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Stop Chasing Perfect

I’m currently reading a book called Quitter by Jon Acuff. I’m not done with it yet, so I’ll save the book report for another post. But there is one thing that he wrote that has haunted my thoughts for the past few weeks.

Stop chasing perfect.

Sometimes you read something and it so accurately speaks to your situation that you wonder if the writer was secretly spying on you when he wrote the words. That’s how I felt when I read the phrase stop chasing perfect.

You see, I’m very good at chasing Perfect. I mastered this skill at a young age. Because as a child, my definition of perfect was a report card filled with A’s. For 16 solid academic years I chased Perfect. Most years, I caught Perfect and I held it in my hands and gazed triumphantly at it with a smile. My parents hung Perfect on the refrigerator and gave me money for catching her (of course this ended when they realized that they were losing a lot of money and I would still chase Perfect even without the monetary incentive).

Yes, for many years, Perfect and I played a handsome game of cat and mouse. Each year, Perfect would raise the bar and I would work that much harder to catch her. You could call us frienemies. Some years she would win, but only by one or two B’s. She was never that far out of reach.

But something happened when I graduated college. Something no teacher prepared me for. Life stopped handing out report cards. Which meant Perfect was no longer something that could be easily defined and achieved. That’s a difficult pill to swallow when you’ve spent your whole life holding hands with Perfect.

I invented new rules to find Perfect. I was willing to try anything to get her back into my life. Perfect became doing all the laundry, cooking a healthy dinner every night, going to the gym 4-5 times a week, keeping the house clean, not yelling at my kids, and not snapping at my husband.

Perfect raised the bar and she raised it high. I’ve always been one for a challenge so I accepted it and began an eight-year endurance run towards Perfect. But Perfect always seemed just out of my reach. If I didn’t catch her today, tomorrow I’ll be that much closer. By next week, I will have Perfect right where I want her.

That’s why Jon’s words hit me so hard.

I realized that Perfect is nothing more than a life that I imagined. It is not real. I can try harder and harder every day but I will never catch Perfect. She is not just around the corner. She is not at the end of my five-year plan. Instead, she is a siren calling me toward the dangerous rocks of self-loathing and disappointment.

My new goal is to except the plight of the C student. Be okay with being average. Sometimes I’m above average, perhaps, even excellent. But there are other times when I am below average, sometimes even failing. That’s okay too. Gone are the days of excelling in every subject.

I want to focus on being excellent in a few things. I want to be excellent at making time for my husband and kids. I want to be excellent at showing them love every single day. I’m learning that might mean being average at folding laundry and cleaning the kitchen. I’m trying hard to be okay with that.

Goodbye Perfect. We had a good run. But it’s time to move on.

Comments

MahGah

Bravo!!!!! Good for you! You, my wonderful daughter, are (have always been and will always be) GOOD ENOUGH! I think that’s perfect!

Charlotte Hart

Love this piece! Enjoying your blog, Susan.

Susan Ward

Thanks Charlotte!

AnnieBlogs

LOVE this. I still have to read Jon’s book… it’s part of my summer reading plan. :)

Thanks for writing this. So beautiful.

Southern Gal

Yes, that perfectionism is a joy stealer. I know from experience.
Here from Annie’s place.

Sarah

Hey there! Found your post from Annie Blogs . . . really enjoyed this! I also struggle with the need to chase perfect and, like you, I struggled much more after graduation. Thanks for this powerful reminder that we don’t need to chase.

Susan Ward

Thanks Sarah! Glad to know I am not the only one who struggles with this!