Parenting

Moms Are Constantly Striving For Perfection, And We Have To Stop

Julia Meslener for Scary Mommy and FPG/ fotograzia/Getty

Welp, it’s been a year. A long-ass year of living in a constant state of change and fear of what’s coming next. It’s no surprise that the pandemic has had an impact on our mental health as a collective, but what I am most concerned about are those mamas suffering with long-term perfectionism who have lost all control over the past twelve months.

Perfectionism is born out of the patriarchy and is fueled by the desire to survive. To fit in, to be safe, and be recognizable. Ever since the caveman/cavewoman days, our brains have evolved to KEEP US SAFE. Back then, we had to be particularly aware of our surroundings as to not be eaten, or kicked out of the group and therefore more vulnerable. Over the years, our brains have learned to be more aware of ourselves, the people around us, and the possible worst case outcomes we are facing. This is called catastrophizing and so many of us suffer from this naturally.

However, perfectionists are really good at noticing where they fall short, being aware of all that could go wrong and placing huge amounts of pressure on themselves to be good enough through and through, regardless of their circumstances. As women, and mamas in particular, we have learned if we just follow the rules, do as we are told, put everyone and everything above our one needs, and look good while doing it, and act right while doing it, well then … we are most likely safe.

And all of this has become nothing short of psychological torture for us during these times.

Why?

Because the rules and the game have changed. Our normal has changed. Our rhythms and ways of being have changed. And how can we quickly adjust to the new normal in a perfect way without the experience, the knowledge — and for fuck’s sakes, the support?

So, mamas who have taken on the burden inflicted by COVID in their households are now stuck in this cycle of not doing what they want and need AND feeling like an absolute failure in every arena in their lives.

How can we be successful working from home while our kids are screaming in the other room? How can we take care of our mental health when the things we used to do to release, express and process hard things have been taken from us, and in place we are so busy ensuring our kids’ emotional, physical, social and spiritual needs are still met?

We feel like we are losing control and when we are losing control we tend to revert back to old unhealthy patterns to cope. Which is why we are seeing women drinking more, and experiencing more anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges.

I see you mama, because I am you. I started drinking more than ever, worrying more than ever, and began experiencing pains in my chest and body I had never felt before. Here are some things that have helped me and the amazing women I work with every day:

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Normalize the REAL normal.

Say out loud with me right now: THIS SHIT IS HARD. I am doing the best I can. Any and all feelings I am experiencing during these wild times are also normal and part of the human experience.

Take 10 deep belly breaths.

Five seconds in through the nose, all the way down to the belly. Pause at the top. Five seconds (or longer) exhaling slowly through the nose. Repeat. This calms our nervous system by ticking the vagus nerve, which sends a message to our brains that we are safe, therefore releasing calming hormones throughout.

Have radical self compassion and acceptance for your tendency to want to be good enough (aka the perfectionism).

I get it. You are just trying to survive. Lots of love.

Be intentional with your resources.

We simply are not an unlimited tank of energy so we have to choose wisely what we expend energy on. Get clear on your core values and what matters most and do your best in those areas. We can’t be our best at everything all the time. Especially now. Choose 1-2 areas of focus and go hard for those. Give yourself permission to be mediocre at the rest. Here’s what’s cool: Your mediocre won’t be received as mediocre to the rest of the world because your standards are off the charts in the first place.

Choose to see the enough-ness.

Feel your feelings. Normalize the hard. Then, face the sun and choose to see the enough-ness because when we do, we send a completely different biochemical response through the brain and body. It just feels better to focus on what’s safe, going well, beautiful and enough. And since our brains have evolved to see the not enough-ness, we have neural pathways built around seeing the bad and in order to rewire our brains we have to consciously see the good. Over and over again until we build new neural connections around that which is when it will begin to happen naturally.

As a mama and recovering perfectionist myself, I know the struggle is so real right now. And yet, is it also an assignment from the universe teaching us to finally let go, surrender, release these impossible expectations set upon us that we bought into? Is it an opportunity to get clear on what matters most to us and reshuffle the deck of priorities in our lives, placing us at the top (or closer to the top)?

We know we cannot serve from a dry well and that we have to put our oxygen mask on before saving others, and is this not a daily teaching to do just that?

You are important, mama. Those pressures to be perfect are OUT. Un-perfecting is IN.

May this serve in meaningful ways.