The Truth Behind Perfectionism

February 28, 2011

THEY say that if you pay attention, your children will teach you as much or more than you can possibly teach them. I was reminded of this last night while watching various acceptance speeches during the Oscar’s…One gentleman, fighting back tears, thanked his wife and infant daughter…”who will surely teach me more than I could ever possibility teach her.”

My children are grown. They are living independent lives of their own creation. Naturally as a parent, I had ideas of just exactly what their lives should look like. While I am anything but disappointed, their lives have turned out differently than I imagined. I realize more and more  that one of the most sacred lessons my children have taught me is to let go: let go of expectations, plans…shoulds, coulds and so many many “have too’s”.  My children have taught me that perfectionism isn’t a measure of happiness or success. They have taught me to care as much about my own needs as the needs of others. They have taught me that the stress and anxiety manifested through out my internal being isn’t a desirable trait or a cherished outcome by those I care about most. They have taught me that perfect for them doesn’t have me a wild wreck trying to get every last detail in order. They have convinced me that my stress, no matter what wonderful thing is the  justification, is never a gift for them. They would rather have a relaxed me, than a perfect scenario.



A Perfectionist Mother Trying to Do Things Right:

“When I began motherhood, I was fairly liberal politically but fairly rigid in how I viewed my role as parent. This was partly the result of my temperament and partly the consequence of a childhood in which there were many “shoulds,” “oughts,” “rights,” and “wrongs.” Although I didn’t insist on spotless floors and neatly made beds, being a perfectionist permeated many facets of my parenting.

As a child I never questioned whether I was being asked to be perfect; my siblings were also perfectionists in one way or another. Our parents’ high standards left little room to question the reasons for their rules and values – an attitude typical for that generation. When a child was told to jump, she was expected to say, “How high?” and not, “Why?”

As a recovering perfectionist I can see why perfectionism is a common feature of the human character. After all, perfectionists give the best they have to offer. You can generally count on them to do what they say they’ll do, even if it means giving up their own needs to be sure you’re satisfied. On the other hand, I now realize that the standards of perfectionists are usually those others consider “right,” not necessarily those the perfectionist herself would choose – if she could freely follow the dictates of her own heart.”

While raising our most cherished sons and daughters, we teach them to follow their hearts. One of life’s greatest lessons we as their parents/role models/advocates need to learn, is to follow our own…

5 Responses to “The Truth Behind Perfectionism”

  1. Madge Woods Says:

    Wonderfully said Kristine.

  2. Madge Woods Says:


    Kristine, I once had a wise therapist who told me I just had to be “good enough” and I have followed her advice for many years and it works for me. My kids also are grown and on their own and I have learned once they got married it was bett…er to keep my mouth close and when they had kids even more important. I try and I would say 90% I am good enough and 10% what the hell do you think you are doing????? comes out of my mouth. Totally understand. In my effort to “help” them see my way I have to say my mantra and just breathe and step back behind the line.

  3. Lisa Kaser Says:

    Both commentaries are wonderfully stated and I appreciated the reminder as a parent of a child who is now an adult. The most valued role is to cheer madly from the sidelines as they make their way and stand strong beside them. Thank goodness for our children.

  4. Kristine~Loved this and so true~
    Having no children but teaching for 25 years I learned so much from, yes, the K and two and three years old I taught. Yet for me your blog is reverse for it was my Gram who taught me young to do for myself first and to deal with each day best I can. That there are paths in life that will happen that have no answers and along them I will find sorrow and joy. Human nature is to question~which is great~but she taught me not to dwell over what I have no control over and that each person can deal with a certain situation in a zillion different ways and at times there is no right or wrong it is what they need. Loved this Kristine. We all do learn from each other no matter what the relationship.

  5. daddy david Says:

    amen my love

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