Our modern society’s obsession with perfection is not only unhealthy for our well-being, it’s potentially damaging for our children’s too.
We see the charade of perfection everywhere we look. From the airbrushing of celebrity photos to remove even slight imperfections to Instagram streams of perfect homes and Facebook updates portraying perfect lives, it’s not enough to say that life is good. Life has to be great. Life must be perfect or you’re nothing. Inadequate. Third-rate.
Of course, reality is different. And yet so many of us feel a pang of jealousy when we read about other people’s lives on ‘Boastbook’, even though we should know better.
So we fret about our body image, the state of our houses, the fact that we are having a quiet Sunday at home when everyone else seems to be jetting around the world in a day having an amazing time and flaunting their success via humble brags. We set ourselves impossible parenting standards – and beat ourselves up for never meeting them. And we forget about the 90% of our lives that is good, while obsessing about the 10% that isn’t.
That’s bad enough. But by setting ourselves impossible standards, we are also indirectly telling our kids that merely good isn’t good enough. One day we will look back and see the insecurities and complexes that we have unconsciously drilled into them with our unattainable standards and the carefully curated windows into our lives that we and those around us present to the outside world.
It’s a bit crap, isn’t it?
Yes, we should know better than to judge our lives by the standards of a filtered social media feed. Our kids, however, don’t know better. It’s also easy to forget that adults can be just as vulnerable too.
I’m not ‘vulnerable’ but at the same time I’ve never been a confident person and, at times, I have suffered from low self-esteem. Many things have gone right in my life but when things go wrong I am my own worst critic and I can be very hard on myself. Too hard.
I know I could be a better parent. But does that mean I should beat myself up so much when I shout at the kids for no good reason or when I fail to meet my own standards? Probably not. It’s important for me to accept that my imperfections are normal and that I shouldn’t make the kids feel that they should be striving for perfection either. If it’s okay for their dad to be ever so slightly flawed, it’s okay for them too.
Making mistakes is fine. Indeed, we learn more and we learn more quickly from our mistakes than we do from our successes. It’s how we grow as individuals: we try, we fail, we try again, we eventually succeed. As someone once said:
A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.
That ‘someone’ was Albert Einstein. If that motto was good enough for one of the greatest minds of the 20th century, it’s good enough for all of us, no?
I’ve learned to accept that I’m never going to be a perfect parent and I’m not going to even try to be one. However, I can be a good parent and a better parent than I am today. And I want my children to grow up knowing that I will always expect them to aim for ‘good’ and ‘better’ – but not ‘perfect’.
I’m not going to let a few weeds in my metaphorical garden prevent me from stopping and smelling the roses. Life is too good on the whole to sweat the small stuff.
Sometimes ‘good enough’ is just that. It’s good enough.