a laundry dungeon. Still, I do love pictures of tidy, sparkling cupboards, “mud” rooms, and, of course, closets.
My house doesn’t look like one of these very lovely Pinterest images and that’s okay. Other people do have houses like this, and that’s okay too. I admire and applaud their dedication to beautifying and organizing their homes.
However, I think we need to be careful not to be too seduced by the idea of having everything be just so. We can’t expect to have every aspect of our life look like it should be documented in a magazine.
There is no such thing as perfect. Everyone intellectually knows this. Yet, somehow the striving for perfection is a big part of our lives. Well-meaning people everywhere are sold on the idea that if things are perfect, they will be safe and happy. This is the myth of perfection.
Perfection is actually a big bully that will rob you of joy, lead you to fear, and keep you feeling constantly inadequate.
The pursuit of perfection is a fear-based activity. It says things must be perfect or else something bad will happen. If my grades are not straight A’s, I’m a failure who will never go to college and will end up homeless and I’ll be a disgrace to my parents. If I don’t look perfect, I’ll never find a partner and I’ll be insignificant and die alone. If I let my kids eat something other than organic food ever or watch a couple of hours of TV, they will fail and hate me and it will be all my fault.
These sound like extreme views, but I don’t really think they are. Honest, reasonable people from my personal and professional life tell me these kinds of stories all the time. Think deep on this one. Do you buy into some need for perfection in your life?
When we aim for perfection in our lives, we will always feel let down. Being a human is not conducive to perfection. I don’t really know how we got so fond of the idea anyway.
I reject perfectionism. I’m going to eat well because it makes me feel good, but sometimes I’m going to eat something that is highly pleasing that’s unhealthy because it exists and I want it. I’m going to work pretty hard because I love what I do and want to make a living to support my family, but sometimes I make mistakes or need to take a couple of days off. I’m going to try to be attentive to my child, but sometimes she is going to fall or struggle because she is a human being.
I believe that the myth of perfection is behind a substantial and unnecessary amount of anxiety in our society. I think it leads us to fear being ourselves, puts pressure on ourselves and those around us to be super-human, and makes connecting with each other more difficult. If I don’t want to admit to being imperfect, I’m going to present myself in a false way, expect my family to live up to this as well, and certainly not admit or seek help when I falter.
I want to be myself without the burden of being perfect. I want to be authentic and connected with others. That means that sometimes I forget things and maybe my hair is messy. Maybe my child has a big stain on her shirt today. Maybe I have no clean socks. But maybe that’s a small price for putting other things that felt more important first today.
But now maybe I really do need to go and do some laundry.