You Don’t Have to Be Perfect, But You Can Be Good

Every few months I break down sobbing because I remember that deep down, I am fatally flawed. I am broken, defective, worthless. I am no good at anything. Everything that’s going wrong in life is my fault. I work incredibly hard at everything, and it’s still just not good enough.

For a while tonight while I was crying, I thought I should go away for a week so my husband and kids could see if they’d do better without me. If they could, then I’d just go live as a hermit somewhere. Of course, I realized that was stupid, my husband would go nuts without me driving the kids around, helping our son do his homework, buying groceries, doing laundry, etc.

I’m a Perfectionist. Not just by self-definition, I’ve actually been tested. My therapist did the Enneagram with me, and it was pretty clear that I’m a Perfectionist. No matter how well I’m doing, I should always be doing better.

This probably started early on for me. My father was running from the law for most of my childhood, and I think I believed that if I were perfect he would somehow stop being angry, would stop breaking the law, and would love me. Somehow my being perfect would protect him and me.

I totally understand that my thoughts are not rational, but I think that my feelings of worthlessness are hard-wired in my brain. It’s going to take a lot of re-training to make new connections in my brain that allow me to forgive and to accept myself.

I’ve come a long way already. Before when I would have friends over, I would sweep and mop the night before, no matter how tired I was. I used to be afraid to watch other people’s kids even for just an hour or two. I used to try to pretend I was perfect. This made me an extremely big pain in the ass. I’m lucky I’ve managed to keep some of my friends from over 10 years ago. I was such a jerk. People who’ve read my post about judging people who take public assistance would rightfully argue I can still be a jerk.

I told my son once, “You don’t have to be perfect, but you can be good.” Recently when I was getting really impatient and frustrated with my daughter, my son came to me and reminded me of this sentiment. I’m not sure why I worry so much about him. Sometimes he seems so much wiser than me.


I’ve gotten much better about admitting to other people that I’m not perfect. I’ve got to practice admitting to myself that it’s really okay for me not to be perfect. It’s not doing my kids any favors to set expectations that none of us can reach.

One of my biggest problems is taking on too many things. Trying to help out at church, at my son’s school, with my friends, trying to be a writer, trying to keep up with my book club, and on and on.

I’m going to take a step back and start over with my To Do List. If I pull the plants out of the garden, I don’t have to feel guilty that I’m not tending it. I can write blog posts when I feel I have something to share, not just because about a week has gone by.

I know that having compassion for myself makes me more able to have compassion for others, and God knows my kids need compassion. They have me for their mother. (That’s totally supposed to be a joke.)

What do you do to keep from making yourself crazy doing too much or working too hard?

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3 thoughts on “You Don’t Have to Be Perfect, But You Can Be Good

  1. Mara Migraineur October 13, 2013 at 11:46 pm Reply

    You have apparently been residing in my brain. My childhood nickname was “Miss Perfect” – except that my mother failed to mention to me that the nickname was sarcastic. She could tell I didn’t want anyone to know I wasn’t perfect, and then her calling me that doubled my feelings of needing to live up to that standard. And I know I have get upset with my kids for ridiculous things – things I’ll do and not get upset at myself for. Sooo…why did I just get upset at my kid for it? Ugh. And knowing that my thoughts are irrational doesn’t really make a huge difference.

    As for how to keep from making myself crazy doing too much? Well, umm, I don’t do anything? I’ve kind of dropped off the religious community wagon – I know it’s selfish, but if they don’t have anything to offer me in the way of support, then I’ve got nothing to give in return. I’m in a place in my life when I need support and volunteering my life away isn’t going to make it better. Same for school – when I am directly approached, I can do something small, but for right now, what I can offer is simply going to have to be good enough. And I still feel like I have trouble prioritizing myself. My family is front and center for me. And fortunately, my husband is supportive 100% of whatever I endeavor to do. Now if only I was that supportive of me. (or my kids, cringe)

  2. Aussa Lorens October 16, 2013 at 9:14 pm Reply

    Isn’t it odd how we can be aware that our thoughts are “crazy” and yet they still continue to affect or control us? I can’t say anyone has ever accused me of being a perfectionist– more like a hot mess– but I have a slew of destructive thoughts I have to consciously battle in order to press on.

    • Frankie Laursen October 21, 2013 at 9:16 pm Reply

      Yes, I agree. Even while I’m having irrational thoughts I can be aware of them but still not be able to change my behavior. It’s frustrating. I think it takes a lot of practice and skill to detach from the negative and/or destructive thoughts.

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