The other day I made a reel on my Instagram about one phrase I never say to my daughter or my students and that phrase is “practice makes perfect.” What a terrible thing to say to someone. To allow a small person with such a malleable mind think that perfection is actually attainable. In my caption I said the phrase I choose instead is “practice makes better than yesterday” and I received some comments and messages afterwards saying what other people choose to say in their home is “practice makes progress” which I thought had a nicer flow to it. Regardless of what you choose to say in your home I wanted to elaborate on why I cringe when I hear the phrase “practice makes perfect.”
As someone who struggles with perfectionism I know how debilitating it can be. My own perfectionism stemmed from the need to control what was happening in my life as a child/teen and it progressed into a relentless beast in my mind resulting in shame and negative self-talk. NOTHING I did was ever good enough for me, I received a 4.0 GPA in university but I still could’ve done better. I would put unrealistic expectations on myself knowing that I could not meet them and then beat myself up because in my eyes I was a failure. To make matters worse when I was feeling poorly about myself I projected those feelings onto others, placing unrealistic expectations on those I cared about most and ultimately causing strain in those relationships. I never truly realized how much my perfectionism was effecting my life though until I had my daughter.
If you have ever had the experience of having a new baby you know that you are at the whim of this tiny human and in order to truly thrive you need to be able to accept and let go. I am sure you can tell by now I was not a “go with the flow” person. I felt like I had zero control over my life and to top it off I only took 3 weeks off of work before going back to teach thinking it would be “easy.” I would just baby wear and finish out the teaching year with no issues at all. I was wrong. Things were very difficult. I found myself crying before I had to teach. I had extreme incidents of rage, never toward Katie thankfully, but I was angry all the time. My poor husband (bless his soul) still chose to stand by me and he was the one that pulled me out of the darkness and got me onto this journey of self-love. I’ll be forever grateful for that because I know how difficult I made that for him but he never gave up on me.
Perfectionism, however, is so engrained in me that even though I am actively working on treating myself with more compassion and grace there are still times when it overwhelms me. I struggle with asking for help because I need to uphold this image of being perfect and having it all together. Recently I am noticing these traits in my daughter (who is now five), she was making a card for her cousin the other day and she got really upset because it wasn’t PERFECT. I do not expect perfection out of her. All I care about is that she tries her best and I am very careful with the words I use with her. The person I am not careful with though is myself and even when I choose to speak differently to her she is seeing how I speak to myself which makes it acceptable to speak that way to herself. I have realized that in order to assist in changing her expectations of herself I need to go first. Katie needs to see me give myself grace when I make a mistake, she needs to see me ask others for help AND accept it when it is offered. Are there going to be days when I screw up and get hard on myself because that is the habit I have created? ABSOLUTELY. But the more I am conscious of it and work to change this habit I can create new pathways in my brain. As I progress I find I can catch myself sooner and then choose a different response rather than choosing to react to the feeling that I NEED to be in control.
In a world where we are constantly comparing ourselves to others highlight reels on social media it can be easy to think that we are the only ones that do not have their shit together. This couldn’t be further from the truth. NO ONE IS PERFECT and it ok to be messy and make mistakes but it is how you treat yourself when you do make mistakes that is important. The feelings of guilt, shame and unworthiness will inevitably creep in from time to time but you can decide to respond differently by choosing love, grace, acceptance and forgiveness for yourself instead. You deserve your love and if you have children there is no greater thing you can teach them than self-love and respect. I believe the only way to do that is by doing it for yourself. The world would be a better place if we all loved OURSELVES more.